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Homeowner’s lawsuit against Wausau moves forward

in Investigations

By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — A jury trial has been set in a lawsuit involving a Wausau homeowner accusing the city of “intentional and negligent conduct” that led to severe flooding in his west side home.

Brent Zocher says a storm sewer dumped more than two feet of standing water onto his 10th Avenue property during a September 2014 storm, badly damaging his property and leaving his home essentially “valueless and useless for all reasonable purposes,” according to court documents. Zocher said the knee-deep standing water generated thousands of dollars in cleanup and repair costs and left him with a home that he is now unable to sell.

After more than two years of haggling, a five-day jury trial has been set for Aug. 20, 2018.

Zocher first attempted to file a claim with the city in October 2014 and again in March 2015, but those claims were summarily denied, according to court records. A lawsuit was ultimately filed in May 2015 in Marathon County Circuit Court asking for unspecified damages.

According to the complaint, the area surrounding Zocher’s home underwent multiple zoning changes and developments after the house was built in the 1940s. Zocher claims those changes ultimately caused his property to become part of the city’s storm water sewer system and created a watershed tributary that channels stormwater through Zocher’s land.

Zocher alleges the city was “well aware” of potential effects of zoning and development on the land prior to the September 2014 storm because stormwater had channeled twice before onto the property.

The property is not in a flood plain, floodway or even a flood fringe, according to a statement made by Wausau Zoning Administrator Bill Hebert that is included in court documents. But a sworn statement by Eric J. Thompson, an engineer with MSA Professional Services, claims the flooding at Zocher’s home was the result of heavy rainfall and runoff that exceeded the capacity of the 60″ underground storm water pipe north of Zocher’s property. The pipe was “simply incapable” of draining all surface water, according to the statement.

In April, Judge Jill Falstad denied the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The city has hired an outside attorney, Daniel Varline, of Vavczyk & Varline, LLC, to handle the case.

Zocher is asking the judge to compel the city to condemn his home and pay him fair market value plus court costs and attorney fees. The property has an assessed value of $77,900, according to the Marathon County Land Records System.

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