Whose community is it, anyway?


That may seem like a ridiculously simple question when it is asked: “who really owns Geneva Lake and the surrounding property?”
The common knee jerk reaction would be to state that the lake belongs to everyone living, working and visiting around the lake. Such an observation would be wrong. The spring fed water reservoir, which everyone calls Lake Geneva, originates all the way up at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota, and is really not owned by anyone or anything. All sorts of laws, rules and regulations have been applied to the water volume, surface and below it to the bottom. Real ownership of the lake has much more to do with the real estate property located around the lake.

There exist approximately 546 entities holding ownership all over the property around the 21-miles of lakeshore area around Geneva Lake. It’s about those 546 entities that the State of Wisconsin is stepping in to allow more in the way of complete control as to what happens on these properties, and therefore what the result will be for the lake itself. There is no consideration, whatsoever, in the state’s new intent to ‘return’ control of all lake development, clearing, pollution or construction, for the actual ‘owners’ of the lake itself. In the past, with the development of community comprehensive plans, the outer populated areas surrounding the lake have been given a clear mandate by local authorities to manage and govern all manner of proposed changes to properties surrounding the lake.

The power to control development and construction was vested in the idea that everyone around the lake, whether living in a waterside property or not, had a vital interest in all aspects of the lake’s care, development and use. Wisconsin is a state where, with the help of the Koch billionaires, everything (governor, house, senate and supreme court) went from liberal to conservative almost overnight.

What does that mean?

You, the citizens who live, work and play around Geneva Lake, but don’t own lakefront property, are about to find out exactly what that means. The wealthy people (developed lakefront property goes for about forty thousand dollars per frontage foot!) around the lake are about to enjoy the benefit of two bills very likely to be signed into law by failed presidential candidate “give nobody a pardon for nothing” Scott Walker. One bill assures that lakefront owners will no longer have to respect wetland rules long enforced by the DNR. They’ll be able to dig up just about anything in the way of soil and vegetation they want, and take it to the dump. The second bill, also likely to be signed, will allow lakefront owners to develop lakefront land while needing only state approval (not the approval of communities, towns, villages or counties around the lake or that the lake is in or effected by). Change is vital to growth, and growth is vital to building and maintaining the visceral health of both geographical and sociological foundations of human culture. There is no question that the composite wealth occupying, and owning, most of the waterfront area of Geneva Lake’s shores is important when it comes to making changes for the future and exercising decision-making about development growth.

However, there is every reason to make sure that the democratically derived leadership of the communities surrounding the lake, keep and hold secure, final decisions about the application and direction of all such changes and growth. America itself is based on a concept of sociological group decision-making in every area of life, and it is vitally important that such democratic control continue to influence all decision-making around Geneva Lake.

Lake Geneva Growth

On Monday, December 11, 2016, the pristine scene looking out over a lake that remains developed but only touched with love because the people who live around it want it that way. The only way to keep it that way is to make sure others, not living around the lake and not necessarily living in multi-million dollar water front homes, don’t take ownership and trample the wonderful clear beauty.

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