July 22, 2024

YMCA postpones letter of intent to purchase Hillmor property

The 2023 storybook trail is unveiled at the Four Seasons Nature Preserve, May 25. 

A proposal to establish a YMCA campus on the former Hillmoor Golf Course property has been put on hold at least for now.

Representatives from the Geneva Lakes Family YMCA recently submitted a letter of intent to Lake Geneva officials to purchase about 38 acres of land on the Hillmoor property, 333 E. Main St., to establish a new YMCA campus.

Members of the Lake Geneva City Council were set to discuss and possibly take action on the letter of intent during their Dec. 11 meeting.

However, Mayor Charlene Klein said that YMCA officials sent her a letter earlier in the day stating that they would like to postpone the letter of intent for further consideration.

The City Council members unanimously approved to postpone discussion and possible action regarding the letter until their Jan. 22 meeting.

Alderwoman Mary Jo Fesenmaier said before the Jan. 22 City Council meeting she would like the Hillmoor Ad Hoc Committee members to research the YMCA campus as a potential use for the Hillmoor property.

Fesenmaier said the ad hoc committee has split into several subgroups to study different proposed uses for Hillmoor, but no subgroup has been established to study the YMCA campus as a potential use.

“I think continuing this issue until the end of January would be a good idea so we’re assured that the YMCA is a part of the discussions with the members of the Hillmoor Ad Hoc Committee, doing research and consulting with the ‘Y,’” Fesenmaier said. “I think (the YMCA) would be reassured that we are listening to them, but we won’t know that until probably the end of January.”

Alderwoman Shari Straube would like the subgroup to include ad hoc committee members who do not already have an opinion about whether a YMCA campus should be established on the Hillmoor property.

“I would hate to see people appointed to that who are already against them being there, because I don’t feel that would be fair,” Straube said. “I would like it to be people with open minds.”

Mayor Charlene Klein said there is a member of the Geneva Lakes Family YMCA Board, Skip Atwell, who is a member of the ad hoc committee.

“It’s not like they’re not represented,” Klein said.

Alderwoman Cindy Yager argued that no members on the committee are studying the YMCA as a potential option for Hillmoor, whereas members are studying other proposed uses for the property.

“Yes they have a member on this committee, but they do not have representation to be able to get the information that is needed to present to the community and get on the same level playing field that the other options are on,” Yager said.

YMCA presents reasons for postponement

James Gaugert, Geneva Lakes Family YMCA Board member, said part of the reason for postponing the letter is because of the Hillmoor Ad Hoc Committee members’ request to the city to not make any decisions related to Hillmoor until they have reviewed all potential uses for the property.

“In total respect to all of you, the ad hoc committee and the entire community, we would like to grant that request and that’s why we have pulled our letter of intent at this time,” Gaugert said. “We truly look forward to continuing these discussions and figuring out what’s best for our community.”

Steve Lois, president of the Geneva Lakes Family YMCA Board, said he also wants the letter of intent to be postponed to allow for more discussion on the item with city officials and members of the Hillmoor Ad Hoc Committee.

“We respectively postponed consideration of our letter. We expect that we would be treated respectfully in that regard,” Lois said. “We are asking you to proceed with purpose, resolve and the same kind of respect we are showing.”

Conservancy expresses concerns

Janet Happ, assistant executive director from the Geneva Lake Conservancy, said representatives from the conservancy are working with the ad hoc committee members to develop a master plan for the Hillmoor property and would like the city to postpone any decision regarding selling or leasing areas of the property until the plan is completed.

Happ said she also is concerned that a YMCA campus could negatively affect the Hillmoor property.

“The conservancy believes that the Hillmoor property should be a place for passive recreation, hiking, wildlife watching, cross country skiing, biking and other activities that do not negatively impact the health of the land or the watershed,” Happ said. “Any development that encourages thousands of people to visit the property daily is likely to bring with it traffic and noise and litter and other pollutants harmful to the Hillmoor environment.”

How we got here

Representatives from the Geneva Lakes Family YMCA first presented plans to purchase an area of the Hillmoor property to Lake Geneva officials during the Feb. 6 City Council Committee of the Whole meeting.

YMCA officials conducting a survey during the summer to gauge the public’s opinion regarding establishing a campus on the former Hillmoor Golf Course property.

About 72% of the people who responded to the survey indicated that they are in favor of the Geneva Lakes Family YMCA establishing a campus on the property, about 19% said they are neutral about the proposal and about 9% indicated that they are against the YMCA implementing a campus at Hillmoor.

Representatives from the Geneva Lakes Family YMCA have been looking for a new site for a YMCA campus for about six years because they feel they are outgrowing their current location at 203 Wells St.

Lake Geneva officials purchased the former Hillmoor Golf Course property from White River Holdings LLC in Chicago last year for about $6 million.

A Hillmoor Ad Hoc Committee has been formed to help the city find potential uses for the property. Any uses have to be approved by the city council.

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