If you follow me on any of the social media platforms, you know a few things about me. You know I like to fly fish. This is important to know. You know I like to hang out on boats. You know I love my family, even if they drive me nuts most of the time, like this morning when my daughter was sniffling in her room (not a corona sniffle) because she didn’t feel like going to school. But above all of this, you know I hate boat launches. I don’t just sort of hate them, I super hate them. I hate them with the hate that would burn up a lesser man. I want to close down the Lake Geneva boat launch, because it’s stupid and it shouldn’t be downtown. I want to close down the Williams Bay boat launch because it’s ridiculous and it generates mere pennies of revenue annually. Today, instead of just talking about repeal, let’s identify the replace. If we lose the Williams Bay boat launch because we know it’s a dangerous source of congestion, pollution, and invasive species, what do we do with that space?
First of all, understand that I love Williams Bay. I love being from Williams Bay. I love my childhood friends and my childhood home. One of the difficult things about moving my office to Lake Geneva is the simple truth that I’ve been working out of a Williams Bay office for my entire real estate career. I bristle at calling real estate a career, but here we are. From my Williams Bay desk I can look out over the road and see the gas station where I used to fill up my lawn mower engine with 30 cents. I can see Herb’s Muffler Shop, where he’d grumpily work on my tractors or cars. I love this town, which is why it bothers me so much. If I didn’t love my daughter, it wouldn’t bother me when she sniffles about not wanting to go to school. If I didn’t love my home town, it wouldn’t bother me so much that the boat launch is messing up what is an otherwise pleasant municipal lakefront.
The launch in Williams Bay is wedged between the beach and the park, taking up approximately 300 feet of lakefront. The launch is a big dumb asphalt parking lot with two piers. It nets the Village of Williams Bay somewhere around $40k annually (estimated, subject to confirmation). The launch apologists suggest this is an economic driver for Williams Bay, because the gas stations get to sell gas, ice and worms. Yes, there are some residents who launch their boats at this launch for day trips, but we could figure out something to do with those boaters so they do not feel disenfranchised by our glamorous repurposed use of this launch. What’s that glamorous use? A lakefront boardwalk with a pier system to encourage boaters to tie up, a parking lot to handle the land based patrons, and an assortment of shops or restaurants that open up to a widened lakefront path. I can see it in my mind right now, and I’m telling you, it’s incredible.
Picture a cobbled together assortment of structures made to look like they’re classically old. We’d shingle them, so they match the lovely patina on Pier 290 and the Gage buildings. While we’re at it we’d shingle the beach house and the concrete police building so our lakefront is uniform in design and presentation. If we used up 240′ of the lakefront with shops, I anticipate that could be around 10-12 total shops. A cafe with outdoor tables (Cafe Calamari Lite?) A restaurant with breakfast so we could boat up in the morning for a lakeside omelet (Daddy’s On The Beach? ) There could be some other shops, perhaps Clearwater Outdoor would take one, and maybe a real estate office (I could use a new Williams Bay office once this one is leased to its new occupant). We could make it lively and attractive and not only would we eliminate the menace that is day-launched boats with their invasive species filled bilge tanks, we could make downtown Williams Bay a place where people went on purpose.
I’m willing to handle this development work, and I’ll sign a 100 year lease with the village for the lakefront property. The annual rent will be equal to 110% of the last five year’s average annual net income from the boat launch. This way the Village makes more money while eliminating the backup parade of boat trailers. The beach wins because boat traffic is decreased and without the constant starting of two stroke boat engines there won’t be nearly as many gasoline slicks drifting over to the beach. The residents of Williams Bay win because they have more options for entertainment, and in this case it’s lakeside entertainment which is what we all want. And lastly, the lake wins because we gain more water-based shopping and dining opportunities.
The key to growth in a community like Williams Bay is to recognize that the way things are isn’t the way things have to be. This would be a dramatic improvement to Williams Bay and I’m here to help make it happen. Village Trustees, I’m available to meet anytime: Dave@genevalakefrontrealty.com