Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Area hopes locals can purchase Lake Lawn

by Lisa Seiser

March 24, 2011

Delavan — A crowded City Hall last Thursday night was proof how important Lake Lawn is to the area.

Local political officials, residents and former Lake Lawn employees filled the council chambers March 17 for a special meeting to discuss a possible purchase of the resort by local Jim Drescher and his group of investors.

After singing the praises of Drescher, discussing the need for the resort to reopen to help the economy and agreeing to create a City Council resolution to support Drescher's purchase, most left the meeting with a positive feeling.

But, so far, those efforts and voices haven't led to a deal being reached.

On Monday, Drescher told the Regional News that he met with an Anchor Bank official Friday. Drescher said the banker made a proposal and Drescher accepted. He wouldn't disclose the amount, but said the offer was for more money than previous efforts to buy the property. Drescher said his offer is cash and can be closed within 30 days.

The deal was supposed to be completed later Friday, but Drescher said he hasn't heard back from the bank.

He said efforts to contact the banks have mostly gone unreturned and he is frustrated by what's happening.

Drescher, who runs the WC Food Pantry in Geneva Township and owns JD Development, is the leader of the investment group, which apparently also includes Lake Geneva's Sal Dimiceli, who heads the Time Is Now To Help and a real estate company. During the past few weeks, Drescher has made offers to purchase the resort from Anchor Bank for about $9.5 million. The resort portion of the property, golf course and airport is assessed at $31.5 million, according to Delavan City Administrator Joe Salitros.

Last Thursday, it appeared city officials, including Mayor Mel Nieuwenhuis, believed Drescher and Anchor Bank could come to a deal because he was considered a likely purchaser of the property. Nieuwenhuis told the crowd about the meeting that was set up for Friday between Drescher and Anchor Bank. There are a total of 13 banks involved in the process.

"I know Jim's heart is in the right place and I really hope this will work out tomorrow," Nieuwenhuis said March 17. "This is an opportunity for the banks to know how important it is Lake Lawn gets back on its feet."

Among those speaking in favor of Drescher were Delavan Town Chairwoman Dorothy Burwell and County Board Supervisor David Weber.

"I would trust (Drescher) forever," Burwell said. He is a very humble man and that's the way he operates. I would strongly urge the banks to accept his offer. If they do, they will forever be in our hearts."

Despite the positive feeling in the council chambers last week, on Tuesday, Drescher said he is not sure a deal will be made.

"They have gone silent," Drescher said about Anchor Bank. "For me, this doesn't change my life, but it would change a lot of people's lives in Delavan — getting them back to work."

Drescher called Lake Lawn the biggest asset in Delavan and the third biggest in Walworth County. He said time is running out for the resort, including the golf course to be open for the peak season.

Drescher called Anchor Bank's apparent agreement to have legitimate talks "lip service" and he now believes the media coverage may have uncovered other potential buyers for the property. He said this situation appears to be "all about dollars and cents" for the banks that own Lake Lawn.

For Drescher, he said the purchase is "not about the money, it's about the people." He said he wants to bring back the 300 jobs to Delavan and has future hopes that parts of Lake Lawn could become a charitable trust that would give back to the area.