GRAFTON — The village of
Grafton’s decade-long effort to acquire all of the parcels in the
4.52-acre downtown redevelopment site is nearing the proverbial
finish line. Yet, there is one final hurdle to overcome: unexpected
contamination issues in the final parcel at 1505 Wisconsin Ave.
“As part of the village’s due diligence in acquiring the final 2.2
acres, the village hired an environmental firm to conduct soil
borings,” said Village Administrator Darrell Hofland.
The soil borings were actually conducted to assess the existing
bedrock shelf that runs underground through this area of downtown
Grafton. This shelf has required developers to modify their designs
to accommodate it. For example, the design of the adjacent Heritage
condominium project slightly elevated the first floor to accommodate
“A similar approach will need to be used for this site,” said
According to Hofland, the bedrock in the redevelopment site does
have some shallow areas.
“This type of bedrock can also be scraped in lieu of other more
extensive methods that have to be used,” he said.
Beyond the bedrock analysis, the borings also identified two
unexpected points of contamination on the remaining site, which is
owned by the estate of Robert Zellmer.
“At this point, it’s not known what caused the
contamination at these two detects,” Hofland said. “We don’t know if
they are original to the site or were brought in as part of the fill
process to increase the grade and level the site.”
The village has long identified this parcel for
redevelopment and created a concept plan for the site, which was
updated in 2014. The village worked with Graef USA Inc. for the
update and solicited feedback on the site’s potential for
redevelopment. The concept plan calls for a mixed-used site, with
space for housing and commercial/business use.
Zellmer also owned five of the other parcels
eventually purchased by the village of Grafton, but all of those had
gone into foreclosure when the village purchased them between 2013
and 2014. All of the parcels are now vacant except for one, which is
leased to a day care facility.
“The site is viable for redevelopment, and the
Community Development Authority has received proposals, which CDA
members are still analyzing,” Hofland said.
He is optimistic that the contamination on the
site can be mitigated, and the Zellmer property can still be
purchased by the village. At the December CDA meeting, members
discussed eminent domain strategies to acquire the property, but
tabled the discussion with no motion.
“In redeveloping downtown Grafton, the CDA has
limited experience with eminent domain,” said Hofland. “In this
specific situation, the owner of the property is a willing seller.
The CDA is hopeful that negotiations will be successful. If the CDA
and the seller are unable to come to an agreement on price, then the
eminent domain process functions like a third party arbitration to
make the decision on price.”
He added that the unknowns of the contamination
issue have increased the complexity of determining the real value of
If the CDA is able to
obtain the property, the village hopes to partner with a developer
in the near future and break ground on construction in summer 2015.