Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Town may see Lodge’s housing plan

by Steve Targo

March 22, 2012

GENEVA — The Lodge at Geneva Ridge wants to build an “adult living facility” for people ages 55 and older near Red Chimney Road.

At this point, that’s about all that’s certain about this estimated $20 million project. However, the engineer working on the proposal may appear at the next Town Planning Commission meeting.

Since the requests for two conditional use permits to authorize the facility were filed last fall, ongoing issues between the Lodge and the Interlaken Condominium Property Owners Association came into play. Joe Kopecky, chairman of the town and the commission, suggested both parties work out an agreement.

But in a March 14 interview, project engineer Warren Hansen said an agreement “in principle” may be worked out in time for him to present the plan at the next commission meeting. Typically, the commission meets the last Monday of each month. However, as of Monday, the next commission meeting was not posted. Hansen said he expects to ask the commission for a recommendation on the project, which calls for a 160-unit complex to be built next to a hotel which is being constructed near Red Chimney Road.

“They did want to start this year,” he said.

David Williams, the attorney representing the property owners association, said during a telephone interview Friday negotiations are continuing, the association has no official position on the proposal and “until it’s signed, there’s no agreement.”

But what’s the town’s take on it? In an e-mail Monday, Kopecky stated there is not enough information yet to “even formulate an opinion on the project.”

“We have asked the developers to present a list of comparable projects with which to evaluate their project concept — for example, hotels with attached nursing homes,” he stated. “However, we have been told that a like application has not yet been constructed previously.”

So, basically, everyone’s waiting for something. However, Kopecky stated the town is “eager to have the Lodge remain as a viable member of our local business community” and “respects the rights and concerns of the condo property owners, who originally purchased their properties as part of the Interlaken Resort.”

The Town Planning Commission is one step in the approval process. It recommends action to the Geneva Town Board, which then recommends action to Walworth County officials, who have the final say. Also a factor in this case is the Williams Bay Extra-Territorial Zoning Board, which is expected to weigh in on the proposal before it reaches the county level.

The proposal

Hansen said originally, the site of this plan was marked for hotel units. That’s what he said was approved in the mid 2000s as part of a plan to redesign the former Interlaken with a convention center, a hotel and an “aquatic center,” or water park.

Then the economy changed.

“We hit 2006 and 2007, they did the first phase of that, the remodeling of (existing) rooms,” Hansen said. “But when they wanted to go into the second phase, the market wasn’t there.”

He said now the water park is off the table. According to the rider to amend the old conditional use permit, the hotel plan was scaled back to a total of 202 units, “eliminating 154 from the east wing.”

That “wing” is now the site of the proposed three-story adult living facility, which as it stands now has 160 units.

“There is a proposed net increase of six units, but they are smaller” than the ones in the previous hotel plan, states the request for the facility permit.

Hansen said the plan now calls for 100 independent living units and 60 assisted living units.

The independent living units range in size between 672 and 1,100 square feet. The assisted living units are between 350 and 550 square feet, according to the conditional use permit request to allow the facility.

If approved, according to the permit request for the facility, the project could create 62 jobs — including 22 in health care and 20 to work in the area of dining. Prospective residents would be ages 55 and older and have an annual income of more than $35,000.

Hansen said the façade of the building would be made to blend in with the existing structures. Including the time expected to bid out the project, it would take more than a year to complete, he said.

“It’s a big job center,” Hansen said about the project. “Think about the construction we would have to put together.”

The association

Others may not think about that.

“When you drive around the old Interlaken, you can see some improvements could be made,” Williams said. “This (adult living facility proposal) is some new money coming in.”

He said the association and Lodge owners Anvan Corp. have had longstanding issues.

“Basically, a lot of it is we’d just like to have control,” Williams said. “As it is now, the road, the sewer, the street lights, that’s all a separate corporation owned and controlled by Anvan.”

Williams said there has been litigation between both sides going back 15 years. Some of it concerns water and sewer fees.

“We’ve been in a major dispute for over two years on how much we owe,” Williams said.

Then there’s the state of Red Chimney Road. In the minutes of the Jan. 23 Planning Commission meeting, Kopecky suggested both sides look into bringing the road up to town standards then dedicate it to the town.

“We are going to improve Red Chimney Road, at least up to Aspen Road, as part of this project,” Hansen said.

Although Williams said the property owners association board has not officially taken a stance on the proposed adult living facility, he said there are members for and against it.

In fact, he said he has received “probably 50 to 100 e-mails” from people on both sides of the issue.

Kopecky stated a willingness to accommodate both sides.

“Whether the condo owners embrace the addition of (adult living facility) accommodations on the resort property will be part of the developer’s presentation,” he stated. “Thus it is with a respect for those realities that the town of Geneva looks forward to a presentation from the developers, hopefully at the March Town of Geneva Planning Commission meeting.”