Council sinks Fowler Lake Village
Rejected developer’s agreement seals controversial condo project’s fate

By Ryan Billingham - Enterprise Staff

Dec. 4, 2014

OCONOMOWOC — The Fowler Lake Village condominium project will not move forward after the Oconomowoc Common Council voted against the approval of a developer’s agreement Tuesday night.

The 6-1 vote puts to rest a debate that Mayor Jim Daley said was unprecedented in his time as mayor.

“I’ve got more letters than I have had on Pabst Farms, high-speed rail, the Kwik Trip ... I think combined we have had more letters,” he said.

Aldermen Mike Miller, Matt Rosek, Charlie Shaw, James Larsen, Derek Zwart and Tom Strey voted in opposition to the agreement. Alderman David Nold cast the lone dissenting vote. Alderman Ken Herro recused himself and abstained.

Larson, Herro, Miller and Nold hold seats that will appear on the April 2015 ballot.

Several aldermen commented on the project.

Zwart talked about his concerns, particularly the differences he spotted in the original memorandum of understanding — a nonbinding agreement between the Community Development Authority and the developers — and the developer’s agreement.

“I am just trying to show you things changed and how much larger that site got between the (memorandum of understanding) and what’s on the table today,” Zwart said.

Larsen focused on the inability to expand City Hall if such a need ever arises.

Parking was again at the center of the conversation. Several petitioners and aldermen again expressed uncertainty over how the project might impact parking downtown.

Nold, who supported the project, said he was happy to see his property tax bill drop this week and that increasing the tax base and encouraging growth is how decreases are achieved.

“It’s always stated we can do something else with that back parking lot. Over these years I don’t think anybody has ever come up with a better option,” he said.

Rosek, who admitted he has been one of the more vocal opponents of the plan, said it was clear that developer Jeff Seymour did not have the money to create the project and despite a loan being secured through bonds purchased by First Bank Financial Centre, it is still city money.

Daley chose to quote a passage from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” in which Hamlet and Polonius discuss the shape of a cloud and revise its interpretation several times.

Daley also expressed appreciation for the community’s engagement and said he hoped the process had strengthened the community’s faith in government.

History of the project

Fowler Lake Village was a proposed condominium development in which the city would have swapped land with a development group that owns a parcel of land near City Hall.

The city agreed to swap the land it owns behind City Hall, primarily a parking lot used by police vehicles and city workers.

The city would have traded the parking lot for property Seymour owns across the street on St. Paul and and Pleasant streets.

Seymour would have then built on the current parking lot and the city would have made the property across the street replacement parking.

The financing for the project would have come though a nearly $7 million loan issued by the city, which would have been immediately bought by First Bank Financial Centre.

Opponents of the project have raised objections to a lack of parking, the loss of public land, the financing and the land swap that would have, they said, bailed out Seymour, who let the homes decay.


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