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Hummel seeks $23.7 million in lawsuit

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Kayla Bunge
January 23, 2010
— The city of Lake Geneva already was awash in legal action.

Now, the water is deeper.


Illinois developer Robert Hummel and his development group have filed a claim seeking more than $23.7 million from the city, saying the city during its Smart Growth planning process intentionally treated him unfairly with regard to the 718 acres he owns on the city’s south side.


The claim alleges that the city council and plan commission treated Geneva Ridge Joint Venture differently in an “illicit” effort to force the group to “abandon its plans to develop its properties, to force a sale of its properties to a ‘more desirable developer’ and leave the community.”


City Clerk Diana Dykstra said the papers, served to the city Jan. 11, have been sent to the city’s insurance company for review.


City Attorney Dan Draper said the city has 120 days to file a response.


The action comes on top of two lawsuits pending in federal court filed last year by Hummel and Mirbeau of Geneva Lake, who together proposed a plan for a hotel, winery and homes on the 718 acres.


Between the lawsuits and the new claim, Hummel and Mirbeau now are seeking a total of more than $152.6 in damages from the city.


The Jan. 11 claim details concerns about the way the city handled the development and adoption of its Smart Growth plan.


The city adopted a comprehensive plan in the 1980s and updated it several times since. The plan identified the Hummel property as an area for growth and development, according to the claim.


The state in 1999 enacted Smart Growth legislation. The law required municipalities by Jan. 1, 2010, to enact comprehensive plans that conformed to state regulations.


The city in 2004 adopted the South Neighborhood Plan, which laid out guidelines for how the southern part of the city should be developed. The plan identified the Hummel property as an area for residential development.


In September 2008, the city started its Smart Growth planning. It formed a committee of city officials, some of whom had conflicts of interest that, if disclosed, would have prevented them from participating in the planning process, according to the claim.


Marty Smith, for example, helped draft, distribute and analyze a community-wide survey as part of the planning process. He also is a member of the Friends of Geneva Lake, a group that has campaigned against projects proposed for the Hummel property, and a member of Vote No Mirbeau-Hummel, a group that worked to defeat the proposed development. He also is affiliated with people interested in buying the Hummel property, according to the claim.


The committee in its draft comprehensive plan identified the Hummel property as an area for a traditional planned neighborhood, which was consistent with previous comprehensive plans. But the committee soon changed the designation and identified the property as an area for long-range urban growth.


“No other parcel of land has been subjected to such a reconsideration,” according to the claim.


The committee in its final draft identified the Hummel property to remain rural with a long-range urban growth overlay.


“These nine parcels are the only parcels within the city limits to be assigned this designation. Other parcels of land located outside the city limits are slated for development,” according to the claim. “The actions to re-designate the property … were taken in retaliation for the filing … of a notice of injury and complaint in (federal court) against the city,” the claim reads.


The claim indicates Geneva Ridge has attempted to work with the city to reach an agreement on a possible development plan for the property. The city has ignored the efforts, according to the claim.


The committee recommended the city council adopt the proposed comprehensive plan.


The city council held a public hearing Dec. 14, during which Alderwoman Penny Roehrer suggested the city amend the plan to change the overlay of the Hummel property from urban to ex-urban. The council approved the amended plan, according to the claim.


The claim states the amendment and adoption of the plan is void because the city council approved a plan that was not recommended by the committee, which is in violation of the Smart Growth law; the council should have sent the amended plan back to the committee for review and approval and conducted another public hearing on the amended plan.


Hummel and Geneva Ridge are seeking:


- $22.1 million for the loss of the residential and commercial value of the property.


- $250,000 for attorney’s fees.


- $350,000 for additional interest expenses.


- $1 million for general damages, specific damages and consequential damages.


LEGAL ACTION


Illinois developer Robert Hummel and Mirbeau of Geneva Lake, who together in June 2007 proposed a plan for a hotel, winery and homes on 718 acres on the city’s south side, are seeking a total of more than $152.6 million in damages from the city.


Here’s how it breaks down:


- Mirbeau in July filed a lawsuit seeking more than $29.1 million in damages, alleging the city “acted maliciously” toward Mirbeau and deprived Mirbeau of its rights by asking voters in an advisory referendum in April 2008 whether the city should approve the rezone request and general development plan. The lawsuit is pending in federal court.


- Hummel in October filed a lawsuit seeking more than $99.8 million in damages, alleging the city put him and his development group, Geneva Ridge Joint Venture, in a “class of one” when it considered in August a proposed development of the 718 acres he owns on the south side. The lawsuit is pending in federal court.


- Hummel on Jan. 11 served the city with a claim seeking more than $23.7 million in damages, alleging the city during its Smart Growth planning process intentionally treated him unfairly with regard to development of his property. The city has 120 days to file a response.



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