Child advocacy center moves forward

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012
— A proposed child advocacy center for the Walworth County Alliance for Children moved a step closer to construction Monday when the Geneva Town Board unanimously approved a conditional use permit for the project.

Town board members voted 5-0 to recommend the permit with two conditions: That requirements for a fire alarm system and a PILOT, payment in lieu of taxes, agreement be added.

The tax agreement was proposed to provide the town with some tax revenue from the center. It is now in a tax-exempt category.

Town board chairman Joe Kopecky voted in favor of recommending the permit although he has been critical of the facility's planned location. He said he is opposed to using the proposed 5-acre site because it is too large for a 4,300-foot, one-story building. Board discussions on the center's location and a requirement for sprinklers failed to gain a consensus, Kopecky said.

The PILOT agreement is key to the center's future, Kopecky said. It is directly linked to the town's issuance of a building permit, he said.

When asked if it comes down to no building permit without the tax agreement, Kopecky replied, "yes."

The alliance wants to build the center on the parcel, which is owned by the county but located in the town of Geneva adjacent to the county's Health and Human Services Department building on County NN.

The alliance, which now operates in the Health and Human Services Department building, has proposed a center with more space for a "one-stop-shop." The new center would be available to children and their families for interviews, medical examinations and therapy where families can report crimes, work with professionals trained to serve children's needs and receive counseling.

Paula Hocking, director of the Walworth County Child Advocacy Center, said she was "absolutely thrilled" with the board's vote.

"This means we are one step closer in our battle against child abuse and neglect," Hocking said.

The permit, with conditions, now goes to the Walworth County Zoning Agency, which has final approval. The agency could accept or reject the conditions when it meets Thursday.

Before construction can begin, a certified survey map also must be approved. The Elkhorn City Council is scheduled to consider the map at its Feb. 20 meeting and the Geneva Town Board Plan Commission is scheduled to consider it Feb. 27. The town board would then consider the map March 12.

Bill Henry, an architect working for the alliance, said if approval for the permit and map are given at the scheduled meetings, the project's general contractor, Lakeland Builders Association, expects to start construction May 1.

Last updated: 7:43 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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