Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Brat plan gets grilling at City Council

by Chris Schultz

April 26, 2012

So who thought grilling bratwurst outdoors would be controversial?

The Lake Geneva City Council, that's who.

Granted, this isn't dad dragging out the Weber on a warm summer afternoon.

Geneva Bay Market and Gifts, 252 Center St., applied for an outdoor commercial entertainment permit to grill and serve the sausages on an existing outdoor patio.

On Monday, the council approved the permit, but not without some argument and amendment.

Although it does not do indoor sit-down business, the shop does have a restaurant license.

In the past, the shop had operated under a special permit allowing outdoor grilling and serving for 12 days during the summer.

Patrick Kavanaugh representing Geneva Bay, said this year, the shop wants to grill outdoors everyday, weather permitting.

Despite the council's turnaround on allowing outdoor dining in the city limits, Geneva Bay's request faced some hard sledding in the city's Plan Commission. The request came out with a recommendation, but by a narrow 4-3 vote.

The council was just as close, approving the request on a 4-3 vote, with Alderwoman Arleen Krohn abstaining. The votes against were by aldermen William Mott and Terry O'Neill, and Alderwoman Sarah Hill.

Hill pointed out that the council had already turned down two similar requests in the recent past. One was a hot dog cart and the other was a gelato cart, both of which were mobile.

While the Geneva Bay's grill has wheels, it will be stationary and will be broken down and cleaned every night.

Alderman Gary Hougen pointed out that the council had also denied a request for an outdoor grill to be set up on a parking lot "for aesthetic reasons."

O'Neill said he was concerned that approving this request would open the door for applicants wanting to set up grills in their parking lots.

Alderman Jeff Wall suggested that Geneva Bay be allowed to set up its grill this summer, and that its operation be reviewed by the Plan Commission at the end of the season. The request, with Wall's amendment, was approved.

Part-time position

Aldermen agreed that City Treasurer Teresa Klein is qualified to work with the city clerk's front office staff. In fact, Klein worked in the clerk's office until she was first elected treasurer four years ago.

But some council members seemed irked that Klein was offered a temporary part-time position with the clerk's office to help with the pending recall elections and help with the summertime rush of customers at the clerk's front desk. Alderwoman Ellyn Kehoe said she had no doubt that Klein was qualified, but she said the the city should advertise the position.

"This should be an open-ended opportunity to show we're willing to hire," Kehoe said.

O'Neill, who also acknowledged Klein's suitability for the position, nonetheless argued that the city was facing an ethical problem.

He said the city code of ethics prohibits council members from giving special treatment to anyone.

"If you read our ethics code, I question whether we're offering her (Klein) special treatment," O'Neill said. "If it weren't the treasurer, we wouldn't be discussing it."

Mayor Jim Connors said the council was discussing the hiring for reasons of transparency.

City Administrator Dennis Jordan said ethical questions are avoided because Klein would not be handling receipts or doing any tasks that conflicted with her official position as city treasurer.

Alderman Alan Kupsik said Klein was asked if she could help the clerk's office with what promises to be a busy time in late spring and early summer. Money is in the budget for the position. Jordan added that Klein did the same part-time, temporary duties last year. The City Council approved her hiring last year. Finally, City Clerk Mike Hawes said the position is as-needed. He said it wouldn't be fair to hire someone from the outside and not be able to tell how many hours that person could work.

"It would be hard to say how many hours we could offer," Hawes said.

Kupsik added that training a new part-time hire for the temporary position would take more hours than it would be worth.

Klein was finally hired on a 5-2 vote, with O'Neill and Krohn voting no, and Kehoe abstaining.

Home restoration

As discussion began on a proposal for a full-time outdoor brat grill, Alderwoman Kehoe said she felt it was a worthwhile effort and an improvement for the community.

In fact, Kehoe was so excited about a proposal to restore a historic home at 911 W. Main St., that she started talking about two agenda items early.

Leo and Janie Wilken, of West Dundee, Ill., requested a conditional use permit to open an antique gift shop on the first floor of 911 W. Main, while they maintain their residence on the second floor and rent out a first floor apartment.

The Wilkens plan to renovate the house, returning it to its 19th century glory as a single-family residence.

The gift shop would operate for only 10 years. Proceeds from the gift shop would go to restoration, the Wilkens earlier told the city Plan Commission.

The council approved the conditional use on a 8-0 vote.

"Thank you for doing that," Kehoe told the Wilkens after the rest of the council caught up with her. She said she saw the house shortly after she moved to Lake Geneva, "and I thought it was a beautiful home."

Another pier

Covenant Harbor Bible Camp, 1724 Main St., received council permission to install a new pier, provided the camp also receives the necessary clearances from the state Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers.

According to the camp's application for the conditional use, the DNR reviewed and approved the exact same project in 2009.

However, the project did not go forward then because of a lack of funding. The new pier is built on a recessed portion of the camp's 1,123 feet of shoreline, Eric Anderson, the camp's associate director, told the city Plan Commission on April 16.

He said the pier, now the fourth on Covenant Harbor's property, would move staff boats away from areas where campers are swimming.

"This will make our waterfront safer," Anderson told the Plan Commission.

O'Neill said he was concerned about the council giving Covenant Harbor a conditional use permit before it received DNR approval for the new pier. However, Gary Hougen said that before Covenant Harbor could do anything, it would require DNR approval.

The conditional use permit specifies that it is approved on the condition Covenant Harbor receives the necessary permits from the state and the corps of engineers.

The permit was approved 7-0 with Krohn abstaining.

Field refreshed

Aldermen voted 7-1 to approve a budget in the city's Park Impact Fees Fund for reconditioning the south soccer field at Veteran's Park for no more than $5,000.

Mott said the south field was the first of the five soccer fields at Veteran's Park to be built. It has not been reconditioned since.

A temporary field will be set up to take the place of the south field while its is being repaired, said Dan Winkler, director of public works. The reconditioning should take most of the summer. Work on the field will be done by city staff, although some equipment may have to be rented, Winkler said.

Arleen Krohn voted against the proposal because, she said, the cost of the project was not to exceed increased from $4,000 to $5,000.

Connors said he suggested the change because the city hasn't done this kind of field reconditioning before, and he didn't want the project to go over budget.

Farmers market

Horticultural Hall received permission again this year for a farmers market using the alley between Broad and Cook streets on the south side of the hall from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., starting May 10 to Oct. 25.

The council voted 7-0, with Alderwoman Sarah Hill recusing herself because she is on the Horticultural Hall board of directors.