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Lake Geneva OKs referendum on Mirbeau-Hummel

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Kayla Bunge
December 11, 2007
— The Lake Geneva City Council unanimously approved Monday night a referendum for the proposed Mirbeau-Hummel development against the city attorney’s recommendation.

Alderman Larry Magee requested a referendum question be drafted because he’s looking for guidance from his constituents. He said he hasn’t heard from Lake Geneva residents. The majority of phone calls he’s gotten have been from residents of Linn Township, he said.


“I can’t just plain sit out there and go strictly on what I hear and ignore what I don’t hear,” Magee said.


City Attorney Berwyn Braden said there’s no need for a referendum, as the public has been offered the opportunity to voice its opinion in “eight hours of open mike.” The city’s zoning code, he said, doesn’t allow for zoning issues to be put to referendum.


“This serves no purpose other than to prolong the controversy,” Braden said.


Alderman Gary Dunham said putting the rezone request and general development plan to referendum causes trouble because the first reading of the ordinance would have to be postponed until the city council’s regular meeting April 14, 2008.


Magee said he doesn’t think four months is too long to wait.


The council voted 7-1 to postpone the first reading. Dunham was the dissenting vote.


In related discussion, the council denied, 6-2, a request for the city attorney to look into Robert Hummel’s legal troubles stemming from other developments he has done.


Alderman Tom Spellman alluded to comments made by a couple of residents at the public hearing Nov. 27. He said it’s “just good business” to do a background check on someone with whom the city might be entering into a major contract.


Chesen said the request was “inappropriate,” as any alderman privately can request such information.


“You’re posturing to disparage the character of the people involved with this,” he said.


Dunham agreed the request was “pointed and petty” and said the city certifies a developer’s capability through performance and compliance bonds.


The Lake Geneva City Council will revisit the Mirbeau-Hummel issue in April.


Storyline

What’s planned: The Mirbeau Retreat, with 100 rooms and 12 villas, a spa, banquet and conference facilities and 57 single-family cottages, which would be sold to private owners; a winery on 25 acres, with vineyard, wine production facilities, a restaurant and related retail; residential development of 882 homes, which would be a mix of single-family homes, row houses, townhouses and duplexes.


What’s been done: The Lake Geneva Plan Commission on Nov. 27 narrowly approved, 4-3, the rezone request and general development plan. The Lake Geneva City Council voted, 8-0, to put the Mirbeau-Hummel issue to referendum in April. As such, the city council postponed until April the first reading of the rezoning ordinance and approval of the general development plan.


What’s next: Lake Geneva residents can weigh in April 1, 2008. The city council will revisit the Mirbeau-Hummel proposal at its April 14, 2008, meeting. Some members of the city council have said they will vote in accordance with the results of the referendum.



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