Two potential sites for a public parking structure were knocked off the list on Monday, after a site inspection conducted Tuesday morning by city officials and consultants from Riley Construction Co., Kenosha.
City Administrator Dennis Jordan said the two sites that remain on the list are the Cook Street site, which is the parking lot right behind the Geneva Theater, and the parking lot directly behind the former McCullough’s drug store on Geneva Street.
Two other lots that were inspected and then stricken from consideration, were a site in the 700 block of Wisconsin Street, east of Broad Street and just east of the Christian Science reading room, on the site of the US Bank building.
The Wisconsin Street site was unsuitable and if the city were to buy the US Bank building, it would have to relocate the business, which would be “a nightmare,” Jordan said.
Joining Jordan on the site inspection was Public Works Director Dan Winkler, Barb Riley, vice president of marketing for Riley Construction, and an engineering consultant, also from Riley.
Also no longer on the list for a parking structure is the residential neighborhood in the 800 block of Wisconsin Street, directly across from Central-Denison School.
Residents there no longer have to worry about the city building a parking structure in their backyards,
Connors said building a parking structure on that block of Wisconsin Street would have required rezoning. The rezoning would have required amending the city’s comprehensive plan, which would have also required a public hearing, Connors said.
Last month, Charlene Klein, owner of the home at 815 Wisconsin St., hosted a neighborhood meeting at her home, where visitors discussed their opposition the proposal.
The meeting was attended by 10 area residents including her Wisconsin Street neighbors, Marcus and Jodeen Immer. Also there was First District Alderman Gary Hougen, who represents Klein’s district, and First District aldermanic candidate Elizabeth Chappell.
Hougen, who is not running for re-election, said he thought replacing homes with parking was a bad idea. Chappell, the only candidate on the April 1 ballot for Hougen’s seat, said a parking structure might be a good thing but not in a residential area.
Neither the Lake Geneva City Council nor the council’s committee of the whole ever formally heard the proposal.
The proposal to put a parking structure on the block directly across from Central-Denison first came up at the December meeting of the Lake Geneva Parking Commission.
City Administrator Dennis Jordan told the commissioners that the school district plans to do a major investment into Central-Denison to make the building viable for another 20 to 30 years.
The district is also seeking additional parking.
Lake Geneva School Superintendent Jim Gottinger later confirmed the city’s elementary school district has been looking for additional parking in the area around Central-Denison.
Since then, Ken Etten, who chairs the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and is a partner in McCormack + Etten, also opposed the proposal.
In early 2012, the city hired Rich & Associates, Southfield, Mich., to do a study of the city’s parking.
The consultants’ preliminary report identified a daily shortage of 350 parking spaces in the city during the peak summer tourist season.
One Rich & Associate recommendation was to build a parking structure. Rich also identified the Cook Street parking lot behind the Geneva Theater as a possible site for parking structure. The city has also identified other alternative sites, including the Geneva Street lot between Main and Center streets.
Riley has built a number of parking structures in Wisconsin and Illinois, including the public parking garage in Burlington, Jordan said.
Shortly after the Lake Geneva City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, Mayor Jim Connors said that he hopes the city can get a referendum for a parking structure on the ballot by November this year.
By city ordinance, any public project that costs more than $1.5 million must be approved by the city’s electors.
Parking structure cost estimates run between $6 million and $8 million.
The parking garage would be paid for out of tax increment finance (TIF) district funds. However, the city will also have to get permission to amend its TIF district budget from the TIF district review board, which has members representing the school districts, county board and technical college as well as the city.
Because Lake Geneva’s sole remaining TIF district is scheduled to close in 2017, the mayor and city council members are eager to either get the project started, or, if it’s rejected, put it behind them.