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Possible buyer stays quiet on Lake Lawn Resort deal

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ANN MARIE AMES
May 11, 2011
— One developer is silent on his plans to buy Lake Lawn Resort while another says he thinks he can strike a deal with the bank quickly.

Lake Geneva Developer Jim Drescher was supposed to be on the Delavan City Council’s agenda Tuesday night. The council could have voted to clarify an agreement with Drescher about some details of the resort’s operation that involved city money.


But late Monday night, Drescher asked to be removed from the agenda, Mayor Mel Nieuwenhuis said. Drescher did not give a reason.


Drescher has been negotiating with Madison-based Anchor Bank to buy the closed resort for $8.6 million in cash. Drescher also had agreed to take over the responsibility for a $900,000 special assessment for utilities on the property.


The assessment was made during previous ownership of the resort. In March, the city agreed to gradually eliminate the fee for Drescher and his group of investors.


Meanwhile, another Lake Geneva developer has expressed interest in the property and plans to meet with the bank Thursday.


Todd Wilkins said he would make a higher offer than Drescher did and would ask the city to waive the special assessment. That’s a better deal for taxpayers because the city would benefit financially from the higher sale price, Wilkins said.


“We’re going to offer a higher price with a clean deal and a better plan,” Wilkins said.


It’s not the first time Wilkins has tried to buy Lake Lawn. In January, he made an offer that also was higher than Drescher’s, he said.


In 2007, he was a vice president of Orren Pickell Development, a Lake Bluff, Ill., builder that tried to buy the resort and then in 2009 sued the former owners. According to court documents, Orren Pickell accused Lake Lawn of breaking a 2007 agreement to sell.


The two parties in October 2010 settled before the case went to trial, according to online court records.


Wilkins said he met Tuesday with Delavan City Administrator Joe Salitros to talk about his plans for the Lake Lawn property.


Wilkins said he is interested in building 97 single-family homes on the west end of the property and some multi-family units on the east end. He also wants to build a youth sports facility with an emphasis on hockey.


Drescher has been in negotiations for weeks with Anchor Bank. Wilkins said he helped Drescher find investors but was not an investor himself.


Anchor Bank in 2009 filed a foreclosure suit against the resort owners. The bank closed the resort in December after buying it for $19.97 million at a foreclosure sale. More than 300 people lost their jobs.


Drescher and Wilkins have said getting people back to work is a priority.


Wilkins said he had not talked to Drescher and did not know why Drescher decided not to talk Tuesday to the council.


The Gazette was not able to reach Drescher for comment.


If Drescher closed on the deal, Wilkins said he wouldn’t be frustrated.


“If Jim Drescher writes a check tomorrow, that’s one thing that’s OK,” Wilkins said. “That deal will close, and people will get their jobs and things will be as they are supposed to be.


“Why that’s not already done, I don’t know.”



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