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Intersport to look elsewhere

Board decision to reverse course stops sports proposal in its tracks

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published March 15, 2007, 9:37 p.m.)

Intersport chose to take an intentional walk--away from its original plans to build a youth sports complex on Elkhorn's east side.

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

Intersport released a statement Thursday that they will take their plans elsewhere.

"We are stunned by the treatment we have received," the statement reads. "After all, we were only trying to bring a Little League camp to the county, not a smoke-belching factory.

"We will now turn our attention to the other communities that want this project. We have ignored their interest because we felt that we and the county had a good faith obligation to each other to make every effort to see the project through. We were wrong."

The vote was a strikeout for the company in its first step at the plate with Walworth County. It had the opportunity to stay in the game, but will not want to go back into the batter's box.

The recession vote 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.

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."

Intersport officials said earlier that they had tabbed other Midwestern cities as possible locations for a complex site. They had rated Elkhorn highest on its undisclosed list of choices.

After the meeting, 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. She was right.

"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 the 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 (for 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 would have liked to had more public input before the board voted on the concept at it's Jan. 10 meeting.

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 one. 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."

Intersport's statement said it has been hurt financially by Kilkenny's motion to rescind and it expects to be reimbursed "for the significant monies we have expended in reliance upon the promises of the county that have now been broken."

How they voted on rescission

- '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.)

How they voted on concept approval on Jan. 9

- 'Yes, approve the plan in concept'
Arnold, Burwell, Downing, Grant, Hawkins, Hilbelink, Ingersoll, Lein, Polyock, Schaefer, Stacey, Van Dreser, Wagie-Troemel, Lohrmann.

- 'No, don't approve the concept'
Guido, Ketchpaw, Kilkenny, Kuhnke, Kupsik, Lightfield, Morrison, Muzatko, Parker, Russell, Weber.





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