Why smart plans do dumb things. It’s going on all around you, but like the air you breath, it’s not really noticeable until something happens out of the ordinary. Every community in Wisconsin has a state mandated comprehensive plan for development of all populated and rural areas. Those plans are known by different names locally but at the state level they are called Smart Growth Plans. Why are these plans important to you, no matter where you live, work or whether you are a property owner, resident or visitor in any area of Wisconsin? Because these plans determine what can be done with the land around you. All of it. All the time. Many years ago (1954), before the advent of Smart Planning, the United States Air Force Academy was planned to be built along the southern shore of Lake Geneva. The main runway for it’s planned airport would have extended out over the lake itself where the Lake Geneva Country Club is currently located.
Lake Geneva communities, without a Smart Plan to determine development, would have lost their lake in one fell swoop. Today’s residential concentration of single family dwellings and modest commercial development would have been blown to the winds. The lake would be the Air Force Academy pond with aircraft flying all over and around it all the time. Only the intervention of self-serving politicians from Colorado saved Lake Geneva from ruin. If the Air Force Academy wanted to move it’s facilities to Lake Geneva today then it would have to deal with the citizenry of the surrounding areas affected and that is because of the advent of comprehensive smart plans.
In the State of Wisconsin, the Comprehensive Plan is called the Smart Growth Plan for a good reason. It was an arduously assembled plan by all the really smart people in the community concerned about the communal future using smart planning practices for the good of the whole community. Because opposition to commercial expansion on the Geneva Lakeshore is part of the Geneva Lake ethic and heritage, as well as Geneva Lake’s greatest asset, this critical provision to keep the lakeshore residential was an indispensible inclusion in the goals and policies for future land use in the 2004 Town of Linn Smart Growth Plan and Map. Because state law requires Town of Linn to review its Smart Growth Plan and Map every 10 years, Linn will maybe quick to revisit the plan, especially the issue of keeping the lakeshore residential because of what happened with the Geneva Inn’s request to change the plan. If the citizens of Town of Linn believe the time has come to break the near commandment written “thou shall not commercialize the Geneva Lakeshore” in order to start allowing commercial sprawl on the sixty-five percent of the lakeshore under its control, it may start by opening up the BigFoot area for the Geneva Inn expansion. Once a ‘master key’ is given out in this kind of thing, that key, by law, becomes available to other commercial forces. Such commercial demands would come with threats of litigation using the successful Hummel lawsuits as examples of supporting case law. Changes have long term consequences and sometimes changes can be disastrous.
No one in the Town of Linn wants the reputation of making the one decision that turns Geneva Lake into another Wisconsin Dells. It takes the same vision and commitment back to those visionaries back in the late 1800’s who wanted Geneva Lake to be a gem like no other lake in the country. Fortunately for those of us who live and work around the lake, they were eminently successful in attaining their dream. To continue the dream these things are needed in the very near future to protect everyone:
- Public participation workshop and analysis with recommendations to the Town of Linn Planning Commission.
- Planning Commission review and final recommendation.
- Public Hearings.
- A Final vote by the Town of Linn Board of Supervisors.
Only your constant awareness and willing participation will keep and protect those things you love about Lake Geneva.