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Vespera at Porticello granted extension

Developers: We're using own money to keep it alive

March 2, 2011

City of Oconomowoc — A large pile of dirt seemed to be the main concern during recent hearings over lagging residential development Vespera at Porticello. Regardless of the dirt, the Common Council on Tuesday approved a five-year extension on the planned development for the project that - like many others - has been the victim of the economy.

The original plan for the high-end condominium development was approved in 2006, but it went through a hiatus after former builder Icon Development Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jeffery Klement filed bankruptcy last year. That, teamed with the housing market's struggles, didn't help the planned development of two-story $1million condos.

Since Klement left the project, two men, Don Johnson and Ray Schultz, have taken over the project, working to help it achieve success. The two developers don't want to see the project fail; to keep it going, they have been investing their own money it to keep it alive.

A neighboring resident to the development spoke at the hearing complaining of a large dirt pile and silt fence that he can see from his back window. He said the area is in disrepair, and "looks like the city dump," adding that it's a disgrace to neighboring properties and their value.

During a Plan Commission meeting on the planned development extension, it was determined that the developers will work with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to relocate the dirt to the beach area. The dirt was originally intended to be used for beach restoration as part of the project, but the developers must get approval from the DNR before following through with that. Johnson, who was at Tuesday's meeting, said that until the DNR approves this and things thaw out, the dirt will likely have to remain piled up.

Alderman James Larsen asked if a date on the dirt's relocation could be added to the planned development for approval. But Johnson objected because of extenuating factors such as the weather and DNR approval that could conflict with a specific date.

Mayor Jim Daley said that the developers should be commended for their continued commitment and investment in this project and their word that the dirt will be taken care of soon is enough.

The extension passed unanimously, giving the planned development until Jan. 3, 2016.

Johnson said he anticipates progress in the development picking up this year. Recently, Shorewest Realtors Associate Vice President Rebecca Sprague announced that she had closed on a single-family unit there, leaving only two original shells constructed by Icon that have completed exteriors but unfinished interiors.

The new plan is to have Delafield's Robert Loepfe Inc. Custom Builders take over the project. She said once the original shells are gone, the six remaining units are sold, Loepfe will start building standalones or custom-build homes. She said the standalones are a single-family village that would also allow for a side-by-side.

The price has also been knocked down. Sprague said in a previous interview the plan is to start the units at about $600,000. Previously, the units started at $1 million. The real estate agent, who has 20 years of experience in the housing market, said she does see an uptick in sales. Sprague said sales at Shorewest at the end of last year were up 80 percent over 2009.

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