Dear Williams Bay,

Dear Williams Bay,

Spring is upon us once again, and I’m excited to see what you, my hometown Village, plan on doing this season to make my little town all the more enjoyable, all the more aesthetically pleasing, all the more desirable to my prized Illinoisans. What’s that? You don’t plan on doing anything? You’re going to let the weeds grow and perhaps give them a little extra phosphate free fertilizer to help them achieve even greater heights? Oh, dear Village, you just need a little inspiration I think. Perhaps my written satire isn’t quite doing the trick. If it is indeed inspiration that you’re looking for, follow me on a short, 3 mile trip to Fontana.

While Fontana may permit unsightly developments (Mill Street, I’m brow staring intensely at you and your cement siding), and while they might allow certain lakefront developments that a certain Realtor may be opposed to, that Village really has it going on. Fontana has been playing a high pressure, high stakes game of total municipal renovation for the past several years, and their efforts are being rewarded. Fontana was once just another town on the lake.

Fontana work in progress looking West towards Gordy

Williams Bay and Fontana were sort of the same kind of towns, both opposed to development, both quieter options for those eschewing the Lake Geneva lights and traffic. Then, about a decade ago, Fontana surged past Williams Bay in terms of value and desirability, and continues to widen their lead. Just look at this picture. Doesn’t look like much does it? In fact, it’s part of the downtown project that has included a new beach house, new pump house, new park equipment, new landscaping, new roadways, new sidewalks, and now, a new fancy parking lot for boat trailers. For boat trailers! Gates and cobblestone walkways and fancy street lights. It’s going to be beautiful, and it’s going to draw even more people to Fontana while Williams Bay, well, Williams Bay waits. Williams Bay, what on earth are you waiting for?

Williams Bay, you fear developments in theory, yet you’ve allowed many more developments to tear up your earth than Fontana has over the past 15 years. You want to keep quiet and sleepy and undisturbed, yet your own Master Plan has allowed for a hotel to be built downtown- a hotel that I’m actually in favor of. You want things to stay the same, yet you destroyed the charm of your lakefront 20 years ago when you constructed mammoth mooring piers in an attempt to appease the locals as well as increase revenue. You’re frugal when it comes to everything except new schools, million dollar football fields that get used 4 nights a year, and $2MM bike paths that no one will use. You just don’t quite understand your role, and your crisis is one of identity. What is it that you want to be? Do you want to be Elkhorn? No, too busy, being the county seat and all. Walworth? Too nice of a small town farming community with a great grocery store and the source of all that Kikkoman soy sauce. We know you don’t want to be Lake Geneva, that much is obvious and appreciated, but what exactly is it that you’re trying to be? Sleepy cottage town or progressive small town with new schools and, gulp… million dollar useless bike paths? I’m already in a perpetual state of shock that you choose to hide your most valuable asset from passersby, but let’s look at everything else you’ve done lately. The beach house, kudos on a nice project. You displayed some grace in the execution of that project, and the architectural tip of the cap to the original train depot that once stood nearby is something that I applaud you for. But what’s with the “police station”? The ugly little brick building right smack dab on the lakefront? When I was younger, I think that was a hot dog stand for a few summers, and now it’s just an institutional looking building that houses the boat police? And what about the pavillion? That covered albatross looks like it belongs in Darien out by the baseball fields, not in Williams Bay 100 yards from the most beautiful, most inspiring body of what in the entire State. What are you thinking? Can’t you see that continuity in design and execution is among the most important architectural features when considering either a single family home, or the master plan of an entire municipality? Why do you want to waste money on football fields and schools that will never, ever fill up at the current pace, instead of improving what it is you already have?

See Williams Bay, I just don’t get you. I love you, but you’re getting on my nerves. Are you a great place to live, to vacation, to visit? Absolutely. But the identity crisis that’s now going on 40 years, I just don’t understand. Pick a theme and stick with it. Let’s go for sleepy cottage town with aesthetic appeal and modern conveniences. Let’s cut down those weeds and show off our amazing lake. It’s like a super hot girl wearing an ankle length skirt.

Twilight Solutions path lighting

We know she’s hot, but why on earth can’t she just prove it once in a while? Cut down the weeds, extend the brick shore path, look up my pal at Twilight Solutions to get some classy low voltage landscape lighting installed to illuminate the path, and let’s get with it. Fontana gets it. Lake Geneva got it decades ago. Let’s try to play catch up an make an impression on every visitor who ever drives through our town. The impression we’re giving them now is that we just don’t know what we are, and we certainly don’t know who we want to be when we grow up. The vehement opposition to the Mirbeau plan for Yerke’s proves that we know what we don’t want, but I think it’s time to figure out what we do want. Maybe you’re just like a person who’s against everything because he can’t figure out what it is he’s for? Does that hurt a little when I say that? Shhh, it’s going to be alright.

I really hope you get it together soon, because I fear that I may have to run for Village board some day, and I guarantee you that it won’t end well for either of us. I can see the headline now… “local trustee arrested for chopping down wild flowers on Williams Bay’s lakefront”… “he just kept screaming ‘they’re weeds! weeeeeds!!” Please Williams Bay, in my lifetime. In my lifetime…



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1 Comment

  • Janet O-Neill April 15, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Dave, You are so right about the Bay, what is their problem. It has so much potential and they never do a thing about it. Boohoo,

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