Article by Terry O’Neill, Lake Geneva resident, former alderman and GSR reporter:
Hillmoor, the former golf course and resort of beauty across from the church atop Catholic Hill, continues to make the news
I watch for patterns, because those patterns show me the future. We all do this to some extent. We know the yearly weather pattern, so when the warm summer is ending, we know that a cooler fall is approaching and will soon be followed by a cold winter. But often, until pointed out, we are blind to a company’s business pattern or business model. Understand that pattern, and you will know what that company will do.
When it comes to developers, they start with the friendly “sweet talking”, but are not opposed to applying pressure,” or “bullying,” if they feel that will help them get their zoning changes approved. Once they have the zoning changed, then they are free to do what they really want.
The Real Estate-Gold’s website, of which the Hillmoor development is one of their projects, explained their pattern: They don’t build developments; they don’t really build anything.
The make their gold by doing exactly what they are trying to do with Hillmoor.
- They offer to buy land for a development; land which is cheaper because the land is not currently zoned, so it is unavailable for development. And of course their offer is subject to getting the required zoning changes and approvals.
- They line up others who will be under contract to buy these lots, once the zoning is changed, and the site improvements are completed.
- To further minimize their risk, they obtain their purchase and improvement money from investors to whom they offer short terms (6 to 9 months) at very high interest rates.
- They then sweet talk the City Management, the Plan Commission, local businesses and the City Council. They explain their plan, showing how it will be developed and benefit the town.
- The City Council is persuaded, or put under pressure until it concedes and approves the requested change.
- As soon as Real Estate-Gold “improves the site”, they sell off the lots to those under contract to buy it. At which point Real Estate-Gold has made its money and moves on to its next site. Yes, they are gone. It is important to note that once sold, the seller cannot bind or restrict how the new owner may use the land. The land can be used for any purpose compatible with the zoning laws, which can be totally different than what may have been promised by the seller, or sold to the City Council.
I would like to point out that this description is not a description of the Hillmoor development. It is the description of their Park Side Square development in Orland Park, Illinois, that presumably started on schedule July 15, of this year 2015. If it sounds familiar, that is because it is. It is their business model. It’s how they make money. But this time it will not be in some place in Illinois, it will be the Hillmoor Golf Course property in the heart of the City of Lake Geneva.
If you think that there are no backroom deals or understandings going on outside of public view, please understand that this may have been started a few years back when the city put in the Edwards Blvd. Extension. Under the oversight of Dennis Jordan and Dan Winkler, the City of Lake Geneva selectively paid the quarter of a million dollar Edwards Blvd, extension assessment for property ZYUP 00153. This property is the largest of four properties in the Comprehensive Plan change request. The value of this property is that it gives road access to Edwards Blvd, it enables even higher housing density on the other properties, and it supplies the green space needed for the Hillmoor development. Financial things don’t just happen; they are driven by money.
The incentive to change the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning is money. These changes will multiply the value of the land, and generate large profits for a select few. There is a bulldozer, powered by money, behind this project, that is ready to tear up Hillmoor. But no amount of money can compensate the City of Lake Geneva for the loss of the Hillmoor property, or its value to the city’s future. The Comprehensive plan’s restrictions on this property were set up to preserve it for the people, and for the city. Don’t approve a change to the Comprehensive Plan that will destroy the real and future value of the Hillmoor property just for another housing development. No matter how well intended your thinking might be, Lake Geneva doesn’t need or want a housing development on the Hillmoor Property.
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