County Web mapping view
County Web mapping view

During the tax-evasion trial of Leona Helmsley, a former housekeeper testified that she heard her employer say: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”

How much are two golf courses at ” one of the top award-winning golf resorts in the country and ranked as one of the 2012 top 10 northern U.S. golf resorts by Condé Nast Traveler” worth? A lot would be a good guess for these designer 18 hole courses at Grand Geneva Resort , unless you happen to be the taxing body of township of Lyons, Wisconsin where Grand Geneva is located. According to the Walworth County Land Information GIS Web Mapping Application tax parcel LNY0002 of 280 acres where the part of the golf course is on is worth NOTHING, that’s right zero. Grand Geneva LLC paid zero real estate taxes for it. On parcel LYN00003 where more of the course is located and has the airport/runway and ski lodge on, all 314 acres is also taxed as worthless, they pay zero taxes on it.

The following is a  list of sizable tax parcels  Grand Geneva, LLC appears to own and pay no real estate taxes on.

  • LYN00002      280 acres         golf
  • LYN00003       314 acres         golf
  • LYn00004        112  acres        east of water park and part of stables
  • LYN00005         18 acres         east of stables
  • LYN00006           3 acres         land on Hwy 50
  • LYN00007          80 acres        golf
  • LYN00012           14 acres        stables

Grand Geneva resort is more than golf, according to its web site it has:

  • 355 elegant guest rooms
  • Three magnificent dining options
  • 62,000 square feet of event space
  • High-tech amenities
  • Expansive views
  • Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture
  • Spa + Salon and Fitness Center
  • Indoor and outdoor tennis and swimming pools
  • 62K square feet of meeting spaces
  • 7680 sq foot Grand ballroom
  • 13500 sq foot NEW conference center
  • and much more see their website.

    Main resort buildings of Grand Geneva
    Main resort buildings of Grand Geneva

Parcel, LYN00001, 80 acres, is where most of the main buildings and resort appears to be located, from looking at County Web mapping  site.This parcel is taxed, but the assessed value attributed to the property has a high volatility to put it mildly.

In 2001 LYN00001 paid $513K in property taxes, in 2012 Grand Geneva LLC paid $270K in property taxes.



    Accessed Valuations of LNY00001

  • 2001     $21.84M (million)
  • 2002     $22.76M
  • 2003     $20.M
  • 2004     $18 M
  • 2005     $18 M
  • 2006     $14.36M
  • 2007      $14.46M
  • 2008     $21.16M
  • 2009     $17.16M
  • 2010      $14.25M
  • 2011       $14.50M
  • 2012      $14.76M

The White River Villas

White River Villias
White River Villias

The White River Villas located next to the resort also have very interesting taxing valuations assigned to them. These are parcels NCW2 00001 to 00016 and NCW1  00001 to 00030. The parcels owned by people are accessed from $248K to $313K in 2012, but those owned by Grand Geneva, LLC are assessed at ZERO.  For example unit 107-4 (NCW00018) is owned Bruce Bowman and is accessed at $286K and paid $5087 in taxes for 2012,  next door unit 107-5 (NCW0019)  owned by Grand Geneva, LLC is assessed at ZERO, and paid no taxes.

Timber Ridge Waterpark

Lyons Township lost a recent court case over the assessed valuation of the hotel condos in Timber Ridge (TR) Waterpark, the assessed valuation was reduced by the court by more than half. For example parcel NTR 00028 was assessed at $180.1K in 2011, the court reduced the assessment to $75K in 2012. A reduction for property tax from $2701 to $1270. The court refunded $430K plus interest in taxes for 2010 and 2011 to the owners. The court ruled “Sales by short sale can be used to determine market value…”

The plaintiffs pretrial report noted there were zero arm’s length sales for Timber Ridge (TR) Condos in 2008, 2009,2010, and 2011.  “…The terms of the economic arrangement between Marcus Corp. with manages TR and the Condo owners has been very one-sided in favor of Marcus.”
“In fact the expert retained by the Town Pete Moegenburg, testified at his deposition that of all the condo-resort arrangements with which he is familiar, the arrangement at TR was by far one of the most one-sided arrangements in favor of the resort.”…”the prospects for any Condo owners to reap net income from the rental units are nominal at best.” …. ” lack of any meaningful net income.”

Lyons township, in a not to surprise move, did not appeal the circuit court ruling. In a small one “factory” town it is not unusual  for the “factory” to “own” the elected body. In this case the industry is tourism. The State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue is responsible for the assessment of manufacturing property in the state. “This was done to ensure uniform treatment and assessment of all manufactures in the state.”…..” The Department is required to assess all property at full market value; which is what the property would sell for at arm’s-length sale.” Perhaps this state should knowledge that small towns are not equipped to fairly assess large dominating tourist resorts and take it out of local control.

To add further insult  to the residents of Lyons, out the townships $1.2 million annual budget they gave the Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce $327,920.42 in 2011 and $342,797.07 in 2012. The town has NO documentation as to how the chamber spends the money. The town enacted the room tax prior to 1994 so do not have to give any money to local chambers, as many townships in the area currently don’t.

In the past few years City of Lake Geneva officials has expressed a desire to annex Grand Geneva to the City.  Since Lake Geneva provides  municipal water to both Grand Geneva and Timber Ridge water park they should also be part of LG’s tax base, something previous City Councils failed to require when muni water was provided.  Grand Geneva has expressed no wish to be part of the City except to use its name and water. With the deal they are getting from Lyons on their taxes it is not likely they will.

The taxing jurisdictions for these properties are:

Information for this post was taken from The Walworth County Land Information GIS website and is subject to the following disclaimer:


The Walworth County Land Information GIS website provides online access to Walworth County land information. The information provided in this application has been produced and processed from sources believed to be reliable. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made regarding accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of this information. The information contained herein will not be accepted as an official document. Walworth County shall assume no liability for:

1. Any errors, omissions, or inaccuracies in the information provided regardless of how caused; or
2. Any decision made or action taken or not taken by reader in reliance upon any information or data furnished hereunder.

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