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December 10, 2013 | 03:43 PMIn as much as this is my last column as executive director of the Lake Geneva Economic Development Corporation (LGEDC), I would like to thank the many people who have cooperated with LGEDC to achieve goals of a better place to live, increased employment and larger real estate tax base over the 22 years I have had the opportunity to serve LGEDC. There are too many to name but my thanks — again — to all who have helped improve our community. My special thanks to all who have served as non-paid LGEDC officers and directors.
There have been a number of questions raised about LGEDC’s acquisition procedure and plans for the 100-plus acre Business Commons of Lake Geneva (BCLG), located on State Highway 120 at the south edge of the city. This property was purchased from the Otto Jacobs Company and family, after a four to five year search, to provide a location for well-planned business growth once the current Lake Geneva Business Park was about full. Good planning required it be property that could become a part of the city of Lake Geneva. With the geography and land uses around the city this was not an easy task — but it was accomplished.
Some in the community tied the LGEDC acquisition to the 700-acre Hummel project which was under discussion at the same time as the LGEDC purchase. At no time was there any discussion between the two parties regarding joint planning or policies for annexation. In fact, the LGEDC property was not actually annexed to the city until earlier in 2013. While the LGEDC board was shown the plans for the 700 acres at no time were any officers, board members or myself involved in planning for the Hummel property or its annexation.
Another concern sited by some was, “LGEDC bought land that was a dump and think they can put a business park there.” In fact, Jacobs had a sand and gravel pit on the site at one time and this ended up as an attractive pond which will become a desirable part of site development.
All of the rehabilitation of the site has been approved by both Walworth County and the DNR with restrictions to protect wet lands — which LGEDC plans to do.
Jacobs did have a dump, now closed, on adjacent property. At the time of the closure, monitoring wells surrounding the dumpsite were required by DNR. There have never been negative tests from these wells.
Another comment made before the plan commission was that Lake Geneva didn’t need another business park because it is a retail and tourist center. In my last column I pointed out there are 17 manufacturing organizations here in Lake Geneva employing more than 1,000 people with annual wages and salaries of more than $47 million. This is a tremendous economic factor whose growth must be encouraged if we continue to have a well-balanced economy. The BPLG can be a major factor in providing for this growth.
A final site plan has not been developed but now that the property is annexed to the city this initial planning has begun and will require substantial time. A concept plan was presented to, and accepted by, the plan commission at the time they adopted the Smart Growth Plan for the complete city but this was a concept only.
Finally, comments were made that the BCLG purchase was costing the city of Lake Geneva taxpayers considerable money — no amount was given. In fact, neither the Lake Geneva Business Park nor BCLG has created taxpayer expense. Two loans for the original business park, as well as TIF 3, were paid off as a result of land sales. BCLG land was also purchased with funds from land sales by LGEDC.