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Artisan pizzeria plans to serve Neapolitan pies

November 27, 2014

Neapolitan pizza is different than most Midwest cracker-crusts.

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What's the development outlook for downtown

November 27, 2014

The sale of Scuttlebutts hasn’t been the only recent ownership change in downtown Lake Geneva.

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Owner confirms city fee pushed her to close

November 27, 2014

The carriage lady, who ran the horse-drawn business in downtown Lake Geneva for 11 years, said the fee charged for carriage parking led her to close down her business.

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Officials still puzzled by referendum defeat

November 27, 2014

OK, the election is over.
But that didn’t stop some Monday morning (or Wednesday evening) quarterbacking during the Lake Geneva Parking Commission meeting....subscribers>>

Recent Lake Geneva News
Traver ownership still contested
November 20, 2014

The former Traver Hotel building, 323 Broad St., is still without an owner of record.
Attorneys representing former owner John Klug, Lake Geneva, and foreclosed owner Keith Venturi, Barrington,Ill., will meet again Dec. 18 for a motion hearing.
Walworth County Judge Phillip Koss is hearing the case.
At a 25-minute hearing on Nov. 13, both sides brought their cases to Koss.
Klug and his attorney, Richard Torhorst, argued that proper notification was sent to the offices of Keith Venturi and 323 Broad Properties LLC in Barrington, Ill. and that no response was received by the legal deadline.
Attorney Scott Connors of Wauwatosa, who is representing 323 Broad Properties LLC, VP Construction Inc. and Venturi, who is agent for both LLCs, claims that neither he nor Venturi received the required notifications of the confirmation hearing on the Oct. 2 sheriff’s sale.
Klug foreclosed on the property last year, claiming that Venturi had fallen behind on mortgage and property tax payments.
The property was sold at sheriff’s auction Oct. 2.
At the sale, Klug appeared to have regained possession of the building with an uncontested bid of $185,000 plus $34,482 in back property taxes. However, confirmation of the sale, set for Oct. 28, was cancelled at the request of Connors, who claimed he did not get proper notification.

Connors also claimed that the sale price offered by Klug and accepted as the high bid, is actually well below the fair market value of the property.
Connors has also challenged a Walworth County judge’s opinion that the construction lien held by VP Construction was inferior to the mortgage held by Klug.
Also at the hearing was attorney Adam Bardosy, representing Barrington Bank and Trust, which also has lien on the property.
The claims of lack of notification and the alleged inadequacy of Klug’s bid were repeated at the Nov. 13 hearing.
Venturi bought the Traver from Klug in 2004 for a reported $469,000.
According to Venturi and Connors, Klug’s bid is well below the market value of the building.
Also at the Nov. 13 hearing, Venturi submitted a new property appraisal for the building. Appraiser Wayne Kurchina of Kurchina & Associates, of McHenry, Ill., estimated the best market price for the building at $595,000, based on the sales of other buildings in the Lake Geneva business district.
That is well above the $185,000 bid by Klug at the sheriff’s sale.
Klug, through his attorney Richard Torhorst, filed a differing appraisal by local real estate broker Sal Dimiceli, which shows the fair market value at $275,000. While the report itself is not dated, two supporting documents in the appraisal bear the date Oct. 16, 2014.
According to the Dimiceli appraisal, the building is “considered near or at condemnation.” The appraisal report also notes the “city of Lake Geneva would like to see it razed.”
According to county tax records filed with the court, property taxes totaling $34,428 are due on the property for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013. The documents also note that $7,311 is also due as of January 2014.
The property is assessed at $282,900 with an estimated fair market value of $298,000.
According to appraisers’ information about the former Traver Hotel, the building has 14,306 square feet on four levels. It is built on a 7,208 square-foot lot.
At its peak use, the building was a 68-unit hotel. There is dedicated parking for four vehicles.
According the Lake Geneva Regional News archives, the building was built in 1870 by Benjamin Fish who opened it as the Union House hotel.
Since 1870, the building has been known as the Garrison House, the Hotel Denison and the Traver Hotel.
The building was used as a retirement home for missionaries for a number of years, but it ceased being a residence of any kind about 2000.
After buying the building in 2004, Venturi did repair and cleanup on the building, but he was never able to find a renter to occupy the structure.

Former city worker pleads not guilty
November 20, 2014

ELKHORN — Two former Lake Geneva Street Department employees made brief appearances in Walworth County court on Friday afternoon.

Council approves budget, tax rate remains the same
November 20, 2014

The Lake Geneva City Council approved a $7.5 million general fund budget and a $6.3 million property tax levy Monday at a special budget meeting, but not unanimously.
The budget was approved on a 7-1 vote.
One council woman dug in her heels over a $3 annual fee the budget will impose on once-free residential beach passes.
Alderwoman Elizabeth Chappell voted against the budget in protest of the new beach fee.
She said the city’s free beach passes were a benefit for city residents, especially those with children.
“You’re going to ding a mom with three kids who has enough going on,” said Chappell. “It’s nickel and diming people.”
However, other council members said the fee is justified.
City Administrator Dennis Jordan said it costs the city about $150,000 a year to run the beach.

The $3 annual beach pass fee will help offset that cost, he said.
About 9,000 residential beach passes are handed out annually, according to city figures.
At the October budget meeting, the council faced a $66,000 shortfall between revenues and expenditures.
To meet that shortfall, one of the proposals was the $3 annual beach pass fee. Other proposed fee increases that made it into the budget are:
• Parking fines from $12 to $20.
• Nonresident child beach passes from $3 to $4 per visit. Nonresident adult beach passes are now $7.
Peg Pollitt, city comptroller, said those fee increases will have to be made official by the city council at a later meeting, usually in early December.
While Chappell challenged the beach fees, most other council members were impressed that the city’s tax rate of $6.04 per $1,000 of assessed valuation is remaining unchanged from last year.
“It’s a good budget,” said Alderman Jeff Wall. He said he was pleased the property tax rate did not increase.
Despite the no-increase tax rate, the city will still collect about $140,859 more in property taxes over last year because of a slight increase in the city’s tax base, said Jordan.
Those increases come with new construction and some revaluations, he said.
Most of that increase in property tax collections was deposited in the city’s new equipment replacement fund, said Peg Pollitt.
The fund would pay for any new vehicles or tools city employees might need.
While the equipment replacement fund is under-funded at the moment, Jordan said that if the Tax Increment Finance district 4 is closed this year, the city can put a major portion of its share of the TIF funds into the capital projects fund.
There is about $8 million in the TIF fund right now.
With a city parking garage out of the picture, the fund could be closed and the $8 million would be redistributed to the property taxing bodies in Lake Geneva, including the school districts, the county, Gateway technical college and the city.
According to city figures, Lake Geneva would get about $2 million from the closed TIF district.
Alderwoman Sarah Hill asked the council to reconsider a proposed 1.5 percent increase in city employee pay.
She said it should be closer to 2 percent.
“Staff is out biggest asset,” said Hill. “And 1.5 percent does not even cover the cost of inflation.”
City Administrator Dennis Jordan said the proposed half percent increase in raises would cost the city $30,000, which could come out of the city’s $90,000 contingency fund.
Mayor Jim Connors said the city could deal with employee raises later.
Lake Geneva is still waiting for the results of a compensation study, he said.
In February this year, the council agreed to join Elkhorn and Delavan in hiring Springsted, a Milwaukee consulting firm, to do a job classification and compensation study for the three cities.
The study was supposed to be completed by the summer.
At a previous budget meeting, Jordan said the consultants are still working on the study, but one of the cities has been making special requests which is causing the study to take longer than expected.
The report should be ready before the end of the year, he said.

Whoa! Parking fees end horse-and-carriage rides
November 13, 2014

The relaxed clip-clop of a horse drawing a carriage no longer sounds in downtown Lake Geneva.

Future of TIF, parking uncertain
November 13, 2014

It’s still too early to tell what the city council might do to solve the parking shortage, now that the voters have rejected the proposed elevated parking garage project. ...subscribers>>

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