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Board OKs Beers' plan

December 08, 2010 | 08:58 AM
Fontana — One trustee's argument was the proposed development doesn't jibe with the village's recently adopted Master Plan.

Other trustees admitted they received overwhelmingly negative feedback on the proposal by Steve Beers. However, it was difficult to find a legal reason to deny the Hawks Woods proposal.

On Monday night, Beers' development was approved on a 5-2 vote. Village President Arvid "Pete" Petersen and trustees Patrick Kenny, Peg Pollitt, Thomas McGreevy and George Spadoni voted in favor of it. Trustees Cynthia Wilson and Micki O'Connell voted against it.

Beers owns 454 N. Lakeshore Dr., and his proposed development would include riparian rights — pier rights and other access to Geneva Lake — for a property located across the street from the lake. Access to the lake would be part of a common area in condominium ownership.

At the site there are two residences — one with a guest house — which are located adjacent to Geneva Lake.

Another buildable lot is located across the street from the lake. Riparian rights would be included for that lot, which has been the main point of contention with the development.

Opposition to the project

For months, the Geneva Lake Conservancy and some Fontana residents have publicly objected to the proposal.

Beers' proposal has garnered more feedback than any other issue since Pollitt was elected in April, Pollitt said.

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"One was favorable. All the rest negative," she said. "I agree I don't think it is what I want for the village. I don't think it is part of the Master Plan."

Pollitt voted in favor of the project after questioning Village Attorney Dale Thorpe on whether the village's Master Plan trumps its zoning codes.

"The zoning codes advertise what it takes to become approved," Thorpe said.

O'Connell said she opposes the project because it doesn't fit in with the village's Master Plan.

"I don't feel this particular development meets those standards," O'Connell said. "I can't support this type of development in this area."

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McGreevy also heard negative feedback from residents. However, he said he didn't want to risk putting the village into costly litigation by denying the project.

"Right now we have no legal reasons to deny this," McGreevy said. "I don't want to get the citizens of Fontana into another legal battle."

McGreevy said by approving the project, the board was upholding the law.

"There was a loophole," he said.

The village's municipal code denies transferring access to Geneva Lake through deeds, covenants and easements, but not through condominium ownership.

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"No lot in this district shall by deed, covenant, easement, or other device or agreement provide for right of access to Geneva Lake by other than the owner or legal occupant of the lot and his guests, except in the case of a public park or way, public utility easement, patrons of a commercial use or a planned development," the ordinance states.

The village took action to close this loophole in November by creating an antipyramiding ordinance.

Pyramiding increases the access to a public body of water through private real estate transactions.

In the Geneva Lake area that could mean riparian rights would be transferred across the street.

Other effects of pyramiding includes increasing the number of boats, piers and buoys on the lake.

Beers' proposal isn't subject to that ordinance because he submitted his proposal before it became law.

Citizens muzzled?

Fontana resident Sharon O'Brien said after the meeting she was disappointed citizens weren't allowed to speak against the proposal.

Geneva Lake Conservancy Executive Director Joseph McHugh and the Conservancy's Chairman of the Board, Charles Coleman, raised their hands to speak during the meeting.

In the past, Petersen has allowed residents to speak as the board discusses issues.

"The courtesy to talk about issues is one President Petersen has allowed before," O'Brien said. "This is a very arbitrary decision."

However, Petersen said he didn't see any residents raise their hands to speak until after the a roll call vote began on the issue.

"We had already called for a vote and at that point the floor was closed," Petersen said.

He also said a public hearing was held on the proposal last week and residents could have spoken at that time.

"In the past we have allowed them and given them every opportunity to speak their peace," Petersen said.

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