Looking on the Bright Side

Article by Terry O’Neill, former alderperson and current activist:

Is the City of Lake Geneva a “small town”?
Disregarding the extreme views of those who consider any city a small town if they don’t have an NFL or MLB franchise, and those who feel a small town should have less than two hundred people where everyone actually knows everyone, maybe a reasonable consensus can be reached. When people have been asked “Is a town under 5,000 a small town?” 66% said “yes”. When asked “Is a town under 10,000 a small town?” only 39% said “yes”. Extrapolating between the two points the general consensus puts the end of a small town at a population of 8,000. Since, Lake Geneva’s population is estimated at 7,746 it is technically under the 8,000 threshold, but when the seasonal residents are included the city has crossed the 8,000 small town threshold.

Politically the city crossed that small town threshold a couple of years ago as evidenced by a change in management attitude. In a small town the residents and the controlling officials have an attitude that is defensive and of a protective nature that is resistant to change and expansion, which shields the town from intrusion, slows expansion and resists change. However, once that threshold has been crossed the attitude reverses and the protective attitude disappears, and those in charge seek growth, expansion, development and are willing to take risks to achieve it. The City of Lake Geneva’s turbulent transition from a small town started under Mayor Chesen, and continued into Mayor Connors’ second term. It included the Hummel annexation, passage of the Comprehensive Plan, Hummel and Geneva Ridge’s law suits and settlements, and the attempts to change the comprehensive plan.

So the City of Lake Geneva is no longer a small town and has become a city that seeks growth and expansion; however, because of the mutual support between the residents in the Town of Linn and the residents of the City of Lake Geneva, there is still one aspect of a small town that remains in this. That single aspect is the preservation of the area’s assets against development. That includes the preservation of Geneva Lake, its shore line, its scenic views and path, and for Lake Geneva itself there is the preservation of the Maple Park historic buildings, the down town district, old Hillmoor Golf Course property, and our historic past. Development cannot be stopped, but development that is detrimental to the area’s assets needs to be prevented. The past is the foundation on which the present has been built, and upon which the future needs to be built. The past prepares us for the future and gives us a view into it. Without that knowledge of the past, we are blind and unprepared for the future.

Terry O’Neill

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