Oak Creek businesses butt heads

— Oak Creek's town attorney, Bob Weiss, told the Board of Trustees it can't act in a land-use dispute between two local businesses in the town.

The dispute started in November after Espirit Publishing Enterprises Inc. moved in next door to Big Tuna's restaurant on Moffat Avenue.

To adhere to town municipal land codes, the owner of Espirit, Geri Bruggink, had to provide parking in the rear of the building.

"I felt that it was better for her to have that designated parking," Oak Creek Director of Public Works Chuck Wisecup said.

He said it is better to have Espirit employees parking in the back, instead of competing with Big Tuna's customer parking in the front.

Eventually, Bruggink placed a fence in the back of the property, marking off four places for her and her employees to park.

Though the fence left a 15-foot easement that can be used by Big Tuna's, it isn't wide enough for garbage trucks to get to the rear of the restaurant to pick up trash. Also, some customer, employee and handicap parking for the restaurant is no longer accessible or available because of Espirit's fence and parking places, said Mark Littman, who owns Big Tuna's with his wife, Karrie.

Because of the way the buildings are situated in the back, Littman had to use part of his neighbor's property to access his business from the rear.

He said he was informed of the parking spaces going behind Espirit's building by Bruggink on Nov. 13. Not long afterward, Bruggink was telling Big Tuna's customers and employees to move their cars parked in Espirit's parking spaces. Then the fence went up, separating the two properties and shortening the access to the rear of Big Tuna's to 15 feet.

"Fifteen feet is OK for smaller vehicles, but not trucks," Littman said. "I can't even get my truck in there anymore."

Littman said he understands the legal issue but believes the "neighborly" thing to do is to let garbage haulers and trucks access the back of the building through the parking places when they need to.

"She's just being totally unreasonable," he said.

Littman spoke to the Oak Creek Board of Trustees on Jan. 11 about the issue. However, the town has no authority to force someone to be "neighborly."

"We've done everything legal by our code," Oak Creek Mayor Deb Van Gundy said.

Espirit is in no violation by fencing off the parking lot and the parking spaces are mandated by the land-use code.

"We have no stand on this whatsoever," Van Gundy said. She said as long as the fence doesn't violate the six-foot fence code, it can remain.

Bruggink said she is frustrated with the matter.

"I leased a piece of property and I had to conform to it," she said.

Though the parking spaces and the fence affect Big Tuna's, she said it's not her problem.

Littman has contacted a lawyer to find out what his legal options are and said he was informed by Bruggink that he can talk to her lawyer if he wants to discuss the matter further.

"They're saying I'm being a bad neighbor," Bruggink said. "But I'm doing what the town said I had to do."

Community comments

Note: The Steamboat Pilot & Today doesn’t necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy.

Post a comment (Requires free registration)

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.