In a prime location on West Lake Drive in the town of Oconomowoc community known as Okauchee sits the site of the former Le Rendez-vous at the Point restaurant. Since the French restaurant closed its doors in late 2017, there have been several proposals for redevelopment, said Amy Barrows, senior planner with the Waukesha County Department of Parks and Land Use.
The closed restaurant’s current owner, Lannon-based 3rd Rock Development LLC, bought the site last year and unveiled plans that called for the development of luxury condos. Due to issues with current zoning provisions, those plans haven’t gone anywhere, Barrows said.[caption id="attachment_373125" align="alignnone" width="770"] There have been a number of ideas to redevelop the former Le Rendez-vous at the Point restaurant in Oconomowoc, but none have moved forward so far.[/caption]
This is just one of several stories told of what could be in the area. It was the desire by local officials to revitalize downtown Okauchee that led to the creation of the Downtown Okauchee Advisory Committee last year.
“We’re modifying code language that’s currently reflective of a rural environment in order to accommodate a more vibrant downtown,” Barrows said.
The group, which consists of town and county officials as well as business and community leaders, late last year came up with a set of recommendations. The area of the proposed 83-acre downtown district lies just north of Highway 16, and includes corridors along Wisconsin Avenue and Lake Drive.
Specifically, the advisory committee’s recommendations would:
Bob Hultquist, chairman of the town of Oconomowoc, said the 13-member Downtown Okauchee Advisory Committee had good ideas for what it would like to see happen in downtown Okauchee. He noted some ideas thrown around included more living areas, a hotel, and increased public access to the lake for recreational activities.
“It became a very interesting committee,” he said. “All these people (on the committee) were volunteering their time and efforts.”
The advisory committee’s recommendations are being shared with the community, including through a newsletter written by Hultquist and at an open house scheduled for late January.
Following that, the plan is to hold a public hearing in February before bringing the recommendation before various committees in the spring. If all goes according to schedule, the Waukesha County Board would consider the proposal on April 23.
Lorna Mueller, a real estate broker and area resident, said she joined the advisory committee because she wanted to see that area revitalized.
“I want to see the best in our community,” she said.
Mueller also has personal experience with the difficulties of getting developments moving in the area. She has listed 12 acres of land for sale on Road P for about two years now
“We’ve had multiple offers, but we haven’t gotten anywhere,” she said.
At issue is the need for more sewer requisitions, Mueller said. Without sewer, the only other capability of new buildings with toilets would be septic systems, though there are strict rules on how many of those systems can be on each acre.
“That wouldn’t be the highest and best use for that land,” she said.
This could indeed be a sticking point with the whole zoning district proposal, however. Hultquist said almost all plans the advisory committee has proposed are based on the condition that the area have sewer service. And the town is a sewer customer of the City of Oconomowoc, which controls the sewer treatment plant.
“In my opinion, the whole project is not going anywhere unless the city relinquishes some of the sewer recs that we need to revitalize Okauchee,” he said.
City officials, however, have been reluctant to do that without the town, in turn, giving up property in order for the city to expand. The town board has so far not cut such a deal, Hultquist said.
Barrows said the county has offered to participate in conversations between the two municipalities regarding sewer capacity as needed.
At least one project, the planned redevelopment of the former Le Rendez-vous property into condos, is on hold while talks continue on the downtown zoning district. In an email, Tammy Ristow of 3rd Rock Development said the company is awaiting the revisions to current zoning provisions before approaching the town board with its proposal.
But for now, the building on the site sits vacant.