Despite opposition to $40,000 price, council approves redevelopment of former Wausau Chemical property
City leaders on Tuesday approved the sale of space in the former Wausau Chemical building to be redeveloped as public indoor green space after a heated debate over its sale price.
City Council approved the sale by a 6-3 vote, along with Alders Gary Gisselman of Dist. 5; Doug Diny, of Dist. 4 and Tom Kilian of Dist. 3 vote against. Two alders, Sarah Watson and Dawn Herbst, alders representing Dist. 7 and 9, were absent. Kilian had voted in favor of the proposal last Tuesday during the Economic Development Committee meeting.
The business proposal was made by Mathew and Kristen Aschbrenner, of Asch Properties, LLC. They have offered a purchase price of $40,000 and plan to invest $250,000 themselves. They are also not asking for financial assistance from the city. “Our proposed business, ‘Infused,’ will source and deliver produce, beverages, craft oils, syrups, bitters and toppings in an aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sustainable space,” Aschbrenner told the Economic Development Committee. last week.
Gisselman and Diny objected to selling the property for $40,000, saying the price was far below the actual value. This 0.89 acre parcel is the smaller of the two representing the former Wausau Chemical buildings at 180 East Wausau Ave. The two alders suggested the property could be worth more than $300,000, considering the sale of nearby property.
Gisselman pointed out that the city has already spent a lot of money on the former Wausau Chemical site and that the city should try to recoup some of the money it spent. The $40,000 amount is a “mere pittance,” he added.
Diny agreed, saying that even if he liked the proposed project, the value could be well over $40,000. He suggested the board explain the “buy high, sell low we have” trend while adding that the value of the entire Wausau Chemical property could range from $7.4 million to $9 million. Even though the city wasn’t asked to fund the redevelopment, “I would call it a $200,000 forgivable loan,” Diny said, while calling for transparency from the city.
Diny suggested renegotiating the sale. Later he asked what would prevent the developer from selling the property soon after buying it.
But Chairman of the Common Council and Dist. 6 Alder Becky McElhaney argued against her colleagues’ position, saying the property’s last appraisal in 2019 put the value at $37,500 and the city had received a proposal at $40,000 at that time . McElhaney added that they could reassess the value “but don’t toss numbers” and guess the real value.
Mayor Katie Rosenberg confirmed the property was valued at $37,500. She also said it was a political decision before the council, whose members can decide the matter as they see fit.
But city assessor Richard Rubow later told council he found the last assessed value in 2019 after a quick search. The valuation at that time was $382,000, before the property passed to city ownership.
Support for the proposal remained strong.
Lisa Rasmussen, alder representative Dict. 7, agreed with McElhaney and said the proposal was neither a repayable loan nor that the city was paying anything for the redevelopment.
Dist. 11 Alder Chad Henke also objected to asking for more money for the property.
Wausau Director of Economic Development Randy Fifrick said the city will impose certain conditions on the redevelopment.
“There will be provisions that they just can’t return it to the next person the next day,” Fifrick said.
City Attorney Anne Jacobson agreed with Fifrick’s assessment.
“With the passage of this resolution, the way it is written, we will send city staff to begin negotiations for the sale of this property at the price they have offered unless someone adds something to the motion that he wants restrictions placed on that. “, said Jacobson. The final terms of sale will be brought back to the finance and economic development committees for approval.
In reply to Dist. 10 Alder Lou Larson is concerned about groundwater contamination at the site, Fifric said there was no risk given the way the project was designed. Kilian suggested that environmental safeguards be included in the proposal.
Mayor Rosenberg clarified that at this point the city was considering a land sale, not a redevelopment deal requiring tax incentives.