Home Depot denies using the "darkstore loophole" practice and says it currently is not asking for a property tax assessment in Lake Geneva

Limiting the number of new “big box” retail stores in Lake Geneva could become part of the city’s new long-range comprehensive plan. (File photo/Regional News)

Lake Geneva city officials are launching the process of updating the city’s comprehensive plan and the big-picture ideas that could become part of it.

The comprehensive plan serves as a guideline for what the city should look like in the future in terms of new development, land preservation and other city services.

Officials will be working on the plan throughout the year, and will be seeking public input.

The plan designates areas of the city for future development, as well as goals the city wants to accomplish during the coming years.

“It directs more efficient, more predictable growth for a city,” said Jackie Mich, associate planner with Vandewalle & Associates, the city’s planning consultants. “Whether it’s residential or industrial, it helps the city anticipate the types of services we will be providing.”

Mich, who is working with the city to update the plan, said the state passed legislation in 1999 to require municipalities adopt a comprehensive plan. Plans should have a 20-year outlook and should be updated every 10 years.

The city adopted its current comprehensive plan in 2009.

Members of the city council and plan commission conducted a joint meeting April 8 to discuss updating the comprehensive plan.

Aldermen and the commissioners took the occasion to review some accomplishments and disappointments from the past 10 years, and to forecast some of their preferred objectives for the next 10 years.

Plan Commissioner Sarah Hill said one of the biggest accomplishments during the past 10 years was constructing a bypass roadway between Edwards Boulevard and Sheridan Springs Road.

“That extension has changed my way of life in Lake Geneva for the better,” she said.

Alderman Richard Hedlund said one of the biggest disappointments has been the city’s inability to build a parking structure for increased parking capacity.

Referring to public rejection of a referendum on the parking structure, Hedlund said, “I think it’s caused us nothing but grief ever since.”

As part of the new comprehensive plan, some officials said they would like to improve the appearances of both gateway corridors into the community and lakefront areas along Geneva Lake.

Some also would like to reduce the number of new big-box retail stores that are approved for the city.

“I don’t think we want to stand for big-box stores taking over this town,” Alderwoman Shari Straube said.

Alderwoman Selena Proksa said she would like the comprehensive plan to address filling vacant storefronts in the downtown area.

“I think there’s a blight going on, especially when we’ve had properties empty for years,” Proksa said. “So, that’s a big concern.”

Hedlund said he would like to create a new “premiere area resort tax,” which is a sales tax collected from tourism-related businesses. City officials have tried unsuccessfully in recent years to win needed state approval to implement the new tax.

“I think we should lean on our legislators,” Hedlund said.

The city intends to conduct focus group discussions and community workshops in late May to give residents and business owners an opportunity to voice what they would like to see included in the comprehensive plan.

Plan Commissioner Michael Krajovic suggested that the city also conduct an online survey to obtain feedback.

“I think these are important questions that we need to ask as many residents as we can,” Krajovic said. “Having a few public meetings isn’t doing everything with the technology we have available.”

The plan commission is scheduled June 17 to review a draft of the new comprehensive plan.

An open house for residents to review the draft plan is being planned for August.

The city council and the plan commission are scheduled to conduct another joint meeting in October to review the plan, with final approval scheduled for November.