Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Chairman: Town will act on facility plan in June

by Steve Targo

May 31, 2012

GENEVA — It's been slow going in the approval process for the $20 million senior living facility proposal at the former Lodge at Geneva Ridge, but the decisions at the town level may occur soon.

Joe Kopecky, chairman of the town of Geneva and its planning commission, said during a phone interview Thursday, May 24, he expects an end to the wait for proponents of the plan which calls for a 160-unit facility for assisted and independent living seniors at the recently renamed Geneva Ridge Resort, W4240 Highway 50.

He said the commission will have a special meeting Thursday, June 7, at 6:30 p.m. at the Geneva Town Hall.

However, as of Tuesday morning, that meeting had not been posted on the town's website.

"We may take action at that special meeting, then the town board may act at its next meeting," Kopecky said. The Geneva Town Board typically meets on the second Monday of each month.

Project proponents first met with town and Walworth County officials at a preliminary plan review in August 2011, Kopecky said. The first time the town planning commission discussed it at a regular meeting was in September 2011.

"It seems like it has dragged, but there has been a lot of things they have been working on in the background," Kopecky said.

One of these "things" is an agreement between the developer, Michael Zuckerman, the Interlaken Condominium Owners Association and Anvan Corp.

In a Friday phone interview, association attorney David Williams said that agreement was signed May 21— the day of the Geneva Town Planning Commission's hearing on the conditional use permit requests to allow the project.

Kopecky and commission secretary Mary Van Lue said some of the condo owners who attended the May 21 hearing claimed they hadn't seen the agreement. Kopecky said he asked the association board to notify all condo owners then return to the June 7 meeting "prepared to prove that the condo owners had indeed all been notified with an indication of the reaction" to the agreement.

He said it appears people "are now being informed" about it.

Williams said the association board will meet Saturday, June 2, at the Geneva Ridge Chalet to conduct an informational meeting about the agreement and the project.

He said the agreement — which, including attachments, totals about 30 pages — is posted on the association's website and is being mailed to everyone. People who haven't received a copy can request one at (262) 245-9030.

"We had all this last-minute stuff thrown in," Williams said as to why copies hadn't been widespread prior to the May 21 hearing, "but yeah, we will send it out to everybody. To make them happy, we will have another meeting."

Apparently, not everybody is happy.

Williams and Kopecky mentioned a "5 percent" of the condo owning populace at the resort — about 10 to 15 people, they said — who have expressed concerns about the senior living facility proposal.

The agreement

Kopecky said one of the major concerns was the lack of a "well-maintained infrastructure," but the agreement seems to address that.

He said the other is whether the proposed project is a good fit for that area.

A recent change is that the plan now calls for 40 of the 160 units to be for "memory care" patients, Kopecky said, and some question whether the resort atmosphere would disturb the senior living operation.

"It's a change," Kopecky said. "Is it one that they embrace? Some don't."

But there is a caveat. According to Williams, the agreement reached between the parties related to Geneva Ridge is contingent upon Zuckerman's proposal being approved. After the town has its say, the plan goes to the Extra-Territorial Zoning Board with Williams Bay, then to Walworth County officials, who have the final say.

Williams said the agreement has "a lot of advantage." He said under it, water and sewer costs would be based on use, the association would assume control and maintain a swimming pool it didn't have before and a $409,000 claim against the association would be withdrawn.

There has been some concern about Red Chimney Road, which many have said needs repair. Williams and Kopecky said that would be addressed.

Also, the potential future development of the resort is limited under the agreement, Williams said. There are about 54 acres of land between Geneva Ridge and Geneva National, but the agreement stipulates only 25 units could be built on it, he said.

This agreement proved to be a major factor in the delay for the project. On Friday, Williams said the estimate now on the start of the project, should it be met with approval, is this fall.

So how does it happen a senior living facility becomes part of a resort? In a March 14 interview, project engineer Warren Hansen said the site originally was marked for hotel units.

A plan was approved in the mid 2000s which also included a convention center and an "aquatic center," or water park.

That fell through.

"We hit 2006 and 2007, they did the first phase of that, the remodeling of rooms, but when they wanted to go into the second phase, the market wasn't there," Hansen said.

The hotel part of that plan was scaled back, according to the rider to amend the conditional use permit — one of two requests which currently remain at the Geneva Town Planning Commission level. The other request is for a permit to authorize the facility.