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January 15, 2013 | 03:05 PMWALWORTH — Golden Years, an assisted living and retirement housing facility, wants to buy library square from the village to build additional housing units.
The village purchased library square with intent to build a new library, but the village couldn't fund the project. The lot has sat vacant for years.
Golden Years of Walworth, 270 Ridge Road, is directly across the street from the empty lot. Golden Years already owns the rest of the block to the west of library square along the east end of Baker Street.
Richard Austin, co-owner of Golden Years, brought preliminary plans to the village board Jan. 14.
"My purpose for being here tonight is to humbly ask you if there's a possibility for us to purchase that land," he said. "We don't want to be the biggest. We just want to continue what we're doing."
Austin said the facility is often overlooked by clients because they lack private occupant rooms.
"We are a five-star facility," he said. "The federal government, through the state, rates facilities. Five-star is the top, the best you can get. The care that our staff provides continues to roll forward. We'd like to continue to serve. At the moment, we're just landlocked."
About 115 to 120 clients reside at Golden Years, Austin said, and the state restricts the number of beds each facility can have.
Golden Years also bought an option to purchase the remaining lots along Baker Street and Devils Lane.
The proposed site for the library would move from library square to the west end of Baker Street, near Cook Street.
Several residents at the meeting had concerns about rezoning the area to an institutional use area from the current residential, single-family home zoning designation.
However, library square is already zoned for institutional use in anticipation of a library building.
One resident said that a library adds value to a residential community, but a retirement living facility would not fit in that image.
"It won't look like the front of a facility," Village President David Rasmussen said. "It will be properly landscaped. Setbacks from the road and sidewalks will all be there. We're real concerned about that sort of thing."
A special village board meeting will be held Jan. 21 to further discuss the proposal and create an ad-hoc committee to fully plan the project.
Many residents attended the board meeting to again show their disapproval of village plans to reroute Highway 14 through the village.
Working with the state Department of Transportation, the village approved a route that put the highway through the current school parking lot, about 38 feet from a school entrance.
School leaders and community members have protested this decision, and the DOT has drawn up several different plans.
At the Jan. 14 meeting, a resident read the petition statement, which includes disapproval of tearing down any buildings along the square or changing the shape of Heyer Park.
Rasmussen said all plans released from the DOT have shown the antique mall on the corner of Beloit and Main Streets being torn down. The state still hasn't determined which route will be used through the village, but the DOT will meet with the village board, the elementary school board and the Geneva Lake West Chamber individually over the next two weeks.