Janesville28°

Mirbeau Retreat plan draws overflow crowd

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Kayla Bunge
October 31, 2007

The debate isn’t over for the proposed Mirbeau-Hummel development on the city’s south side.


Ninety minutes of public comment wasn’t enough for more than 120 residents Tuesday night. But those who packed the lobby and two overflow rooms at city hall will get their chance to speak Tuesday, Nov. 27, when the public hearing continues.


“There are a lot of people who would like to speak on the topic,” said alderman and plan commission member Gary Dunham. “This is a huge, huge development, and it requires more than one special plan commission meeting.”


Mirbeau representative Gary Dower said goals for the project include:


-- Protecting and enhancing natural resources on the site and improving water quality of Geneva Lake


-- Creating an economic opportunity for the developers and the city of Lake Geneva; all costs will be borne by the project, not the city or its residents.


-- Developing value through quality, not quantity; decrease density and increase open space


-- Implementing the plan in “bite-sized” phases over 15 to 20 years, allowing the city to control its growth and continually “recalibrate” its stance on the project based on prior phases


Residents of Lake Geneva and Linn Township spoke for and against the proposed development.


-- Susan Whiting grew up on the Hummel property and now lives adjacent to where the proposed Mirbeau Retreat will be. She said the development would take away the reason she lives there


“I love nature, the beautiful lake, the rural character,” Whiting said. “You’re going from rural residential to a very commercial development. And even if it happens over 15 to 20 years, most of it is in my backyard.”


-- Bob Schroeder, also a longtime resident of the area, questioned how much Mirbeau-Hummel would contribute to the city’s tax base.


Michael Ley of Virchow, Krause & Co., Chicago, said during the developers’ presentation that the project could generate $1.1 million in new property tax and room tax revenue for the city after the first phase is completed in 2012 to 2014. He estimated related city expenditures to be $233,500, resulting in a net benefit of more than $850,000.


That increased revenue means property taxes won’t go up, Ley said.


Schroeder said when he questioned the developers and city officials about it, they told him it would be a boon to the city.


“I own a home. I own property,” he said. “Big developments have lowered our property taxes.”


Laughter ensued from the public.


-- Joe Cardiff, executive director of the Geneva Lake Development Corporation, said Mirbeau-Hummel will be an “attractive destination,” where people will want to stay, not just visit for the day.


The developers were given 30 minutes to respond to the public’s comments. Dower addressed a few concerns and laid out why the plan commission should approve the development plan.


“This will help the city become a better place,” he said.


WHAT’S PLANNED

-- The Mirbeau Retreat would have 100 rooms and 12 villas, a spa, banquet and conference facilities; also 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, row houses, town houses and duplexes.


-- Permanent conservation of 375 acres (53 percent) of the site from development


-- Hiking and biking paths for both residents and the public



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