Lake Geneva votes down proposal for short-term rental ad hoc committee – Lake Geneva Regional News

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A committee that was set to recommend changes to Lake Geneva’s short-term rental ordinance will not be established.

Members of the Lake Geneva City Council narrowly rejected a proposal to establish a short-term rental ad hoc committee during their Dec. 27 meeting.

The motion to implement the ad hoc committee and appoint its members failed by a 3-4 vote with aldermen Cindy Yager, Peg Esposito, Mary Jo Fesenmaier and Linda Frame voting “no,” and aldermen Ken Howell, Joan Yunker and Tim Dunn voting “yes.” Alderwoman Shari Straube was not present.

Members of the Lake Geneva Plan Commission approved, Nov. 20, to form a committee to help recommend revisions to the city’s short-term rental ordinance.

Plan Commission member Joel Hoiland proposed the members for the committee to the city council.

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The ad hoc committee was set to include Hoiland as chairperson; Yunker, who also is a plan commission member; Emily Hummel, resident; Carroll Pearson, resident; Neal Kolb, resident; Tom Keefe, short-term rental property owner/manager; Luke Pfeifer, short-term rental property owner/manager; Jason Smolarek, short-term rental property owner/manager; and Fred Walling, Lake Geneva building and zoning administrator.

Several aldermen expressed concerns about the proposed committee members and some of the proposed responsibilities for the group.

Fesenmaier said the committee should not include a city staff member as a voting member. She said she has no issue with a city staff member serving on the committee in an advisory role but feels they should not be a voting on any proposals.

“We’ve never had a voting staff member on an ad hoc committee, so that’s not appropriate. The staff should be advising,” Fesenmaier said. “I have a real concern of having a staff member voting. We’ve just never done that.”

Yager said one of the proposed responsibilities of the committee is to identify methods for monitoring and enforcing short-term rental properties in Lake Geneva. She feels the committee should only be responsible for recommending changes to the city’s short-term rental ordinance.

“I would much rather see this resolution written so it is specific to just reviewing the ordinance and not the other issues,” Yager said.

Frame questioned the reasoning for the ad hoc committee. She said ad hoc committees have been formed to recommend renovations to the Riviera building and uses for the former Hillmoor Golf Committee, and some of their proposals caused concern among residents.

“The ad hoc committees that have happened have turned out to be high blood pressure issues for the residents. We know how those things went and are still not going well,” Frame said. “I’m concerned. Why does it have to be an ad hoc committee? Are we going to have another committee that’s going to be spending a couple of months writing a vision statement? Those kinds of things concern the public.”

Frame also feels the committee should not include three short-term rental property owners or managers, especially when the purpose of the group is to help find better methods for regulating such properties.

“One would be fine but not three of them,” Frame said. “Committees should be unbiased and not biased, and there’s three people working in the same financial interest.”

Frame also asked if public comments would be allowed during the ad hoc committee’s meetings.

Howell feels the committee should include short-term rental property owners, so they could provide input based on their experiences.

“They need to be a part of of the committee to put their side on it,” Howell said. “They might get out voted. They might agree— I don’t know. But their side deserves a say.”

Addressing aldermen’s concerns

Hoiland addressed some of the aldermen’s concerns during the meeting.

He said he wanted short-term rental property owners to be a part of the committee to make the process fair and balanced. He said the short-term rental property owners could provide valuable input to the committee.

“These people are residents and taxpayers. They are active in the community,” Hoiland said. “There’s reasons why there’s three and three. It’s not to have a voting block. I think balance is key here.”

Hoiland also feels the committee should include a city staff member as a voting member.

“Fred Walling is one vote. He is not going to sway any kind of decision on what we do,” Hoiland said. “Fred wants to help. He wants to get something that has the kind of language that provides staff with the ability to do regulatory activities, enforcement, monitoring— those types of things.”

Hoiland said public comments would be allowed during the meetings.

“We want public comments. We want constructive comments,” Hoiland said. “Now if we get complaint, complaint, complaint, that’s griping, that’s not constructive. We will take that in stride.”

Hoiland said the ad hoc committee would present the proposed ordinance changes to the Plan Commission members, then the Plan Commission would recommend whether the City Council should approve the changes.

If the short-term rental ad hoc committee was approved, it was scheduled to meet Jan. 10 and Jan. 24, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Mayor Charlene Klein expressed disappointment that the council members did not approve to establish the committee. Klein said Hoiland did a quality job coming up with members for the group.

“I just want to say I think that’s a real shame,” Klein said. “You are denying what your taxpayers that you represent have been asking for all along.”

Yager said she is not against the committee being formed. She just does not want the group to recommend any methods for managing or regulating short-term rental properties.

“It it’s rewritten and brought back, then I would probably approve it,” Yager said. “To say that I’m voting against the citizens is not appropriate.”

Frame said she also is not in favor of some of the proposed responsibilities for the committee.

“To say we are voting against what people want is inappropriate,” Frame said. “We just want it to be fair.”

Fesenmaier said proposed changes to the short-term rental ordinance could still be reviewed and recommended by the Plan Commission.

City Council members unanimously approved, Sept. 11, to have the Plan Commission members review proposed ordinance changes and recommend approval to the City Council.

“I believe the language is still in front of the Plan Commission,” Fesenmaier said. “So this isn’t over.”

Lake Geneva officials have proposed several changes to the city’s short-term rental ordinance to help address some of the residents’ concerns regarding such properties.

Some of the concerns that residents have presented during the past few months include loud parties, inappropriate language and increased vehicles parked in residential neighborhoods.

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