Different topics, similar issue


(Published October. 5 2006, 12:22p.m.)

A Millard man built a memorial to Adolf Hitler earlier this year and planned an open house.

That didn't sit well with the Walworth County Land Use and Resource Management Department-not because of the memorial's subject but because the man invited the masses to a residence not zoned for such an event.

A few weeks ago, the Lake Geneva Chapter of the Lyric Opera of Chicago sent out a news release saying it was planning an event on a private Geneva Lake estate.

The county department took issue with that, too, saying the group also had invited the masses to a residence not zoned for such an event.

The county told Ted Junker, creator of the Hitler memorial, that he couldn't have the public at his house without rezoning or a conditional-use permit. Junker agreed and signed a restraining order deeming the property closed until such permits were in place.

However, he can still entertain invited guests.

The potential for a large number of people on private property-people not personally invited by the owner-can create hazards, said Michael Cotter, county zoning director.

For instance, Junker's property is set behind a cornfield in a wooded area and is accessible only by a single-lane gravel driveway. It does not have adequate parking or sanitary facilities for an open house, and emergency access might be limited, Cotter said.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago wants to hold an event on the large estate of Chicago millionaire Richard H. Driehaus on Saturday. After learning of the event, Cotter met with Driehaus' attorneys to discuss the plans.

"I think (the county) is taking this very seriously. That's why we assembled here," attorney John Clair said Tuesday after a meeting with Cotter.

Attorney Ed Thompson said the Lyric Opera is a nonprofit organization, and the "Songs at Sunset" planned at the Driehaus estate should be allowed because it is a cultural event.

Cotter, who said the event could go on because Driehaus is working with the county toward a resolution, believes proper zoning should be in place before any similar future events.

The opera event and the Hitler memorial open house had subtle differences, Cotter said.

"It's like comparing a red apple to a green apple," he said.

Both had the same flavor in that there were zoning issues, but the opera event did not present the same concerns with parking, sanitation and access for emergency vehicles.

"We will let (the opera event) go on, and they are working with us," Cotter said. "There is no threat to public health, the safety and welfare of the neighborhood and emergency access to the event."





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