Palatine, Ill.-based The Hummel Group and Skaneateles, N.Y.-based The Mirbeau Companies filed a Notice of Injury alleging that Lake Geneva officials violated the law when they held an advisory referendum to gauge public opinion about the company’s proposed 710-acre resort, winery and 882-home residential development.
The project has generated a significant amount of controversy from residents who say it would be too dense and would diminish the water quality of Geneva Lake.
In an unusual step for a proposed real estate development, city officials decided to ask voters in a recent advisory referendum about whether or not the city should approve the project.
In the referendum voters opposed the development by approximately a 3-to-1 margin.
"It is important to state that we are not going anywhere," said John Terrell development executive for Mirbeau-Hummel. "We intend on protecting our property and procedural rights. Therefore, we have served and filed a notice of injury on the city and common council, pursuant to Wisconsin statute."
The notice of injury alleges that Lake Geneva officials violated the rights of the developer.
"Action by the city and members of the council to defer making a decision…until after receiving the results of a public referendum deprived Mirbeau of a fair and impartial hearing without due process of law," the notice of injury states.
"Adoption of the referendum procedure by the city and members of the council, with the stated intent of treating the results as binding, constitutes an improper delegation of legislative authority and is an improper exercise of power…in violation of the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution," the notice states.
Lake Geneva City Administrator Dennis Jordan declined to comment on the notice of injury.
Terrell said Mirbeau-Hummel is filing the notice to keep its options open so it can file a lawsuit against the city, if necessary.
"We would hope not (to have to file a lawsuit)," he said. "Our intent is to move forward with the process. We are hopeful that we can find common ground with the Common Council and work with them to determine what is in the best interest of the city and its residents."