Lake Geneva City Council pauses on transients issue
The Lake Geneva City Council on Monday also unanimously approved a ban on synthetic marijuana, similar to ordinances passed by other municipalities in Rock and Walworth counties.
Fines range up to $1,000 for anyone possessing or dealing any brand of the synthetic drug, according to the approved ordinance.
LAKE GENEVA Lake Geneva will step back from clarifying its transient rentals ordinance until a committee can further review its effect on the community.
The city council on Monday voted 5-3 to approve developing an ad-hoc committee before the city determines how to regulate transient and tourist rentals. Mayor Jim Connors will appoint the committee, which must be approved by the council.
The council then could spend up to a year researching the issue before making a recommendation.
"I think it's important that we take time to make sure that we are serving the community by not outright banning this," District 2 Alderwoman Mary Jo Fesenmaier said. "That we look at all the issues, because we've heard input from both sides, and there's some concerns, obviously, about litigation, so we need to make sure the city isn't setting itself up for litigation."
City and county officials for months have debated whether transient rentals should be banned or regulated. The issue died countywide last year at its zoning agency, and Lake Geneva this winter began discussing amendments to its own ordinance that could give the city sturdier legal ground.
Lake Geneva Zoning Administrator Barney Brugger said during a December meeting the existing ordinance is unclear. Including the amended language defining tourists and transients could help the city levy fines on those illegally renting, he said.
Several Lake Geneva residents, mostly property owners, expressed opposition to the council. They argue transient rentals should be legalized and regulated, allowing the city to increase its tax revenue and tourism.
Those supporting the ordinance say most tourists renting homes are nuisances, and they should be limited to hotels instead of residential neighborhoods.
The city council tabled discussion on the issue at its Jan. 24 meeting when residents asked members to closely examine the benefits of legalizing transient rentals.
"Honestly, I think we just don't know enough about this," said Cass Kordecki, who supports legalizing transient rentals. "Nobody here on this committee, nor at the county, nor on the planning commission, even touched on the potential positive impact to your taxpayers."
Three council members voted against developing a review commission. They argued the proposal wouldn't have banned transient rentals but rather clarified language in the existing ordinance.
Rentals of less than 30 days already are prohibited in Lake Geneva but enforcement is difficult, Brugger said in December.
Police aren't responsible for enforcing the ordinance, and Brugger said it's nearly impossible to distinguish between transients and families renting homes legally. Tenants usually only get caught when they cause a disturbance to their neighbors, he said.
If the measure had been approved, the city could have issued fines for zoning violations that could be as much as $1,000.