SHAWANO COUNTY - Thursday marked a big victory for a group of people wanting to keep a sex offender out of their Forest County neighborhood. A Shawano County Judge ruled in favor of continuing an order that stops Jeffrey LeVasseur from moving to Blackwell.
The hearing itself lasted about seven and a half hours on Thursday. But to the Blackwell residents in the civil case, the lengthy trial was worth the outcome.
"I'm almost overwhelmed, I'm relieved," said Clair Carty, a Bear Lake Shores Resident.
"I think that justice prevailed today," said Bill Gebhard, another Bear Lake Shores Resident.
It was an emotional day for a group of passionate neighbors.
"Creekside Cabin [in the Bear Lake Shores neighborhood] is sacred ground to me. If there were a house full of sex offenders next door it would be ruined," said Sherry Pethers, who also lives in Bear Lake Shores.
The Bear Lake Shores Neighborhood Association argued in court Thursday to try to keep sex offender Jeffrey LeVasseur from moving in. The neighborhood has a covenant, or rule, against homes being used for commercial use.
"Other than the fact it violated the covenants, it was the worst possible way somebody could violate our covenants that I can think of," said Association President Joy Margetta.
The Bear Lake Shores neighborhood association filed a civil suit against GWB Ventures, LLC, which owns LeVassuer's potential home on Big Cub Trail.
GWB wants to lease the home to the Department of Health Services to place sex offenders there.
"You can't rent a place for $2,500 a month and say it's not commercial," said Pethers.
The defense argued that the lease is a residential agreement, not a commercial one.
"I base that on my experience. I've seen that verbiage before in covenants. It never pertained to residential leases," said GWB Ventures Owner Greg Barber.
The defense also argued that the neighborhood association made last minute changes to their covenant, adding specifications to their definition of commercialization after learning of LeVasseur's potential placement.
Margetta responded that the association would have taken the same action regardless if anyone tried to rent a property in the neighborhood.
"We knew that the covenants did not permit commercialization. However, at the recommendation of the attorneys they felt that we should clarify, specifically clarify by amendment, the intent of the original covenant," said Margetta.
Ultimately, Judge William Kussel disagreed with GWB Ventures reasoning.
"That's (the lease agreement with DHS) commercialization. In fact, it's clear that this is done as a money-making type of a venture for GWB," said Kussel. He also determined that the amendment to the covenant was filed by the association properly.
The judge granted a preliminary injunction that will keep LeVasseur from being placed. Leaving Bear Lake Shores residents feeling hopeful.
"It looks like we can prevail in this," said Carty.
Another hearing will be scheduled with Judge Kussell to decide whether to make the preliminary injunction a permanent one.