The Geneva Lake Conservancy, by its very definition, is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the historical and environmental character of the Geneva Lake’s area. As responsible stewards of the community’s land and water resources, one of the Conservancy’s stated missions is to shape and direct zoning policies to preserve the ecology, culture and unique historical character of the area whenever it is “threatened by urban sprawl and short-sighted developmental greed.”
But apparently a coup has taken place within the Geneva Lake Conservancy, and inquiring minds are wondering what’s happening. The most obvious sign of a change in the Conservancy’s philosophy came last month in a position paper issued by the Conservancy’s new chairman, Dennis Jordan. This paper advocated that the Linn Plan Commission and Town Board approve the Geneva Inn’s request to commercialize its 3 residential lakeshore properties in order to add another 245 feet of Lakeshore for Commercial Development. The fact that Geneva Inn’s request for commercialization of the lakeshore was not only non-committal on its intentions to develop 2 of the parcels, and vague on the 3rd, it was inconsistent with the Town of Linn Comprehensive Plan and inconsistent with the goals of the Geneva Lake Conservancy, but that was overlooked in the Conservancy’s position paper. The fact that marina businesses have existed in the area, and been grandfathered into the zoning code along with the Geneva Inn itself,should not be considered a gateway for the Conservancy to endorse the Geneva Inn receiving free reign to further commercialize the area into a commercial strip mall.
The justification for the Conservancy’s recommendation was ‘business survival,’ and the Conservancy’s desire to help the Geneva Inn grow and evolve so itcan become a more successful business. But where in the Conservancy’s goals and objectives is the discretion to pick winners and losers in a free market economy?
In 2011 the Conservancy also used its prestige and influence to make a recommendation on rezoning asmall business on Linn Road called the Pier, who’s owner, John Trossen, also wanted to expand his small business to make it more successful. In that case the Conservancy made its position very public by opposing the Trossen rezone because it was inconsistent with the Linn Comprehensive Plan, and would create more traffic on Linn Road and possibly more boat traffic on the lake. Both Trossen’s Pier business and the Geneva Inn are older businesses that were grandfathered into the zoning codes, except that the Geneva Inn, when it was the Shore Club, was in breach of the precepts of the 1910 Covenant (to maintain the historical residential character of the lakeshore).
How could the Conservancy overlook the short-sighted developmental predatory goal of the Geneva Inn and still advocate for them? When the surplus of traffic the plan would transforman already overburdened traffic area (resulting from the normal heavy traffic, plus the State Park traffic, boat and jet ski rental businesses, Corleone’s restaurant traffic, and the traffic created by 100’s of boats moored in the area) into an untenable traffic situation.It would also generate a risk to the safety and welfare of everyone, pedestrian and drivers alike. Mr. Jordan’s claim that this could be controlled by a “Conditional Use” restriction is patently ridiculous.
No one is advocating for the elimination of the Geneva Inn, or the businesses they currently have. But whether it is overt or covert lobbying by the Geneva Inn, or whether the Conservancy has been infiltrated by individuals hoping to use it for commercial gain, the Conservancy is on a course much different from its stated mission to preserve and protect the open spaces and other natural, cultural and historic resources that have shaped Geneva Lake’s unique character and rich legacy.
As a 501 C3 non-profit, charitable organization (funded by tax deductible private donations) , someone needs to start questioning the Conservancy’s status as a tax exempt and tax deductible organization. Or the Board of the Conservancy needs to reign in those using the good name and reputation of the Conservancy to promote their own agenda of helping their friends, and abusing their enemies.