For those who have wanted free parking in Lake Geneva, your dream has come true.
For a month.
Starting this Thursday, no one will get a parking ticket in a metered stall. The ticket-holiday will last until the end of March.
No more scouting the city for a free spot, or beating a fellow citizen to it. For a month.
Oh, you might find something from the city on your windshield but it won’t be a ticket. It will be a friendly reminder about the parking rules.
Yes, the free parking ends at the end of the month and is a return to uttering expletives about tickets — which rose from $12 to $20.
But the free parking will start up again on Nov. 15 and last until the end of February 2016.
The parking policy was outlined at a Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night.
The changes will replace the enforcement of the two-hour parking limit during the winter.
Mayor Jim Connors said the previous policy is too hard to understand and enforce. It also costs more money to enforce than the city nets in parking fees and tickets during that period.
“Changing out off-season parking policies offers the potential to create a win-win-win benefit to citizens, visitors and our downtown,” Connor wrote in a memo proposing the changes.
Connors said Tuesday that there will be savings in reduced hardware maintenance and payroll. The units will be taken out of service in November of this year to perform maintenance. The kiosks are expected to be back on line in February. December and January will be used to review data.
Also this summer, a section of South Lake Shore Drive will switch from bus parking to car parking, which will add between 43 and 63 spaces. The lot on Sage Street, behind the Geneva Lake Museum, will also increase its capacity.
Two bus parking spaces will be removed in the lot, two parking pedestrian islands will be added and 21 new parking spaces will be created. Parallel parking is being changed to angle parking in several areas of Cook, Geneva and Center streets.
City Administrator Dennis Jordan said police will still enforce parking laws when it comes to parking in handicapped spaces or next to fire hydrants.
Lake Shore Drive proposal
While no action has been taken about rerouting Lake Shore Drive as part of proposed changes at Big Foot State Park, several Lake Geneva residents spoke against the idea.
Dick Malmin spoke about how the American Indians kept Geneva Lake clear and unspoiled. He noted that the “viewshed” would be destroyed if the state went through with its plan to reroute the road through the park.
Mary Jo Fesenmaier wondered who would pay to replace trees struck down for parking lots off the new highway and how much the city would end up contributing to the whole project.
The proposal is part of DNR’s five-year planning process, which incorporates other upgrades to the Big Foot park.
One reason for moving from its current location is to lesson erosion which threatens the road.
This year alone, the city will have to do between $100,000 and $150,000 of rip rap work to stop the erosion.
The city might also be able to move its municipal boat ramp from Center Street to the park area.
In an email interview Jeff Prey, State Parks Planner for the DNR, said plans are in the very early stages.
“We do not have firm numbers as this design is still in the concept stage,” he said.
So is the time line, he said.
However, he said that State Stewardship capital development dollars — which would fund the project — were not affected by state budget cut proposals.
“This project would be prioritized within that system,” he said.
He said the cost sharing split between the city and state is yet to be determined.
No final decision has been made on whether to close the TIF.
However, it was revealed that if TIF has a balance of about $10 million. How would it be distributed if the TIF closed?
According to Connors, the county would receive about $1.83 million, the city $2.37 million, Badger High School, $2.19 million; Joint 1, $2.96 million and Gateway $650,000.
Connors said some people are confused thinking that the balance would be returned to residents. After the meeting, Lake Geneva resident and former city council member Terry O’Neill said that taxpayers should benefit because taxes will be lowered if TIF closed.
There will be a special work session of the council on TIF at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, March 14. That session will discuss possible amendments to the current TIF expenditure plans and the possibility of closing it. No action will be taken at the meeting.
The April meeting of the Committee of the Whole has been cancelled because of its proximity to the spring election on April 4.