Hot condo proposal dodges cooling resolution
Move would have tossed agreement with Fowler Lake Village developer, accepted new proposals for land behind City Hall

By Ryan Billingham - Enterprise Staff

August 21, 2014

OCONOMOWOC — The proposed Fowler Lake Village project narrowly avoided being put on hold and possibly rejected at Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting through a resolution proposed by Alderman Scott Rosek.

The failed resolution also challenged the Community Development Authority’s power by requiring it to issue a request for proposals for the property behind City Hall now used as a municipal lot. That would have forced the CDA to toss out a previous agreement with developer Jeff Seymour.

Rosek emphasized the CDA is an unelected board and he feels it shouldn’t pick a single plan without exploring what options might be created by encouraging offers from more developers. Seymour and his plan have come under increased scrutiny by community members concerned with its scale, its impact on downtown parking and its use of city-owned shoreline property.

The resolution — Rosek’s first as an alderman — was voted down 4-3. Aldermen James Larsen and Derek Zwart were opposed by Aldermen Tom Strey, Michael Miller, Charlie Shaw and David Nold. Alderman Ken Herro abstained.
The vote was preceded by several community members speaking against the development and one, former mayor and current CDA member Floss Whelan, in support of the project.

Whelan said she would quit the CDA if the resolution passed because it would tarnish Oconomowoc’s perceived ability to make good-faith arrangements, like memorandums of understanding, that can be trusted.

That contention would later be addressed by the city’s special counsel Bruce Block when asked by an alderman if the city might be vulnerable to a lawsuit if it reneged on its agreement with Seymour. Block advised that answer would be best suited for closed session.

Mayor Jim Daley defended himself and the city against allegations made by petitioners about a lack of transparency about the project. Daley strongly disagreed with that sentiment. He said he has heard a lot of complaints from “a segment in the community that is against (Fowler Lake Village)” but very few solutions.

Daley said he would agree that a timeline and a look at improved parking and access options could be part of future discussions.

Shaw opposed the resolution primarily on the basis of the previous agreement with Seymour, while Nold felt a request for proposal without a clearly defined project was pointless.

Several aldermen said the council should go forward with an up or down vote on the developer’s agreement.

Seymour spoke briefly when asked about presales of the condo units. He said that the indecision has made it difficult to get contracts, but that he feels the property is 60 percent sold, which means he would only need 10 percent more of the value to be sold for the project to get the funding it requires.

After the meeting, Oconomowoc resident Kim Herro was circulating a packet of information titled “Save Our Downtown,” which outlined several recommendations for residents including a delay of Fowler Lake Village and a reconsideration of the city’s downtown master plan.

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