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Lake Lawn Resort could be months from full operation

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ANN MARIE AMES
May 13, 2011
— Todd Wilkins said he plans to offer Anchor Bank more than the $9.5 million package another group of investors has on the table for Lake Lawn Resort.

But an attorney who has been working closely with Walworth County philanthropist Jim Drescher said he is confident Drescher will be able to close on the property and reopen the resort that has been closed since December.


Neither man is promising all 276 jobs will be back this summer, saying a reopening likely would happen in phases.


Drescher and a group of investors have been negotiating for several weeks with Anchor Bank of Madison. Anchor is the lead in a group of 13 banks that owns the resort. Drescher’s group has offered $8.6 million in cash and has agreed to take responsibility for a $900,000 fee the city of Delavan assessed on the property.


Drescher has asked, and the city has agreed, to gradually lift the fee.


Wilkins is not ready to say what he will offer for the 250-acre resort, but he said Thursday his offer would be more than the $9.5 million package Drescher is offering. That would enable the bank to pay the $900,000 special assessment, he said.


Wilkins said he offered $11 million for the resort in January but changed his mind when asked to sign a statement saying he would not disclose financial information from the realtor showing the property, he said.


Wilkins said his plan is better than Drescher’s because Wilkins has assembled a team that includes people with marina and hotel management experience in addition to his experience as a developer.


The bank has asked Wilkins for a nonbinding letter of intent, Wilkins said. He plans to meet with bank representatives Friday.


“We have the business plan, the skill sets and creativity,” Wilkins said.


Wilkins’ plan for the resort includes as many as 97 single-family homes on the lake. About 30 percent of those would be primary residences, while the others would be vacation homes, Wilkins said.


He also would develop a mix of multi-unit buildings that could be assisted living homes or fractional homes, which are similar to a time-shares, he said.


The crown of Wilkins’ plan would be a youth sports facility with a hockey emphasis. It would be the only stay-and-play hockey facility in the Midwest and could host regional tournaments that would fill Lake Lawn’s rooms in the usually quiet winter months, Wilkins said.


Wilkins plans to host open house events to get public input on his plan, he said.


When Drescher announced he wanted to buy Lake Lawn, it stirred enthusiasm and concern from Delavan residents. Some are concerned the city would be too eager to give Drescher financial breaks. Others were hopeful the resort, which generates 80 percent of the room tax money for the city and draws customers for dozens of other local businesses, would be up and running this summer.


The city in 2010 budgeted for $500,000 in room tax from Lake Lawn.


Drescher was supposed to talk to the Delavan City Council on Tuesday but pulled himself off the agenda.


Dale Thorpe, attorney for the group that owns many of the 203 condotels at Lake Lawn, said that does not mean Drescher isn’t capable and ready to buy Lake Lawn.


“The homeowners association is still very confident that Mr. Drescher is going to be able to successfully purchase Lake Lawn and reopen it,” Thorpe said.


More than 50 condotels are in foreclosure, Thorpe has said.


Drescher has not given specifics about his development plan but has said it could include both single-family and multi-family residences.


Both men said it would take time to get the historic resort off the ground after it’s been closed for almost five months.


“We need to go through all the motions with limited people,” Drescher previously said. “We need to gear back up to getting back to full capacity.”



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