A group of conservationists living in the Lake Geneva Community has joined together to form a special non-profit group called the Friends of Hillmoor, to help purchase and develop a unique vision for the old Hillmoor Golf Course.
In the past, Hillmoor served as a picturesque gateway to the City of Lake Geneva, awash with carpeted greenspace, with water ponds punctuating the landscape and rows of lush trees as far as the eye could see. Times change, though, and the era of a single venue 18-hole golf course greeting tourists coming to visit Lake Geneva has passed. So, the people of the community want to see the old Hillmoor replaced by a new and better Hillmoor, one that would be more interactive by operating as a tourist and people’s park for recreation, education, musical events, cultural events, sporting events and/or winter activities. Once again Hillmoor might be an environmentally green gateway for the City of Lake Geneva, where the rich and poor alike might enjoy and commune with the splendors of Mother Nature. Think of one of New York’s most prized and visited assets, the 800-acre grand and majestic Central Park scaled down to Hillmoor’s 200 acres, but eventually every bit as grand and majestic. This growing opportunity to revive and preserve Hillmoor began to look like a miracle on Nov.13 when the Lake Geneva City Council divined the “Dream of Hillmoor” as it was being revealed to them in speech after speech over three separate meetings by the Lake Geneva Community. Consequently, the City Council voted to deny Hillmoor being openly commercialized.
Lake Geneva is, indeed, a tourist destination, not for tourists to come to shop and eat at the exact same kind of businesses they have at home, but to commune and experience nature and the legacy of Geneva Lake. No other inland community in Wisconsin, or perhaps the whole country, could compare to what could be achieved with Hillmoor. Unfortunately, the purveyors of unfettered development did deceive enough members of the Plan Commission on 10/16/17 to get approval for the change in land use of Hillmoor, but commissioners Esarco and Gibbs voted against sending a recommendation to the City Council approving the Comp Plan changes to allow for its development. Once the seemingly deceptive actions of some of the city planners and the city attorney were exposed, four members of the city council came to realize they did not want to be used as rubber stamps by the city staff but instead were the true representatives of the citizens of the city with respect to development.
In order to acquire Hillmoor now, the city must be convinced to use its powers of Eminent Domain. A strategy to pressure city officials to take the dramatic step of Eminent Domain is to offer them the Premier Resort Area Tax (PRAT) as a quid pro quo, whereby the voters in the city agree to have a one-half percent tax imposed on purchases related to tourism in return for the city acquiring Hillmoor. The City Administrator, Blaine Oborn, likes the idea. According to Wisconsin State Law this Resort Tax is the only way the city can impose and retain a sales tax, so it makes sense to use this tax, instead of depending on property taxes, and because the city has reached (and even surpassed) the limit on the funds it can raise on parking, beach, boat slip/buoy fees, etc. Unfortunately, the word “tax” is an anathema everywhere in the state of Wisconsin, so Oborn has had no success promoting the PRAT Tax idea to the public. The work that needs to be done to achieve this goal of acquiring Hillmoor can’t be done by well-intentioned civilians alone.
Professionals are needed to do strategic planning for procuring and developing the property, and professional legal counsel has to be appointed to stand up to city hall, stand behind supportive local council members, and to deal with the recalcitrant current owners of the property. What’s needed now is enough money to pursue hiring these professionals. Members of The Friends of Hillmoor are passionate believers in a true Hillmoor community mission and believe that fate has brought them to this time in history to do the right thing. If you have been blessed with prosperity and economic well-being, or are an agent of influence and vision in the LG Community who can bring attention to the cause to make Hillmoor the legacy it was always intended to be for the environment; the city; and the Lake Geneva Community, the Friends of Hillmoor are asking for your help.