County made right move with land deal

THEY MAY NOT BE real estate moguls, but give county Planning and Conservation Director Aaron Brault and County Administrator Adam Payne credit for making a good real estate deal right next door to the courthouse.

It all started about a decade ago when, as part of the transaction to sell the city of Sheboygan land for a new police headquarters, the county received a cityowned parking lot on Pennsylvania Avenue.

At the time, the county needed the extra parking but, in the intervening years, as the county cut and consolidated staff and departments, the need for the lot decreased to the point where it was no longer necessary.

Adjacent to the parking lot were several residential properties that were in a state of neglect and owned by people from outside the county.

Rather than abandon the parking lot or try to find a buyer for one small parcel, Brault negotiated the purchase of the three adjacent homes on Pennsylvania Avenue to combine with the parking lot to make one larger, more developable parcel.

That deal was made last summer and approved by the County Board, with some opposition.

Brault and Payne then entered into negotiations with several potential developers to turn the properties around, negotiations they concluded successfully this spring.

The result? A $432,131 sale to Cardinal Capital Management of Madison. That’s a pretty nice return on a total investment by the county of $176,046 to purchase the properties and demolish the existing residences. Add in the $155,000 the county spent years ago to build a Building Services Department garage on the parking lot, and the county still realized a profit of $101,085 on the transaction.

More importantly, Cardinal Capital

Management plans to build an $8 million to $10 million, 50 or more unit apartment complex on the property.

Not only will that development help answer a critical need in the county for housing, but it will put the entire property back on the tax rolls. At the low end of the estimated development, it will mean more than $200,000 in additional property tax revenue each year for the city, county and Sheboygan Area School District.

That’s not a bad return at all on an initial investment of $176,046.

The final deal reaches the goal set by Payne and Brault when the deal was first put together last fall to encourage higher economic development. They’ve done that in a big way.

The original proposal last summer was opposed by several County Board supervisors who felt the county should not be in the real estate or development business, and who opposed taking the residential properties off the tax rolls.

As a rule, they would have been right, but this was an unusual case and a unique opportunity that county officials seized and, fortunately, a majority of supervisors supported.

It fell to the county to put this package together, as the underutilized and no longer needed county parking lot constituted the majority of the final parcel.

Local units of government often act as catalysts for land development – whether for industrial, commercial or residential use – and this was just one more example of where, when it’s done right, it can prove beneficial for the entire community.

For taking the lead in making this particular improvement take place in a timely manner, Brault, Payne and the County Board deserve credit.

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