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County board rescinds Intersport approval

By Mike Heine/mheine@theweekextra.com

(Published March 14, 2007, 10:01 a.m.)

Web extra: Listen to audio of Mike Heine's report on the Walworth County Board meeting

Intersport will have to run the bases again before it can get hit on its idea to build a youth multi-sport complex on Elkhorn's east side.

The Walworth County Board Tuesday voted 13-10 at its monthly meeting to rescind a January motion that approved the proposal and a lease-to-buy land deal in concept only.

The vote is a strikeout for the company in its first step at the plate with Walworth County. It will have the opportunity to stay in the game, but it might not want to get into the batter's box.

Intersport officials seemed stunned at the outcome of the vote, which nullified any actions the county board took-approving the concept-regarding the proposal. Walworth County and Intersport were in the midst of negotiations for a lease-to-buy land contract regarding public property off County NN on the eastern outskirts of the city.

"We're going to take the evening, fall back, clear our heads and decide what route is to take," said Intersport Chief Financial Officer David Boblink. "We're more deliberative. We'd like to stop, consider our options and make well thought out decisions. Now is not the time to speculate which way is the best way for us to go."

After the vote, citizens opposed to the plan were relieved the county would not be selling 250 acres of publicly owned property for $3,000 per acre to a private Chicago-based company, at least not now.

"It's off the fast track and now we're going back to the table to renegotiate. That's what we wanted," said Elkhorn's Ralph Williams.

Members of the Walworth County Visitors Bureau were disappointed the plan didn't go through, saying the county board whiffed at deal that could have brought millions of dollars into the county's tourism industry.

"It's unfortunate they didn't take the opportunity to look at something (wholly) that would really be a benefit to the community," said Derek D'Auria, Visitor's Bureau Board president. "My guess is that a lot of these people that are against it, after it would be here for several years, would be talking about it and bragging it up to their friends."

The plan could come back before the board, but it would take Intersport's willingness to do so, said County Administrator David Bretl. County staff will not spend any more time on the matter until that happens.

Intersport has not ruled out Walworth County as an option. However, company officials said earlier that they had tabbed other Midwestern cities as possible locations for a complex site. They had rated Elkhorn highest on its list of undisclosed list of choices.

County board chairwoman Ann Lohrmann, an Intersport supporter, said she wouldn't count on the company coming back to seek reconsideration or a new deal from the board.

"I can't imagine why Intersport would want to consider us after this. If I were Intersport, I'd go somewhere else," she said.

Lohrmann was disappointed about image Walworth County might have after the board's turnaround from its January decision.

"It sends a message that we are not open to looking for opportunities and (to companies) to go look elsewhere," she said.

Bretl likened the action to the board changing its mind.

Supervisor Dan Kilkenny made the recommendation to rescind.

He said the board "mistakenly passed a unique resolution" without fully understanding its complexity and impact on the community.

"We need to go back to a clean slate," he said. "This goes back to square 1. So if it's brought back, concerns about public input and our procedures can all be done in a better fashion."

"The project can still come back before us even if it's rescinded," he said before the vote. "If it comes back, it should be under normal and not unique procedures."

Kilkenny said he would have liked to have seen more public input before the board voted on the concept at it's Jan. 10 meeting.

How they voted

-- 'Yes, rescind'

Joyce Ketchpaw, Stan Muzatko, Art Lein, Richard Kuhnke, Robert Arnold, Roy Lightfield, David Weber, Joe Guido, Dan Kilkenny, Jim Van Dreser, Nancy Russell, Alan Kupsik, Pauline Parker

-- 'No, continue on'

Rick Stacey, Ann Lohrmann, Sandra Wagie-Troemel, Jerry Grant, Kathy Ingersoll, Larry Hilbelink, Margaret Downing, Dorothy Burwell, Allan Polyock, Randy Hawkins.

(Absent, Allen Morrison, Joseph Schaefer.)


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