IN THE NEWS
The Cowboy Fiesta: The Fabulous Dawson Creek Ranch festivities are set to begin on Friday. The barrel-racing, bull riding, and all around great cowboy fun, of hanging around with a bunch of cowboys doing their stuff and involving everyone who comes, should be about the best family activity of the summer for the greater Lake Geneva area. The details are all provided in the full-page ad, donated by this newspaper, in this issue. Go and have fun, are the only rules.
To Grow, or not to Grow?
That is the question that has been at issue since the founding of the Lake Geneva Community over 150 years ago. The beauty and allure of Geneva Lake, and the City of Lake Geneva’s reputation for small town charm, not only attract tourists and new residents, but also serve as a magnet for big developers and exploitive commercial entrepreneurs. The clash between conservation and growth goes as far back as 1883 when the enlightened property owners around the lake decided it was their duty to formulate a “lake ethic”, to protect and preserve for future generations the same exceptional qualities they enjoyed about Lake Geneva. They understood the ills of urbanization and were determined to not “foul the nest” with commercialization of the lake. After all, they were mostly the captains of industry, and rich business families from Chicago, who were coming to Lake Geneva to escape the trappings of urban life and the ‘dog eat dog’ world they themselves had helped create.
This new “lake ethic”, and it’s commitment to protecting the lake and lakeshore areas, prompted the creation the of first zoning instrument in all of Wisconsin, the Covenant of 1883. The Covenant was a voluntary agreement signed by most of the lake residents. It became a codicil to the deeds of their properties, and guaranteed that no commercial business or big development would be allowed around the lake. Then in 1913 the Covenant further codified the “lake ethic:” Cities and towns were for commerce and business; the lake and lakeshore were for aesthetics, nature and conservation.
The citizens in the City of Lake Geneva have had a similar type of ethic about urban big development. The voters consistently vote against referendums that would unduly grow the city, i.e. referendum against annexation in 1999, against Mirbeau/
Hummel in 2008, and against the parking garage in 2014. This strongly held commitment of the public, opposing unwarranted growth and development in the city, is emblazoned and embodied in Lake Geneva’s Mission Statement: “Our mission is to preserve its small city atmosphere, reasonable cost of living and high quality of life, by carefully controlling land use and development, and delivering high quality programs and services in a responsible manner.”
The essence of the above presented mission statement is very clear.
The citizens of Lake Geneva want to maintain the unique character, charm and properties of a small town, and do not want to provide development services for an ever-expanding mass of subdivisions and shopping centers. Think of the idyllic character of the town of Bedford Falls in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, as opposed to the Sodom and Gomorrah style city of Pottersville, which is what mythical Bedford Falls would have become without the presence and careful attention of its main character, George Bailey.
Lake Geneva’s “lake ethic” and “city ethic” combine to give the community an image and reputation that is unique and admired by everyone near and far.