Excavation begins at Zimmermann Landing

EXCAVATION EQUIPMENT was moving dirt on Tuesday afternoon when VanBuskirk Companies held an open house for the Zimmermann Landing development on the east side of Lake Madison.

Zimmermann Drive isn’t much more than a patchwork lane of gravel and blacktop which runs behind a small housing development on the east side of Lake Madison.

Vehicles driving in opposite directions can’t pass one another where there’s a mailbox without risk of taking out the mailbox or a side mirror. One must yield to the other, but that’s not been a problem in the past.

“It’s fine for us,” said Jean Halpin sitting over a cup of coffee in her dining room. “We’re the only ones who use it, the people who live here.”

But, with the Zimmermann Landing development, that is about to change. A row of houses is going up across the street with more lots being developed to the north, creating a thoroughfare from 461st Avenue to 461A Avenue.

On Tuesday afternoon, VanBuskirk Companies was holding an open house to give potential buyers an opportunity to see the lots which are being developed. Excavation equipment was moving dirt on lots near an access road, also called Zimmermann Drive, which connects the development to County Road 19.

On Tuesday morning, Jim Halpin, president of the Zimmermann Drive Homeowners Association, used the portion of the Lake County Commission meeting reserved for public comments to speak about the association’s concerns. He had tried to get on the agenda but had been told that was not possible.

“Basically, what I was trying to do was give them information about what’s going on,” he said in a later interview.

Halpin, who was actively involved in several development projects around Lake Madison, including the Lake Madison Development Association and The Lakes Golf Course, said the association is not opposed to the development. Personally, he also has great respect for VanBuskirk Companies, which is handling the development, describing the company as “reputable people; good, good people.”

His concern and that of his neighbors, many of whom have lived in the lakeside properties for decades and are now widowed or retired, is the road. Designated as a private road for public use, Zimmerman Drive has been maintained by property owners since their homes were built and was not intended to be heavily trafficked.

“We have a golf course and bar, so the traffic will increase tenfold,” Halpin said about the impact of the development in an interview following the commission meeting.

In the three minutes allotted to him at the meeting, he told commissioners that contractors were using Zimmermann Drive to access a house already under construction rather than the unmarked access road built for that purpose.

“We need some help getting some signage out there,” Halpin told commissioners. He suggested a sign at the south end of Zimmermann Drive indicating it was not for use by contractors.

He also reported that he had been notified a gate was to be installed to the south of his driveway, including him and neighbors to the north in the gated community.

“That was kind of a jolt to us when we got the news,” Halpin said in the later interview.

In addition to being an inconvenience to those already living along the lake, the gate focused attention on the need for a wider roadway, Halpin indicated. That issue is currently under discussion between VanBuskirk Companies and the Zimmermann Drive Homeowners Association.

Initially, the proposal had been to widen the roadway to 20 feet, but that has now been reduced to 16 feet. Halpin does not believe that is wide enough to allow a boulevard to be installed for a driver-side keypad for the gate.

In addition, VanBuskirk Companies is proposing a road district to cover the expenses related to maintaining Zimmermann Drive. However, current property owners are already contributing to maintenance through the homeowners’ association.

They have unanswered questions regarding this, but find themselves facing an ultimatum, according to Halpin. A message they have received indicates either association members reach agreement with VanBuskirk Companies regarding their proposal or the road will be used as is.

Should they reach an agreement, VanBuskirk Companies has offered to put in a blacktop with a five-inch mat, according to Halpin. However, this is unlikely to happen until the infrastructure goes into the lots to the east of Zimmermann Drive.

An alternative to disrupting the lives of homeowners along Zimmermann Drive would be to make the access road being developed for construction equipment into the main access to the new development, Halpin observed. That option is not currently on the table.

VanBuskirk Companies was contacted for comment, but did not return the call.