Alderman Sheldon Shepstone must have thought he had a great idea. We informed you on January 13, 2000 (see newsflash below), that Mr. Shepstone, after voting to allow a Home Depot to come to Lake Geneva, threw in the idea that if the store closed it would have to restore the site to its original condition. In other words, remove the big orange stripe and get back to brown earth. Well, Shepstone’s conviction on this topic lasted less than two weeks. According to the Lake Geneva Regional News, Shepstone made a motion on January 24th. to rescind the City Council’s vote to require the property be demolished if the store closed. Shepstone said he wanted to reverse his vote at the suggestion of people ‘who are employed in financial positions’. Shepstone said the demolition requirement would hurt the developer’s effort to get financing to build the Home Depot, and that long term debt requirements would require the building not to be torn down, as it could possibly be sold to other developers as an option if the Home Depot went out of business. Shepstone’s motion to rescind his earlier motion passed the City Council 8-0.
It looks like developers call the shots in the town of Lake Geneva. The fact is, if a retailer leaves their building empty, they often don’t own the bricks and mortar, or have set up a real estate company to hold it. Either way, the big company is gone without leaving any entanglements behind. Maybe developers would think twice about building big box stores if they knew they would pay a price for leaving it empty. As it stands now, companies like Home Depot or Wal-Mart would lose very little if they close up a store, especially if they are only a tenant. The demolition condition in Lake Geneva has been demolished, but the idea remains an interesting one to pursue elsewhere. Unless, that is, developers run your town also.