2018 was another eventful and fruitful year here at Care for Lake Geneva. A legendary observatory closed its doors, important 'keyhole' proposals inched towards reality, the Riviera suddenly faced an unsure future and some new faces entered local government, including a new mayor of Lake Geneva. Through this all, you stepped up to ensure responsible development in our communities: you signed hundreds of petitions and letters, flooded city officials’ inboxes and showed up in force at mayoral debates and public meetings to hold our leaders accountable on decisions such as the Buttons Bay Keyhole proposal, the future of the Hillmoor, Yerkes Observatory's closure and the Riviera renovation project.
Below are some highlights from the year at Care for Lake Geneva.
Lake Geneva Mayoral Race
Business owner Tom Hartz and civic activist Charlene Klein threw their hats in the ring to challenge incumbent Alan Kupsik in the mayoral race. Lake Geneva residents narrowed the field down to Mr. Hartz and Ms. Klein in February's city-wide primary, ultimately electing Tom Hartz as mayor in April with a 57% majority.
These election results worried many of our supporters, as Mayor Hartz has demonstrated a vested interest in commercial development in Lake Geneva. This gives us all the more reason to continue to stay engaged and hold the mayor and all our elected officials accountable on decisions that will have lasting impact on our communities.
Brian Pollard's ambiguous plan to build a private clubhouse on Buttons Bay for residents of the Symphony Bay Development inched closer to reality this past year.
Earlier this summer, the Walworth County Zoning Agency voted 5-2 to approve Mr. Pollard’s request for a conditional use permit to operate a resort destination on Buttons Bay. Several community members spoke in opposition to the proposal during the public meeting, but they were all cut off before finishing their testimonies. This of course came after the Town of Linn Plan Commission approved the permit request in April, as the Commission demonstrated a complete disregard for public concern (More than 200 community members signed our petition to Linn's leaders urging them to deny the request, and several individuals contacted Commission members personally). This all fell on deaf ears.
We collected more than 120 signatures on our letter to the Geneva Lake Association (GLA) requesting they help stop this dangerous plan. The GLA has consistently stood up to protect Geneva Lake and our lakeside communities from destructive commercialization, as they did in protecting and preserving the Geneva Lake Shorepath in 2017 against the Muck-Suck Race. In addition to signing our letter, several community members recently contacted the GLA directly with the plea to help stop Pollard's plan. Unfortunately, the GLA decided against pursuing legal action. This was a frustrating blow, but we are continuing to monitor how we can prevent these sorts of developments from becoming reality in the future.
A recent keyholing "win" took place in October, when the Linn Plan Commission voted unanimously to deny a plan that would have included the development of 22 acres keyholed into 85 feet of lake front at Majestic Hills. Community members voiced their concern over this plan, and we are pleased our leaders listened. We will continue to monitor this proposal, but in the meantime, THANK YOU for making your voices heard! We can't let another 'Buttons Bay decision' happen again.
Yerkes Observatory Closes
Recognized by many as the birthplace of modern astrophysics, the 121-year-old Yerkes Observatory announced in spring 2018 that the University of Chicago would cease operations of the facility effective October. And on October 1st, the observatory officially closed its doors.
All of us at Care for Lake Geneva have advocated along with groups like Save Yerkes to help preserve the building and keep it from falling into the hands of a commercial developer with ill intentions. Many of you contacted us to show support for preserving Yerkes and attended public meetings discussing the future of this historic observatory. We will continue to monitor this development as we move into 2019.
Riviera Renovation Project
Earlier this past summer, mayor Tom Hartz signed a deal on behalf of the city of Lake Geneva with architect-builder MSI General Corp., an Oconomowoc firm that aldermen had selected about four months earlier, to renovate the historic Riviera. Terms of the contract were not immediately disclosed, and the announcement came after months of closed-door negotiations, raising concern among community members about future plans for this venue. Repair and renovation costs are expected to be in excess of $5 million, as quoted by Kehoe-Henry & Architects, a firm the city hired in 2016 to inspect the property. No doubt, this burden will fall directly on the shoulders of tax payers.
MSI Project Director Jennifer Guslick has stated that community meeting(s) on the Riviera will be the deciding factor on whether to repurpose the Riviera or to maintain its current use as a grand ballroom and historic lakefront facility. This is why it is so important that we truly think about what we want to see at the Riviera and to attend the meeting whenever it is to be held.
We expect these meetings to begin this year. Many of you have already contacted us to express your views on the future of the Riviera. We will keep our eyes on this situation, and we will keep you abreast to opportunities to make your voice heard!
Guest Blog Posts
We were proud to share two wonderful Guest Blog Posts this year by local community advocates Dick Malmin, who offered great insight into Brian Pollard's keyholing scheme along Buttons Bay and Maggie Milliette, who reminded us why Rights of Nature Laws are critical to preventing those in power from treating land as simple property that can be ravaged and abused for profit. We hope to publish more Guest posts this year - so if there is an issue impacting the Geneva Lake community that you feel passionate about, please reach out! Contact us directly at info@careforlakegeneva, send us a message on Facebook [CLICK HERE] or mention us on Twitter at @Care4LakeGeneva.
THANK YOU for your efforts last year. It is important that we stay engaged and continue to hold our elected officials accountable as we move through 2019, ensuring responsible development in our communities that honors our founders’ vision and protecting our delicate ecosystem.
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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.