The Hummel fiasco is coming home to visit, like the plague, or maybe locusts.
With the sale of 420 acres of the 710 acres of the Mirbeau-Hummel property, has the development ghost of a Mirbeau-Hummel been revived? Will there be 5 houses per acre with 2.2 people per house and another 4,600 new residents or will there be apartments and condominiums that double the population of the City of Lake Geneva? Or perhaps this new purchase has been done for a long-term land investment so that little will actually change for now? Nobody seems to know, but the city needs to realistically think about the development of an area of that size because it will change almost everything about the city.
Lake Geneva has evolved, changed and adapted over the years. So, change is not new to the City of Lake Geneva, but a development of the Hummel size has the potential to remake the image of the city, as occurred in Huntley, Illinois a while back. Unlike small developments that adapt to and merge with a city culture, large developments can overtake a small city and change its direction for themselves and their own interests. The City of Lake Geneva has, so far, maintained a small-town tourist atmosphere despite being under attack by large developers since the turn of the century. The continuing expansion, development, and annexation to the east of the city has altered the image of the city, as visitors approach the city on Hwy 50, but the development of the 710 acres of the former Hummel property, annexed in 2004, would effectively end the small town atmosphere of the town, and transfer control of the city to that area.
The sale of 420 acres of that property, combined with the recent changes to the Conditional Use Permit application of the (CUP) law of the State of Wisconsin, make its development a real and possibly deadly serious intent. The new law effectively means that an applicant’s request must be approved, unless there is found to be “substantial evidence” against its approval, where “substantial evidence means facts and information, directly pertaining to the requirement and conditions an applicant must meet”.
The City of Lake Geneva has no formal requirements beyond the zoning laws, because it was assumed that the city’s plan commission, in its review, would add those requirements and base their recommendation as each particular situation deemed appropriate for the area, that would include its impact on the city, tourism, current residents and the type of development, i.e. its size, number of units, etc. Without having a formal list of CUP requirements, there are few options for the city to control or deny any development now, no matter how large, as long as the development meets the bare zoning requirements, which have basically, and overnight, become none.
The Mirbeau-Hummel area, unlike the Hillmoor property, does not require a change to the city’s comprehensive plan, because the city council has already changed that as part of the city’s (understood/required) action as their part of the city’s (understood/required) action as their part of the memo-of-understanding to settle the lawsuit with Geneva Ridge in 2011.
The 710 acres of the Mirbeau-Hummel property has been an albatross hanging over the City of Lake Geneva since it was annexed in 2004, and it hangs as a disgrace to those who supported its annexation, those who approved the annexation and those who changed the comprehensive plan to have the lawsuit dropped against them. Mayor Chessen, at the time, still goes down as the city’s worst mayor of all time, and Dan Draper, the city’s current attorney, was a big part of that debacle. All of these actions by city officials were done in opposition to the residents of the city, who overwhelmingly opposed the annexation and change to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. The drummer is now beating his drums and the city is about to face the results of that earlier series of corrupt and stupid decisions made by the corrupt and stupid leadership of the time.
Cartoon by Terry O’Neill