Salem Lakes outlines new grievance procedure

The full Salem Lakes Village Board got a look Monday at a grievance process developed by a committee to address conflicts over fire and building code enforcement.

The board discussed the process and its resulting grievance committee at a committee of the whole meeting. Consequently, no action was taken.

“We’re trying to clean this up,” said village President Diann Tesar.

Trustee Bill Hopkins outlined the proposed grievance process, designed to be completed at the village level once initiated within 15 days.

The process would start with the business owner submitting a form, which would be date stamped upon being received. Staff would then send the grievance form and any supporting documentation to the appropriate department. By five days out the grievance committee will receive the info and hold a hearing and render an opinion within 10 days. If both parties agree on the ruling, the issue is closed. If there is no agreement, the case would be sent to the state Department of Safety and Professional Services in the case of fire code disputes.

Hopkins said his research showed that only DSPS can overrule fire code, making that agency the appropriate place for a dispute that can’t be resolved at the village level to be decided.

The grievance committee would be made up of two Village Board members, one representative of planning and zoning and two at large citizens, who are not local business owners. How residents can be considered for appointment to the committee and any requirements is expected to be posted by the village at its website.

The next step would be for the proposed grievance process to be given to village attorney Richard Scholze (who was not present Monday) to be drafted into an ordinance that could be acted on by the board. Hopkins would like that action to take place Feb. 13 at the regular board meeting, he said. No board members objected to the process continuing.

“I think you did a good job keeping it simple as possible,” said Trustee Dan Campion.

A committee of Trustees Ron Gandt and Hopkins and Fire Commission member Tom Strachan created the draft grievance procedure over the last week.

“We’re trying to put something together for everybody,” Gandt said.

Recent board meetings — including Monday — have included Kenosha attorney J. Michael McTernan laying out during citizens comments issues clients of his — including Wilmot Stage Stop, ATE and Benders Bar and Grill — have had with what he termed unfair demands of village inspectors.

On Monday, McTernan argued — citing specific articles of state law — an exhaust hood at Stage Stop is exempt from complying with current code. Local building ordinances cannot prohibit a use that was in existence when the code was adopted, he argued.

“This is called grandfathering,” McTernan said.

As another example, McTernan referenced the hand rails in the main staircase of the Kenosha County Courthouse, which are much larger than modern code would allow. However, it is allowed in that case.

Hopkins countered the courthouse is a designated historical building, which makes it exempt from code. He suggested registering the Stage Stop building, which dates from 1848, as a historical site.

Regardless, Hopkins said, he has received an opinion from DSPS that the Stage Stop hood issue is not a fire code matter, but a building code matter.


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