Visionary Coffee Shop Becomes One of Janesville's Favorite Meeting Places
Issue: Develop an unconventional coffee shop
Action: Successfully resolve city concerns
Outcome: A beloved Janesville institution is born
Steve and Kathy Dean had a vision. A minister for 30 years, Steve wanted to build a coffee shop that he and his family would own and operate. He and Kathy imagined a community gathering place, where people of all kinds would come together to have coffee, break bread, and build community bonds.
The Deans had never owned a business, and didn’t know where to start. A local banker referred them to Fred Wesner of Nowlan & Mouat. Fred helped Steve and Kathy work their way through the process of purchasing the right piece of land and obtaining all the necessary government approvals. It wasn’t easy. City planning staff was initially opposed to permitting the Deans’ unconventional plan, beginning with the configuration of the lot and the proposed building. The land would need re-zoning. In addition, the Deans would require an easement across City land, and also City agreement to place the building at the back of the lot, instead of the front, in order to meet the terms of a recently passed ordinance governing building aesthetics. Fred met with the officials and the Plan Commission, carefully worked through their concerns, and ultimately convinced the City to approve Steve’s plan.
Steve and Kathy’s vision became Mocha Moment, one of Janesville’s best-loved gathering places. People from all over the area come to Mocha Moment to drink coffee and enjoy fresh baked goods, relishing the warmth of the Deans’ stone fireplace in winter and sitting on the deck overlooking woods in the summer. Steve and Kathy know most of their regular customers by name. Among them are Fred Wesner, his Nowlan & Mouat partners, and many of the same City officials who didn’t think the Mocha Moments idea would work. No one in Janesville questions their vision now.
See more of the Mocha Moment story at www.mochamoment.com.
Legal Heavy Lifting Recovers $1.6 Million Settlement
Issue: Road damage from pipeline trucks
Action: Court enforcement of town’s rights
Outcome: $1.6 million settlement
In the fall of 2007 and spring of 2008, a large pipeline company began hauling materials over the roads of two towns in connection with the construction of a stretch of pipeline through Rock County. Town residents and officials noticed extensive damage as a result of the unusually heavy loads being carried by the trucks. The towns approached municipal attorney Dave Moore, in search of a solution to safeguard their interests under the law which allows them to regulate use of municipal roads when necessary to prevent injury to such roads, while cooperating with the pipeline company’s efforts. Attorney Moore drafted agreements for the towns, under which the pipeline company agreed to pay the cost of all temporary repairs and a negotiated percentage of the cost for permanent repairs to the affected portions of the towns’ roads. The agreements also required the pipeline company to pay for the cost of enforcing the agreements, including the towns’ attorney’s fees.
As completion of the pipeline’s work approached, it became clear that the pipeline company had no intention of honoring the terms of the agreements.
Attorneys Dave Moore and Sara Gehrig took the pipeline company to court, and obtained immediate relief for the towns in the form of an order excluding the pipeline’s trucks and equipment from the towns’ roads pending further order of the court. Over the next several months, Attorneys Moore and Gehrig fought for the towns’ rights under the agreements, ultimately reaching a settlement for the towns of more than 1.6 million dollars for road repairs, in addition to reasonable costs of litigation.
The towns publicly and privately recognized the efforts of Nowlan & Mouat’s attorneys in proactively anticipating the problems the towns would encounter in asserting and enforcing their rights against a large well-funded pipeline company, and in vindicating their rights in a settlement which fully compensated each of the towns for the pipeline company’s actions.
Protect First Amendment Rights, Prevent Public Relations Nightmare
Issue: Bible-ripping incident
Action: Preemptive opinion letter
Outcome: Lawsuit prevented
A speech given by a local high school student in an English class became a source of national news. The teacher asked students to select a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, and describe how the quote related to the student personally while using a visual aid. In this case, the student used his speech to attack religious faith in general, and the Bible in particular. His visual aid was a Bible, which he proceeded to rip up, while he referred to other students in the class as “a bunch of superstitious, simple-minded ignoramuses.”
Other students in the class were understandably upset, and complaints were made to the administrative staff of the School District of Janesville. The story hit the front page of the Janesville Gazette, and was picked up by blogs and news media in other parts of the United States.
School District lead attorney David Moore of Nowlan & Mouat was contacted shortly after the incident occurred. Administration discussed with Moore the legal repercussions of the incident, which raised important questions of First Amendment rights as well as the responsibility of the District to its students. In anticipation of the media fallout resulting from the incident, Administration and Moore agreed that Moore would prepare a comprehensive opinion letter addressing the issues raised as a result of the student’s speech, and would release the letter to the media if necessary to address media concerns.
The letter was released, and was quoted at length on the front page of the Janesville Gazette, and was also picked up by other media. Later, the Gazette published an editorial, complimenting the District on its handling of the incident. The matter was resolved with little negative media for the District and no lawsuit. The pre-emptive action of the District, in consultation with its lawyer, resolved a problem before it became a much bigger problem.
Nowlan & Mouat Earns the Trust and Confidence of a Family Business
Issue: Requirement for complex business succession plan
Action: Learn about family business and family dynamics to develop business succession plan
Outcome: Execute a successful business succession plan and provide ongoing legal counsel
Bjoin Limestone, Inc., is a longstanding family business that placed its trust and confidence in one attorney for decades. When that attorney retired, the family was left with a large void on their business team. Even worse, the retirement occurred immediately prior to the family’s decision to engage in a sizable and complex business succession.
Relying upon a referral, the Bjoin family contacted Attorney Timothy Lindau to guide them through their business succession plan and to serve as their corporate attorney. During their initial consultations, the family became confident that Attorney Lindau, together with his partners and the staff of Nowlan & Mouat, could handle all of their legal needs. In addition, they knew that Attorney Lindau shared their objectives and goals and that he would be invested in the success of their business.
Attorney Lindau successfully guided the family through the business succession plan, which involved many complex issues. By learning about the business operations and family dynamics, he was fully able to represent the family’s interests.
Since then, the family has relied upon Nowlan & Mouat for all of its corporate legal needs, including the review and preparation of contracts, corporate and regulatory compliance, financing, and real estate transactions. The business has also benefited from Nowlan & Mouat’s expertise in municipal law as it faces challenges from and changes to local zoning and mining laws and regulations.
As Kathy Bjoin says, “When running a business, you must feel confident that your law firm knows your business and is invested in its success. For us, that firm is Nowlan & Mouat LLP.”
For more information on the Bjoin Limestone story, please see www.bjoinlimestone.com
Teamwork Wins the Day for Real Estate Developer
Issue: Challenge to a real estate development
Action: Jury trial
Outcome: Winning verdict for the developer
A recent real estate case called on the collective expertise of the Nowlan & Mouat team. Real estate attorney Fred Wesner represented BLM, a local commercial developer, as it sought to develop a parcel as part of a larger project. The owner of a neighboring commercial parcel, however, objected to the granting of a conditional use permit for BLM’s project. When he attempted to appeal to the Janesville Board of Zoning Appeals, Wesner brought the matter to commercial and municipal litigation attorney Dave Moore. Moore represented BLM before the Zoning Board of Appeals, which upheld the grant of the permit. But the neighbor didn’t stop there. He filed an action in Rock County Circuit Court, challenging the City’s right to approve the project as proposed. Ultimately, the matter went to a jury trial. Moore tried the case for BLM. BLM won.
Later, the client decided to change the project in a manner that required additional communications and negotiations. Working together, Moore and Wesner carefully negotiated a resolution with the neighbor and City staff that will result in the integration of two large commercial developments that represent an important part of Janesville’s future.
The combination of first-rate real estate and development skills, litigation capability and careful negotiation led to an optimal result for a satisfied client.