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Will voters approve the Lakefront project?



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September 08, 2010 | 08:45 AM
Fontana — It's almost time for the voters to determine the fate of a project that has been in the works for more than eight years.

On Tuesday Sept. 14, voters will decide whether the village can spend up to $2.8 million to reconstruct Lake Street and the adjacent parking lot. Officials also want to build a new lakefront activity center.

If voters approve the referendum, the project would be funded with tax increment funds, which are the taxes collected from the increased value within the tax increment district. TIF is a tool used to make capital improvements.

Along the shore of Geneva Lake, the village owns the property located at 454 Lake St., which is currently leased to the Lake Geneva Marine Company.

According to the project proposal, that building would be torn down and the activity center would be built in its place.

Kevin Kirkland, who owns the Lake Geneva Marine Company, would continue to operate his business from that location.

Village President Arvid "Pete" Petersen said the project would create some needed improvements.

"It would be a good project that gives us the opportunity to make improvements that are needed anyway," Petersen said. "It is an opportunity to do it with TIF funds rather than general funds."

Spadoni agreed that it would be better to complete the work on Lake Street using CDA funds. He also said repairs are needed to the village-owned building.

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"I'm tired of painting a building that is physically falling apart. The arhitect said it has been unsafe," Spadoni said. "We have to replace that building."

CDA Chairman Bill Turner said about $1 million of the project is for the Lake Front Activity Center.

"In my opinion the lakefront building and renovation of Lake Street is the capstone of all the CDA projects," Turner said.

Trustee Micki O'Connell said the building also will provide a nice gathering place for residents and visitors.

"For the last eight years, I've played bridge in the little park house," she said. "I would look forward to playing it in the nice building with a cup of coffee."

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Although, O'Connell said she thinks the project would be postive addition to the village, she raised concerns about funding future maintenance issues. Trustee Cynthia Wilson said the project has a lot of potential.

"Certainly, Kevin's (Kirkland) business, the Fontana Paddle Company, is a good example of a new idea that is working very well," she said.

Earlier this summer, Kirkland began renting kayaks and canoes from the location on Lake Street. Kirkland plans to continue this business if the referendum is approved or if it fails.

Wilson is optimistic that if voters consider all the information on the project they will support it.

"I think they would understand and be as enthusiastic of the potential benefit of the project as I am," she said. "It's a project that would be a very good thing for Fontana."

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To inform the public about the project the village launched a website, www.lakefrontbuilding.com, and sent out an informational mailing.

The mailing and website cost the village $5,000.

On the Internet, voters can find information about the project and explanations on TIFs

Riparian rights issue

Most trustees will say the referendum and the current investigation into riparian rights along Lake Street are two sepearate issues. However, they disagree whether it is a distraction to voters.

"It is very much a distraction because it has nothing to do with street," Petersen said of the ownership issue.

"The riparian rights issue has nothing to do with the referendum," Spadoni said.

Currently, Madison attorney Hank Gempeler is investigating whether the businesses on Lake Street — Chuck's Lake Shore Inn and Gordy's — have the riparian rights to the Geneva Lake.

Thomas Whowell, a former Village President and an owner of Gordy's, as previously stated that he suspects the ownership issue is being raised in an effort to defeat the referendum.

If Gempeler decides the village owns the lakefront, Petersen said it wouldn't change the plans for the referendum.

"There would be no change in plans. The street is the street and we own it," he said.

O'Connell said she doesn't know whether it will prove to be a distraction to voters, "I hope not it is a separate issue," she said.More about the project

The Lake Street project is comprised of three smaller projects that would be completed at the same time, which includes the Lake Front Activity Center, reconstructing Lake Street and reconfiguring the parking lot on Lake Street.

At 454 Lake St., the village owns a piece of lakefront property, which is currently leased to the Lake Geneva Marine Company. The Marine Company will continue to operate out of the building regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

However, if the referendum is approved, the new building will also include a coffee shop and an activity room for public and private gatherings.

Lake Geneva Marine Company owner Kevin Kirkland will likely manage the entire building.

Parking lot/Lake street

The project would increase the elevation of the parkign lot to improve stormwater management. The elevation would increase to the lake level, which will allow the water to drain in the parking lot. The water would be treated before it is discharged.

The elevation of the existing beach house is at this level.

A bio-tetention swale, which uses vegetation to absorb stormwater also will be included.

A water main that runs underneath Lake Street also will be replaced. The water main is two-feet below ground and there is a fear that it will freeze during the winter.

Improvements are slated to the pedestrian area along the street, which includes new sidewalks and pedestriant lights.

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