A local church group that won a court order to locate in a Sauk City industrial park will be paid $60,000 based on a settlement reached by village and church attorneys.
On April 17, U.S. District Court Judge William Conley dismissed the lawsuit brought against the village by River Hills Church as a result of the agreement.
Sauk City Village President Jim Anderson said the $60,000 would be paid from the village’s liability insurance.
The settlement pays the church’s legal fees and other losses the church claimed after it lost financing to purchase the former bank building on Sycamore Street, which the group now uses as a church.
The agreement allows the church to occupy the building, despite the fact the use does not fall within the village’s zoning restrictions.
River Hills pastor Dennis Virta said after the loan to purchase the property fell through, funds were raised through private sources and loans from church members and the purchase of the building went forward.
The lawsuit stemmed from a rezone request by the church in December 2013. The Sauk City Village Board took no action on the request, which ultimately resulted in a denial of the rezone.
Current village zoning regulations allow for churches only in residential areas via a conditional use permit that requires at least a two-acre parcel of land.
Anderson said village trustees were concerned that the church, which is exempt from paying property taxes, wanted to locate in a tax incremental finance district in which local taxing entities go without their share of increased property taxes based on development in that area for about 15 to 20 years.
Following the board’s inaction, attorneys for the church, John Mauck and Noel Sterett of Chicago, filed a complaint in federal court Jan. 28.
“When this was brought to our attention we should have been allowed to add a church to the allowable uses,” Anderson said. “We had no intention to allow a school or another non-taxing entity to locate there because it was our business park. The village board did nothing intentional. The board was acting in the best interests of the community.”
Mauck said village officials were cooperative through settlement negotiations, and he apologized for statements he made when filing the suit in which he compared the village to a “dictatorship, rather than a free America.”
“The village has been cooperative throughout this process and I regret my earlier comments,” Mauck said. “I did not intend to impugn the integrity of the village, its residents or its board members, and I apologize.”
Virta said he was happy with the final agreement.
“Our village board has to deal with numerous complex issues, and we appreciate the time and effort they have expended on this issue,” Virta said.