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City Council Meeting, November 26

The Hillmoor vote was on the agenda for the plan committee meeting scheduled to be held on the afternoon of November 26th at five p.m. The item to be voted on, and the reason for the special meeting, was the recommendation of one of the three concept plans the city had paid to have done weeks earlier. The unusual move of paying almost thirty thousand dollars to have a concept plan done to encourage outside development of the very popular piece of property called Hillmoor, was also laying in front of the planning committee.

Between seventy-five to a hundred citizens showed up to become the speaking, grumbling and emotionally charged audience. It was standing room only (out the doors, in truth) for this contentious meeting, set to establish precedent that would serve to force everyone in the system involved with Hillmoor to respond to what was recommended, if the plan commission and common council voted to endorse it (one of the three to be presented). There was no presentation. There was no vote. The citizens in the audience spoke, one after another for five minutes apiece, until more than an hour and a half had gone by. Never, over the past ten years, have so many citizens gathered together to endorse or decry any plan to be approved by the plan commission members.

Only one dissenting view was orally submitted by a woman (former alderperson) named Sarah Hill. Ms. Hill spoke about the nature of private property and the current Hillmoor owner’s right to build whatever he wanted on whatever property he owned. That comment was met with a totally dead silence of the remaining gathered citizens. In fact, Ms. Hill predicted that she would not get any applause and her prediction came to be the cold hard and stony fact. She departed the scene before the decision was made not to vote. Judge Sibbing had commented on the fact that the meeting that was going on was illegal because no notice had been given to the public prior to the meeting. The Lake Geneva Regional News, the “official” newspaper of the city, published its weekly edition one day earlier than normal (on Tuesday instead of Wednesday) and the judge pointed out that there was no indication made in that edition about the occurrence of the hastily called meeting of the plan commission. The Mayor, Tom Hartz, did not give a reason for recommending that the meeting be adjourned without the agenda-listed vote. He made the motion. Commissioner Doug Skates seconded the motion and then the remaining commissioners voted unanimously to adjourn.

That unanimous vote was drowned out by the screams and yells of jubilation from the audience, as everyone in the filled room came to their feet to cheer in relief and happiness. The will of the gathered citizens was heard, felt and then rewarded. The Hillmoor development has become and remained for some time now, as the most contentious single issue the city has been a part of since the Hummel development issues of ten years ago. In that development mess, not dissimilar from the Hillmoor situation, the city was sued and the city’s insurance company paid three and a half million dollars to settle. Nobody wants to see a return to those contentious times, but the citizens of Lake Geneva also do not want to see the Hillmoor property commercially developed…and that was patently obvious by the size and the expressed emotions of the crowd that gathered.

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