Of what value will a public hearing on the changes to the city’s Comprehensive Plan be, if city council members have already made up their minds, and will ignore the public’s comments as they have done in the past?
It takes only 6 members of the city council to override the will of the city’s 7,700 residents. The city council has, over the objections of the majority of the residents, annexed the Hummel property that increased the city’s size by 30%, and then a few years later, in order to bail themselves out of the law suits that the annexation had caused, they changed the city’s Comprehensive Plan’s zoning on that annexed land. That change tripled the value of the property for the owner, in exchange for settling the law suit which included dropping law suits against 5 of the eight Lake Geneva City Council members who voted on that Comprehensive Plan change.
The Lake Geneva City Council, like the federal government, cannot be trusted on certain issues, and therefore a Comprehensive Plan, like the U.S. Constitution needs to protect those issues by restricting the government’s authority to change them without an approval vote of the electorate. Any change or amendment to the city’s Comprehensive Plan needs a 2/3 approval vote of the city’s residents, in a manner somewhat analogous to an approval of 2/3 of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution. For residents of a city to have any control over the direction and future of their city, their approval needs to be part of the approval process. For people to be free there need to be restrictions on what a government can do, and those restrictions cannot be changed by the government by representative vote alone (local, state or federal). Changes must require an approval vote of the electorate. Recalling elected officials or voting them out of office at the next election is not sufficient to prevent irreversible damage, such as: the destruction of historic buildings, the annexation of the Hummel property, settling law suits with zoning changes, or the possible selling out of the city’s future by changing the zoning on the Hillmoor property from private recreation to include commercial or industrial development for some developer.
The only way to prevent these kinds of actions is to amend the City of Lake Geneva’s Comprehensive Plan’s amendment procedure to require an approval vote of the electorate to make changes to the comprehensive plan. Because the procedure to amend the city’s Comprehensive Plan is in the Comprehensive Plan itself, it could not be changed by the city council without an approval referendum by the residents, thus protecting it from the arbitrary whims of the city council. This protects it from changes by votes of the city council alone, without the approval vote of the electorate, as the city has done with other city ordinances that were intended to restrict the city council’s actions. The city council eliminated the Big Box Ordinance that required 6 votes for approval, so that 5 votes could approve large stores. In the past the council eliminated the ordinances that restricted the city’s percentage to 50% of the lake front and parking funds, and now take all but $75,000; they gutted the direct legislation ordinance that required an approved referendum before the city could spend over $1,050,000 on a project.
If an approval vote of the electorate is not required to change the city’s Comprehensive Plan, then nothing in the city’s future can be safe or secure from pilferage by unscrupulous city councils. The Comprehensive Plan, like the U.S. Constitution, is the resident’s last line of defense against an overbearing or out of control government willing to sell away, or give away the City of Lake Geneva’s future, as was done with the portion of the Hillmoor property that the city had once owned.