If you’ve been to the Geneva Inn lately, you know it could use a little tender loving care. Maybe that TLC comes in the form of a wrecking ball, or maybe in a simple coat of paint and some new carpet, but either way, it needs some attention. The building and grounds have aged rapidly over recent years, and if it is to remain some form of shining hillside retreat then some heavy maintenance must be completed, and soon. Service has declined, the food is just okay, and the demand for oak trim and green carpeting has plummeted.
There’s a big meeting tonight in the town of Linn. They’ll be discussing the obnoxious new fire boat, and the obnoxious little pier that the obnoxious boat is tied to. They’ll be talking about how foolish it is to allow volunteer firemen to drive around in that boat on weekends and shoot their little water cannon into the sky. They’ll talk about how gasoline does cost money, and how it makes no sense at all to allow a boat to burn up so much gas in the pursuit of lunacy.
Just kidding, they’ll be talking about the Geneva Inn, and the proposed plan that would require a rezoning of the two adjacent single family properties. The plan is not entirely clear to me, because it doesn’t need to be. The simple truth is that the owners of the Geneva Inn want to incorporate the two adjoining properties into their commercialized zoning. They already own these properties, and they’re now seeking permission to act on what has been their obvious plan all along.
A recent article in the Lake Geneva Regional News painted the community response to this proposal as mixed, with some in favor and some against. There are many signs out near the Geneva Inn, all denouncing the plan. There are flyers being circulated, in opposition. There are whispers and hushed tones, mostly against the expansion. The community, by my guess, is wildly opposed to this plan, and Linn Township will be keen to listen to their constituents.
I’m not sure yet where I fall in this debate. In general, I am opposed to all commercial developments on the lake. All and any. I don’t like most of the ones that already exist, and I’m certainly not in favor of creating any more properties that lend themselves to lakeside density. That said, I know something must be done with the Geneva Inn. I know they already own these adjacent lands, and I know that this has been their plan all along. This is not a surprise. There is a group that proclaims this expansion to be a violation of long standing deed restrictions, but every commercial project- condo or otherwise- has already broken this old timey restriction. Oh, and every association that came about only after the destruction of a lakefront estate has already done more damage to this ideal than any slight modification of an existing hotel ever could.
The question here is not what is in the best interests of the owners of the Geneva Inn. This entity is wildly wealthy and in no danger of running out of money. This is not a last ditch effort to save a family heirloom. This is simply a profit play, and while I will never begrudge a profit, I will find some error in the execution of this plan. The main piece of this proposed alteration is the addition of an outdoor wedding tent so the Geneva Inn can capture more of the highly lucrative Lake Geneva wedding industry. Neighbors decry the noise that will be generated from such a venue. Has anyone heard the tour boats at night as they churn through the dark waters with thumping sound systems that broadcast YMCA to every lakefront home?
There are wedding tents of this variety during the summer season at George Williams, Abbey Springs, The Lake Geneva Yacht Club, The Lake Geneva Country Club, The South Shore Club, and various private homes around the water. Weddings, whether we like it or not, are a major driver of this local economy. If the Geneva Inn needs to add a tent to make more money, and if the Geneva Inn, in conjunction with the addition decides to renovate and remodel their existing space, does this mean we will have sold our souls for their pursuit of money?
I don’t think so. But I also don’t think I’m in favor of the expansion. I think, as with most things, there are overblown concerns and there are unconsidered ramifications. I think in the balance there is a solution, and in this case, there will likely be posturing on both sides that will ultimately allow the Geneva Inn some increased presence on that section of lakefront. I don’t want the neighbors to be disturbed. I really don’t. I don’t want this lake commercialized more than it already has been. But I do want the existing properties to be well maintained and successful, and this appears to be the Geneva Inn’s time to attempt to become just that.
If you’d like to speak your mind, the Linn Township meeting is tonight, August 24th. Linn Township: 3728 Franklin Walsh St, Zenda, WI 53195