Hillmoor golf course art

White River Holdings purchased the former Hillmoor Golf Course property in 2016, but Lake Geneva city officials have stifled the company in its redevelopment efforts. (File photo/Regional News)

The Lake Geneva City Council has elected not to conduct a new study to help determine potential uses for the former Hillmoor Golf Course property.

The city council voted by a narrow 5-3 margin July 8 against hiring the planning firm of Vandewalle & Associates Inc. to conduct the feasibility study, which would have cost about $53,000.

Aldermen Tim Dunn, Shari Straube, Richard Hedlund, John Halverson and Ken Howell voted against the study, while aldermen Doug Skates, Selena Proksa and Cindy Flower voted in favor.

Both the city plan commission and the finance, license and regulation committee had recommended doing the study.

But many local residents spoke out against the move, primarily because they oppose any large-scale development of the former golf course property, which has been idle for more than 10 years.

Amid signs that landowner White River Holdings LLC plans a new effort at redevelopment, Mayor Tom Hartz said he was disappointed that aldermen voted against the city taking the initiative to establish development guidelines in advance.

“We’ve chosen not to say what it is that we want,” Hartz said.

White River Holdings recently dropped a $55 million lawsuit against Lake Geneva and signaled that the company wants to restart talks about the future of the old golf course.

Hartz said the next step, without a city study, will be for the landowners to come forward with their own proposal for the 200-acre property.

“The next step for us is nothing,” Hartz said. “It is what it is, so that’s what we will do — just wait for the next proposal to come along.”

Some development opponents, including members of a group called Friends of Hillmoor, voiced opposition to the city hiring consultants to make plans for the old golf course.

During the city council meeting, Friends of Hillmoor members rolled out about 40 sheets of green paper from a survey that they conducted with residents asking that the property remain as an undeveloped field.

One opponent, Lake Geneva Municipal Judge Henry Sibbing, said the city should first survey residents about their preferences for the future of White River Holdings’ property.

“It’s logical that you would find out what the people want,” Sibbing told the council.

Former Mayor Spyro Condos said if the city paid for a study on the Hillmoor property, then the city could be expected to conduct similar studies on other possible real estate developments.

“How would you tell other developers no, that you won’t pay for a study for them?” Condos said.

Another opponent, Stan Redmer, said the city should not spend money for a study at all, because past city planners determined that they thought the golf course should remain undeveloped.

“This is the place to stop something we’ve already done,” Redmer said.

During a committee meeting on the issue last week, Alderwoman Selena Proksa said hiring consultants to examine the old golf course would make it easier for White River Holdings to come forward with a plan that Lake Geneva wanted.

“If we don’t do a feasibility study, then we’re just waiting for the developer to come with one of their own plans,” Proksa said.

Shawn Kelly, an architect for the Friends of Hillmoor group, said he was glad the council voted against doing a study.

“I think they listened to the voices of the people who were here,” Kelly said. “People just spoke their passion.”

Kelly presented plans last year, on behalf of the Friends of Hillmoor group, for the former golf course, which included walking and biking paths, interactive play areas for children and a series of “biomes,” which would feature plants and grasslands.