On September 1st, a Chicago-based real estate development company purchased approximately 200 acres at 333 W. Main Street, the former home of Hillmoor Golf Course.[i] 11 East Partners LLC, which specializes in mixed-use retail developments, acquired the land from Lake Geneva Properties LLC. This is all following a convoluted history of ownership over the past couple decades. After 80 years of operation, the Hillmoor Golf course was sold to George Wight Jr. of Shaumburg, Illinois in 2006. By 2009, he had lost it all to foreclosure; he filed bankruptcy with over $20 million due on the land. In July 2016, after spending years under the ownership of banks and liability corporations, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge declared Hillmoor available for 11 East Partners.[ii]
Since the purchase in September, Paul Fitzpatrick and his partners have met with city staff and aldermen to discuss development on the property.[iii] He has expressed particular interest in selling the White River property to the city and Geneva Lake Conservancy.
In January, the Conservancy announced its plan to purchase between 20 to 30 acres of the White River wetlands, a portion of the 60 acres of wetlands that run along the northern border of the Hillmoor property. This is part of the Conservancy’s plan to partner with the city in reactivating the Lake Geneva White River Trail project, which has been on the city’s agenda for a while.[iv] In 2015, $400,000 of TIF funds were allocated to this project, and the city had a grant of $85,000 from the State of Wisconsin for this purpose. Action was stalled because the true owner of the property could not be identified.
On January 4th, City Administrator Blaine Osborn told the Lake Geneva Board of Park Commissioners that the state DNR extended the city’s grant to purchase 60 acres of wetlands. This grant, which will run out on the last day of 2017, would cover half of the city’s cost for buying the property.[v]
Because it is marked private recreation, the Hillmoor property would need to be re-zoned as commercial to allow any development. This is the core point of concern for us at Care for Lake Geneva, as our goal is to seek developments that offer long-term benefits for the community instead of those that serve immediate commercial interests.
Another area of concern involves the motives of the Geneva Lake Conservancy. The organization was formed in the 1970's with a mission much like ours: to be stewards of the lake and the Geneva Lake Shoreline. The community saw these noble intentions disappear, however, when former Director of the Conservancy Jim Celano become one of the developers of Mirbeau/Hummell and pressured the Conservancy to recommend the development because there was no actual physical connection to Geneva Lake. This is a notable mark in the Conservancy’s history that should raise questions over the organization’s interest in the Hillmoor property.
With the city council decision regarding the re-zone looming, now is the time to ensure our interests are properly represented during these conversations. Help us tell our city council that any investment in this property should protect community interests. The most viable plan would maintain Hillmoor’s park space and protect the variety of trees and wildlife that call this property home.
Ways to participate:
1st District Elizabeth Chappell – email@example.com / 262-903-8035
1st District Chris Gelting – firstname.lastname@example.org / 262-751-7109
2nd District Doug Skates – email@example.com / 262-249-0091
2nd District Ted Horne – firstname.lastname@example.org / 262-425-4366
3rd District Richard Hedlund – email@example.com / 262-203-5900
3rd District Bob Kordus – firstname.lastname@example.org / 414-916-9663
4th District Ken Howell – email@example.com / 262-949-7564
4th District Cindy Flower – firstname.lastname@example.org / 262-374-0678
Mayor Alan Kupsik – email@example.com / 262-749-0842
*Be sure to include C4LG on all emails; firstname.lastname@example.org
*RSVP for these meetings at www.careforlakegeneva.com/calendar once announced.
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As a member of this community, I support Care for Lake Geneva’s efforts in securing a bright future for Geneva Lake and its surrounding natural habitat. I recognize that we can only achieve this goal through community involvement and education. That is why I am committed to advocating for responsible land development and ensuring our elected officials hear our collective voice. By joining in this organization’s efforts, I will work to ensure this community remains a peaceful and clean habitat to be enjoyed by residents and visitors for generations to come.