Sargento to buy county EL shed

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – The County Board was wheeling and dealing in real estate at their July 19 meeting, with varying degrees of support.

The board approved three separate real estate transactions that included:

• Selling the to-be-vacant Elkhart Lake Highway Department shed to Sargento – after the new Highway Department headquarters in the town of Plymouth is completed.

• Selling a strip of land adjacent to the Veterans Memorial off Taylor Drive to provide better access to a planned residential development north of Sunny Ridge Nursing Home.

• Purchasing three homes on Pennsylvania Avenue in Sheboygan adjacent to an underused county parking lot.

Sargento will pay the county $515,000 for the highway shed on the south side of the village of Elkhart Lake.

The company had sought to purchase the shed from the county more than two decades ago before it it decided to build a new plant in Kiel instead after concerns about potential remediation costs thwarted the purchase from the county.

The county plans to complete the new highway headquarters, which will include consolidating and closing the current Elkhart Lake and Plymouth sheds, by the end of 2017.

Sargento would not take title to the building until then, County Administrator Adam Payne told the Finance Committee during its consideration of the sale earlier in July.

“We want to be able to close in a way that doesn’t kick us out of the property before we’re ready to leave,” added Corporation Counsel Carl Buesing.

“This building is going to be going back on the tax rolls with a higher and better use,” Payne said. “We’re trying to get as much value as we can from this property.”

He noted that an appraisal of the property listed its value at $480,000.

While the Finance Committee recommended the sale unanimously, the vote on the County Board was 21-4, with supervisors Charles Conrardy, Roger Otten, Jim Baumgart and Steven Bauer voting no.

“I’m not really happy about this process that’s taking place. This kind of wheeling and dealing bothers me,” Baumgart said in explaining his no vote.

There was also opposition from supervisors to the proposed purchase of the three homes on Pennsylvania Avenue in Sheboygan for a total of $134,500 - $7,600 below fair market value, according to the resolution.

“The county should not be in the real estate or development business,” Otten stated. “We’re taking them (the properties) off the tax roll.”

Supervisors Brian Hoffmann and Fay Uraynar jointed Otten in voting against the purchase.

“We’re certainly entering into this to encourage higher economic development,” Payne told the Finance Committee, which supported the proposal unanimously.

He explained that County Planning and Conservation Director Aaron Brault had negotiated the purchases with the out-of-town owners of the run-down residences.

The goal, according to Payne, is to combine them with the under-utilized adjacent county parking lot to create a single large lot for potential commercial and/ or residential development.

Brault told the committee he has met with three different developers interested in the new lot that would be created. Their plans range from strictly residential to a mix of commercial and residential to “a higher-end condo development for snowbirds.”

Because the county parking lot would comprise more than two-thirds of the total parcel, Payne noted, “we’re actively involved” in any development plans. It also makes it easier for the county to take the lead in combining the parcels and readying them for development, he added.

“The developers are telling us if they have a clean slate (on the property) development is more likely to happen,” Payne told the committee.

Payne assured Supervisor George Marthenze that the county would recover the costs of the property purchases and demolition costs in any future sale.

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