Fox Lake gets bites on lakefront hotel proposal

FOX LAKE – A month after the Fox Lake village president announced his goal of putting a hotel in the lakefront park, some developers are letting the village know they’re interested, the village president said.

Village President Ed Bender’s vision, which he made the centerpiece of his re-election campaign, includes a hotel, restaurant and banquet hall at village-owned Lakefront Park, a location that causes concern for his challenger in the upcoming April election.

The village has received official preliminary letters of intent from restaurant and hotel groups, Bender announced at the Fox Lake Village Board meeting Tuesday.

The first step will be meetings between the developer and the village president and staff, according to the village’s development process. From there, the developer will submit a formal proposal with concept drawings.

Bender proposed having himself, trustees Kevin Burt and Nancy Koske, Village Administrator Nancy Schuerr and Building Commissioner Frank Urbina involved in the talks.

Once they have reviewed the proposal, it would go to the Plan Commission, possibly to the Zoning Board of Appeals if variances are requested and then finally to the Village Board.

While supportive of the hotel plan itself, Trustee Donny Schmit has had hesitations about the location since Bender went public with the plan in December.

Lakefront Park was obtained by the village when Koske was village president. She has similar concerns to Schmit’s, but said she sees a balance between fulfilling the developer’s wish list and not doing anything.

Lakefront Park hosts many of the village’s events, including the summertime Concert by the Lake, the Easter egg hunt and luncheon, the July 4 Celebrate Fox Lake festivities, the Rally by the Lake Car and Bike Show, Oktoberfest, and the Christmas Children’s Party.

These events always drive up business in the community, Schmit said, adding that the amount of parking in the preliminary renderings makes him think they won’t be able to have the events there anymore if the hotel is put there.

“Once we give this up, it’s gone forever,” he said. “If this is the only way it can be done, OK, and you’d address some of the questions I had about the other available properties. I would like that to be the last resort. … I don’t like the loss of that lakefront property.”

Bender emphasized that everything is still preliminary and that questions, including those about parking, will be addressed. His plan includes keeping the park building, the volleyball court, playground and gazebo, he said.

“The operative word is the preliminary, preliminary letter of intent,” he said. “There is nothing that has been discussed in that letter that’s been talked about either at the board level or with the developer.

“This is the normal negotiation-type letter. This is what we want. We haven’t responded at all. This is why we’re having the trustees get involved and the staff involved.”

Bender also said developers had looked at other locations in Fox Lake but, without exception, preferred the lakefront property because of its proximity to Route 12, the lake and the train.

“To me, it makes sense to have it integrated all in one destination facility and not have everything spread out all over the place,” Trustee Jon Mumford said.

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