Village could play developer in Meissner farm land deal
Public discussion of MLG Development deal slated for June 12
Village of Sussex - The village's proposed purchase of 120 acres of farmland near Highway 164 and Silver Spring Road will be publicly discussed for the first time during a June 12 Village Board meeting. The purchase is part of a potential developer's agreement with NAI/MLG, which was negotiated behind closed doors between village officials and the developer.
Initially, village officials and representatives of NAI/MLG said the developer was interested in purchasing most of the nearly 400 acres of land formerly owned by the Meissner family that fronts Silver Spring Road, west of the Kohl's/Shopko retail complex.
Village trustees said in November that they might be interested in creating a tax increment financing (TIF) district that would provide the revenues to pay off bonds to finance construction of streets, sidewalks, sewer, water and stormwater utilities in a commercial park, if NAI/MLG purchased the land and developed it.
It is unclear how and when village trustees instead decided they might want to purchase 120 acres of land and then provide MLG tax incentives to develop it.
J. Michael Moody, chairman of the board of NAI/MLG-Brookfield, told the Sussex Sun on Monday that MLG is no longer interested in purchasing the land because the financial viability of a successful development project is hindered by wetlands on the property. In addition, he said, land adjacent to the property is within the Town of Lisbon and could not be annexed into Sussex, according to the terms of a border agreement between the communities.
Moody said it is unlikely that financing for the commercial development project could be acquired without the village purchasing the land.
Moody said it is not unusual for municipalities and developers to enter into agreements where the municipality agrees to purchase the land and then contracts with the developer to develop it.
He said the agreement enables the municipality to own and control the land while gaining tax and other economic benefits from the development. The developer's risk - as well as potential rewards - are reduced by the municipal ownership of the land, Moody added.
Peter Meissner, whose family used to own the land, told the Sussex Sun that a Johnson Bank executive told him in March that NAI/MLG was no longer interested in purchasing the farm and the Village of Sussex had made the bank an offer to purchase 120 acres.
Village Administrator Jeremy Smith denied the village has made an offer to purchase the land. He said he would not discuss details of the proposed agreement with NAI/MLG until the potential partnership with the village was discussed at the June 12 Village Board meeting, which, according to Smith, will be open to the public.
Moody said NAI/MLG still holds the rights to purchase the 120 acres, but those rights could easily be transferred to the village.
Moody suggested the village might create a TIF district to pay for the purchase of the land as well as the streets, sidewalks and municipal utilities for a commercial park.
Village trustees have refused to publicly acknowledge the board is considering purchasing the land. In November, several trustees suggested they wanted more information, and the board should move cautiously, before agreeing to consider a TIF district for the land if it were purchased by MLG.
Since then there had been little or no mention of the negotiations during board meetings.
Village President Greg Goetz made no mention of the possibility the village might buy land when he was questioned about a closed meeting on May 23.
"We are discussing the possibility of a TIF. There are a lot of issues. Some of them involve money, and not all of the cards on are the table yet," he said.
Wisconsin's open-meetings law permits municipal officials to meet behind closed doors for the purpose of developing strategy during collective bargaining, land acquisition or other circumstances where competitive bargaining is involved. The law is not intended to allow closed sessions in order to protect the interests of developers or shield the public from information about a local government's intention to purchase property, according to an appellate court ruling.
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