Geneva Inn hopes to alter town's plan, expand

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Andrea Anderson | August 20, 2015

TOWN OF LINN—The Geneva Inn hopes to alter the town of Linn's comprehensive plan so it can eventually expand on its one of the neighboring lots it owns, according to town plan commission documents.

The three parcels the hotel/restaurant owns to the east and west are zoned for residential use and would need to be rezoned to commercial use before any development could occur, according to documents submitted in June by Big Foot Holdings on behalf of the Geneva Inn.

At a Monday plan commission meeting, the Geneva Inn will ask the commission for permission to alter the town's comprehensive plan to allow for the zoning switch, said Jim Weiss, town chairman and plan commission member.

The rezoning will allow the venue to expand and host more weddings, reunions and corporate meetings, documents state.

The Geneva Inn opened in 1990 on the shores of Geneva Lake. It has lavish hotel rooms, boat slips to rent, and two rooms and a patio for meetings and special events, according to its website.

It plans to demolish two buildings on a residential property to the east. A 2,400-square-foot tent would be installed on that property and could be replaced by a permanent structure if demand warrants it.

Hours of operation would be from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Food and beverages could be served, outside caterers may be allowed. More parking also would be added, according to documents.

The proposal includes a buffer between the proposed structure and neighboring residential properties and funneling traffic through the existing Geneva Inn entrance on South Lake Shore Drive.

Two parcels to the west are not currently part of the plans, but “it is expected that they may be included in the operation of the Geneva Inn within the next few years,” documents state.

The Geneva Inn did not return phone calls for comment.

A petition against the proposed changes is circling the Geneva Lake area and has gathered more than 100 signatures within a week, said Dick Malmin, a nearby resident who opposes the plans.

The petition will be presented at Monday's meeting, where town officials will hear from Geneva Inn representatives and members of the public.

A decision on the proposed changes to the comprehensive plan could be made Monday and referred to the town board for a vote.

If the board approves the changes in September, the Geneva Inn will need to wait for the Walworth County Board to approve them at a fall meeting before it can return to the town board and ask for the rezoning and conditional-use permits, Weiss said.
Malmin lives a stone's throw away from the Geneva Inn. He opposes the plan because of the potential noise and the fact that it doesn't align with the comprehensive plan, which he said aims to keep the lakefront more residential and less commercial.

“I believe in the unwritten commandment: Thou shall not commercialize the lakefront,” Malmin said. “That's what has made this lakefront what it is. It's special for a reason.”

Weiss explained that the comprehensive plan, created by the public, aims to keep businesses in existing commercial areas. He said he has talked to people for and against the plan and is waiting to get his questions answered before forming an opinion.

Malmin said the plan is similar to one the Geneva Inn put forward about 11 years ago to buy and rezone neighboring property.
Back then, Malmin said, he was approached by Geneva Inn attorneys about selling his land, which has about 70 feet of shoreline. He said "no" because he didn't want the lakefront turned into an “enterprise zone.”

Malmin said he will stay in his house to stop the potential sprawl.

Since that time, Malmin said, the Geneva Inn has bought the property it's requesting to rezone and has about 400 feet of shoreline.

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