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Group says city violated meeting law



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May 14, 2013 | 04:17 PM
Care for Lake Geneva is intensifying its pursuit of evidence that the city struck a deal with Geneva Ridge Joint Venture to modify its master plan to the developer's benefit.

Geneva Ridge Joint Venture is not connected to Geneva Ridge, the former Interlaken Resort.

Casey Schiche, president of Care for Lake Geneva, said the watchdog group is filing a lawsuit in Walworth County Circuit Court accusing the city of violating the state's Open Meetings Law.

The complaint alleges that by information and belief, Care for Lake Geneva believes Geneva Ridge engaged in mediated settlement discussions over a number of weeks in April, May and June 2011.

Schiche said Care for Lake Geneva is not looking for damages or punishment (the fine for an elected official violating the open meetings law is $25.

Instead, Schiche said the group just wants the city to acknowledge that it made a secret deal with the developer.

In the court document filed in circuit court, CLG claims that the city council discussed the agreement during a June 13, 2011, closed meeting.

The complaint alleges that during the closed meeting, the city council considered and voted to enter into the memorandum with Geneva Ridge, which bound the city to amend the city's comprehensive plan.

But City Attorney Dan Draper said the group is looking for something that isn't there.

"I don't know what document they're talking about," said Draper.

He said the group already has the settlement document, signed by a federal judge, in which the city agreed to amend its master plan for the 718 acres that Geneva Ridge Development planned to develop.

That, said Draper, is the only document between the city and Geneva Ridge Joint Venture that refers to the city's master plan.

The memorandum of understanding between the city and Geneva Ridge Joint Venture plotted out steps the city was to take to have a multi-million dollar lawsuit dismissed by the developer. The memorandum was released to the public on Dec. 10, after a Milwaukee law firm, hired by Care for Lake Geneva Inc., a local citizens group, filed a writ of mandamus demanding its release. The memo's release was one day before the scheduled hearing on the writ of mandamus in Walworth County Circuit Court.

Under the memorandum, the city was to redesignate nine contiguous parcels totaling 718 acres of land on the city's south side from agricultural to planned neighborhood (PN) and planned mixed use (PMU) in the city's Smart Growth master plan by Aug. 31, 2011.

The master plan was amended to redesignate those properties to PN and PMU on Aug. 30, 2011.

In return, shortly thereafter, Geneva Ridge Joint Venture dropped its lawsuit against the city.

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