Janesville29.9°

Group makes a stand against Lake Geneva development

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Kayla Bunge
November 21, 2007
— Sarah Schuster could stand on her deck for hours watching cranes fly overhead or deer bound across the grassy expanse.

But if city officials approve the proposed Mirbeau-Hummel development, such wildlife soon could be usurped by a three-story building.


“This is our ‘national park,’” she said. “It’s right here.”


The Mirbeau-Hummel development would be located on 710 acres on the city’s south side, bordered by Big Foot Beach State Park to the north, South Lake Shore Drive to the west and Highway 120 to the south.


Schuster’s property is located across from what would be Mirbeau Retreat, a 100-room boutique inn with 12 villas, a spa and banquet and conference facilities.


“We’re not against development,” she said. “This is just not the place for it.”


Schuster and Lake Geneva resident Penny Roehrer co-founded Friends of Geneva Lake after Mirbeau-Hummel representatives first presented plans to city officials in June. The group wants to protect the watershed around the lake, and defeating the development is the first step.


The group has about eight active members, but hundreds have rallied behind them, signing paper and electronic petitions urging Lake Geneva officials to reject the project.


The group would rather see the land used as a wildlife preserve.


“There’s more to it than just plopping down a bunch of houses,” said Schuster.


The area’s fragile ecosystem makes preservation vital, said Friends member Elizabeth Lyons of Genoa City.


Lyons said development and preservation should work together to drive up not only the value of the ecosystem and the outdoor education and recreation that come with it, but the value of development, too.


Of course, that’s the ideal situation. The Friends said a hybrid plan also would be acceptable—one in which 75 percent of the land is dedicated to preservation and only 25 percent is slated for development.


Roehrer said the group has been working hard to educate city residents about the importance of the watershed around Geneva Lake and about the impact the Mirbeau-Hummel development would have on it.


“This area has a reputation,” Lyons said. “This is a gateway to Wisconsin. Do we want to keep that reputation or sell out and pave it?”


Petitions
Friends of Geneva Lake is circulating a petition at Clear Water Outdoors, 744 W. Main St., Lake Geneva, and online at friendsofgenevalake.com.
What’s Next

The continued public hearing on the proposed Mirbeau-Hummel development is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, in the Badger High School auditorium, 220 South St.



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