ALL THE CHAPPELL BELLS WERE RINGING
The Hillmoor project went down in flames, seared and burned by the words of Elizabeth Chappell as she delivered an unheard of soliloquy to the gathered citizenry of Lake Geneva on Monday night. It was 8:03 p.m. when she began her stirring thank you for all the letters and calls she had received on the subject of Hillmoor. She went into great detail about how polite and nice the people who called on her in any way were. She also waxed very eloquent about how impressed she was that so many people had chosen to attend the meetings leading up to the final vote on Hillmoor. That vote would go down twenty-five minutes later.
Midway through her self-agonizing discussion about Hillmoor it became evident to the entire crowed gathered before her that Liz Chappell was making up her mind about the project as she spoke. She went first one way, and then another about the developers, the comprehensive plan and the wild open area that the Hillmoor property now represents over on the Northeastern part of Lake Geneva.
Liz even quoted the Geneva Shore Report’s headline: “This land is your land, this land is my land”, actually lyrics written by Woody Guthrie in this patriotic anthem. The GSR used the headline two weeks ago in its attempt to illustrate that just because you buy a piece of land does not mean that you do not have to conform to all kinds of requirements, rules and ordinances enacted by the people living near your land. Chappell said that the headline was wrong. The Hillmoor land is owned by the developer who bought it. After saying that she voted against the developer and the project by casting her vote against a change to the Lake Geneva Comprehensive Plan, making the land, yours, mine and hers.
Liz was joined by three other city alderpersons voting against the comprehensive plan change. Ken Howell, Shari Straube, and Cindy Flowers all voted for the plan change to fail. And fail it did, with Con Man Kordus up atop the head of the dais about to pass out, his role as Yule Brenner in the Magnificent Seven (there were seven alderpersons present) over. Yule Brenner with hair, that is. Lots of hair.
There was no chance that business could go on after the vote. The citizens present, all 103 of them, went crazy with celebration. The 29 people who spoke so eloquently gathered to cheer and applaud. But none of them approached the eloquence of the seemingly different, simple, but deeply sincere Elizabeth Chappell.
She sat there with no aids or notes, and laid out both cases, for and against the development of Hillmoor, and she was positively brilliant. That she was making her mind up as she spoke, quoting the words of every expert around her who’d gone first, was an example of American small-town democracy that will resound throughout the chambers of Lake Geneva’s city municipal building for some time to come. What she did was what is supposed to be done. How she did it is how it is supposed to be done.
The Hillmoor story is not over. The developer still owns the land, and it’s still zoned recreational use under the current comprehensive plan. But for now, like the headline’s lyrics continue; “…and the little congregation prayed for guidance from above, lead us not into temptation, may our soul find the salvation of thy great eternal love.”
This day, and for many to come, almost all the citizens of Lake Geneva who thought they were being abandoned and rejected, can sink back in pleasant relaxation, for Liz Chappell and a few other dedicated city leaders are on the job.
Victory for Now