Blog : Geneva Inn

Lake Geneva Lakefront Development Concern

Lake Geneva Lakefront Development Concern

I have a very simple process when it comes to deciding whether or not a development should be approved. If the development is needed, and that need can be successfully articulated,  I’ll generally consider it. If it’s needed and said development is to be located around similar properties, where densities are similar and price ranges are similar, then I’ll consider it further. If the product looks nice enough to compliment those surroundings, I’ll keep considering it. And if it doesn’t impact the community in any negative way, I’ll consider supporting it. That’s the process. (Note it has nothing to do with what SEWRPC suggests, because I’m smarter than SEWRPC and so are you). Unfortunately, typical development fails on one or all of those criteria. Today it isn’t about generalities, it’s about a development and called Symphony Bay and its desire to become a lake access community.

This development is new. Like brand new. Like not yet ready to live in new. Like bulldozers new. It’s on the outskirts of a commercial district in Lake Geneva, so I’m generally okay with the location of it.  If I were a nearby or adjacent neighbor, I’m guessing I’d hate it. But still, it’s a development and it’s okay I suppose. The issue today is not this development, but rather its desire to transform this country-side development into a lake access development. See, the developer owns a small piece of lakefront near the Geneva Inn, and he’d like to build a clubhouse down there for the several hundred future residents of his development to have private access to the lake.  This is the issue. And this is why I’m writing today to voice my strong opposition to both this requested conditional use, and to the precedent that it would set.

I don’t know the nuances of this deal. I won’t pretend to understand exactly what rights Linn Township and Walworth County have to stop this sort of key-hole development access. I do know that if the developer needs a conditional use to build this structure, then the township and the county should deny that request, and quickly. The reasons for a denial are quite simple.  Any development that seeks to allow hundreds of additional owners a cramped chance at lake access is something that I’d oppose. Now, let’s say there was a condominium on a site and the condominium housed 10 owners. If they want to tear down that condominium to build ten houses, I’d be generally in favor of that.  Remember the South Shore Club development battle? The public won that battle, as a developer chose to build 40 high end homes instead of several hundred lake access cottages and condominiums.  If we care about this lake, we should seek to prioritize what happens along its shores.  Density is our enemy.

The location on the water, near the Geneva Inn, is a location primed for present and future trouble. The Geneva Inn itself is a potential development concern.  The adjacent farm fields are another concern. The area features a rare combination of commercial lakefront with large swaths of nearby vacant land.  That combination is rare on our shores, creating possible development opportunities both endless and extremely troubling. That’s why the Symphony Bay lake access proposal must be stopped in its tracks. Kill off any hope that this sort of development will be found acceptable to the community, and kill it quickly before these ideas spread.

I’m not sure the best way to formalize a resistance against this conditional use request, but for now it’s a good idea to contact the Town of Linn and urge them to vote against it. There’s a link below that will take you to a community group’s webpage there they’re seeking signatures on a petition. The Plan Commission meeting is March 20th, so please do share this post and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.  The precedent that the developer is seeking to set is one that this lake can not abide. The only reason we’re here is because of this lake. We have to protect it. We have to do what’s best not for a developer with visions of lake access profits, but for the community as a whole.



This Plan Commission meeting also features a development attempt on the North Shore of Geneva Lake. The development would create a three lot Certified Survey Map out of the old Born Free Estate on North Lakeshore Drive near Pebble Point.  This sort of fancy plat map manipulation was stopped when it was attempted on the north shore of Fontana several years ago, and it should be stopped here as well.   The lot appears as though it could easily be split into two parcels, if that’s what the would-be owner would like to do, but three parcels is one too many. Tell the Township to turn this request down.

Sign the pledge.

(This link will take you off of Geneva Lakefront Realty’s website and to a third party site).

Email the Linn Township Planning Commission:

(Disclaimer- I am not affiliated with either project in any way and am writing as a citizen of Walworth County and a concerned Geneva Lake lover).

Just Say No To New Developments

Just Say No To New Developments

A recent article told of the plans that developers have for the old HIllmoor Golf Course parcel in Lake Geneva. On this topic there has been much debate. What should come of this run down property that guards the Eastern entrance to our city with so many weeds? Should we develop or shouldn’t we, should it be commercial or shouldn’t it? Thankfully, the developers made a pitch to the city that concluded with, “No lake, no deal”. Good thing, because now we can so no lake, which will force their hand to say no deal.

But it isn’t really a lake they want, it’s a pond.  They think this will matter to the vacation home owners that they seek to someday sell to, but it won’t. That’s because I think developing Hillmoor is a bad idea, and it won’t work. There’s another development underway just to the East and South of that Hillmoor property, and it’s another large residential development. Guess what? That probably won’t work, either. There are still rumblings of Hummel’s land and rumblings of rezoning for the Geneva Inn. None of it really matters because none of it will work. They are all different developments, all seeking different zoning classifications, all looking for approvals and handshakes.  But the common theme that runs through all of these developments is that they’ll all, in one way or another, fail.

Someone posed an interesting question over the weekend, after the horrible atrocity committed in Paris. The question wondered what good could come of allowing Syrian refugees into these United States. The answer was met with mostly crickets, but some shouts of inclusion! Kindness! Peace!, etc and etc. The point of the question was that the possible downside eliminates and renders meaningless that small chance at an upside. I feel the same way about these developments. What good comes of allowing them?

While Madonna attempts to love terrorism away, I have no interest in loving developments away. I just wish they’d leave us alone. That’s because the last rush of development is still unfinished. There are developments in Williams Bay, Prairie View and Baily Estates, both born of the last housing cycle, both still offering unsold lots, or resold lots, both littered with vacant parcels. Why, if there’s a great demand for new development, would the old developments sit unsold? Shouldn’t there be buyers clamoring at these cheaply erected gates? Shouldn’t prices be soaring if we’re already looking to replace something that hasn’t yet been consumed? If I go to a buffet at an all-inclusive resort and load up my plate with food, this is shamefully acceptable. But if I load up my plate, return to my table, eat one piece of fish, then return to the buffet and load up my plate, this is frowned upon, even in the anything-goes world of low priced all-inclusives.

But, but, the Hillmoor property might have a lake! So what? Who cares? Not potential buyers, that’s for sure. That’s because potential buyers seeking to reside on a small  pond can go to Geneva National, where they have ponds aplenty. Or they can go to Lakewood Estates where we have a 75 acre lake- no pond at all. Or they can go to any one of the other small lakes in the area and get their fill of pond life. A large scale Hillmoor development won’t work, pond or not, and it has nothing to do with my feelings about development, it has to do with very simple theories of supply and demand.

We still have ample supply, and it isn’t endangered. If you want to build a vinyl house, you have loads of options here. If you wish to work in town, send your kids to school in town, then we’d love to have you. We have myriad housing options for you, ranging from the basic to the splendid, ranging from vinyl ranches on hills to palatial lakefront estates. We have every segment filled. Yes, to be fair, we are missing the segment of basic house backing up to the highway facing a pond, but I’m betting that segment is awful small.

All of that begs the answer to the original question: What good do these developments bring? What is the point of adding more full-time residents? Is there some great economic benefit, aside from the municipality’s lust for additional tax dollars? Is there some benefit to forcing population expansion of small resort towns? Of course there isn’t. Lake Geneva is an exclusive sort of market. It isn’t for everyone. It is for full time people who want small town living. It is for vacation loving people who want to boat over clean water and walk a deciduous shoreline. It’s for people who want to experience a small town that’s big on personality. That personality changes when mass development comes knocking.

That’s why I don’t really care what the development is, I just care how big it is. If Hillmoor wants to sell off 20 lots, all large and ample, I’m all for it. Commercial properties along the road, residential in back. Perfect. If any one of these other developments, both proposed and approved, wish to provide high caliber housing options that number few, let’s rejoice. But if these developments wish to flood our market with inventory and introduce new, boring, properties to the market, I say no. We don’t need any more boring housing because we haven’t even finished our last round of boring housing and everyone at this table is feeling pretty full.