CEDARBURG — It may not look like
it to the average eye, but there’s been a lot of work going on
behind the scenes at the Amcast site, also known as tax incremental
financing district No. 4 in the city of Cedarburg. That work is both
physically on site, and in modifying the existing developer’s
Developer DJ Burns was before both the Community Development
Authority and the Common Council Monday night with an update and to
consider some changes to the existing agreement.
Burns took control of the property last fall and explained that
there has been significant work on the project to date. He began
with the existing office building.
“This building is in terrible disrepair,” he noted. “It hasn’t been
occupied in 14 years. There was 3-inch grass growing in the
building, mold … we’re doing a complete gut. It was a mess and a
The Quonset hut, also located on the southern parcel with the office
building, is ready for deconstruction, once the weather permits. He
said that a significant amount of work on the existing buildings has
been asbestos removal, including the roof of the building on the
north parcel. “There’s actually no roof remaining,” he explained.
“You can’t see a lot of visible demolition going on, but there’s
going to be a major moment when we take down that front wall. When
it goes down, you’re basically going to see the entire four-acre
site behind it.” He said that a small building that is part of the
north parcel complex will remain. The building is acting as a cap
over the contaminants below it.
Burns was also before the city to discuss three issues that would
require modifications to the existing developer’s agreement.
The first was in regards to the title company’s role in allocating
funds to Burns. The structure was put in place to provide an
additional level of oversight for the project in addition to City
Administrator Christy Mertes.
City Attorney Mike Herbrand said that this has put the title company
in an escrow allocation role.
“Title agents are not used to being escrow agents,” he said. “They
don’t know how to handle this, and it’s really a second or third
level of oversight on this project.”
CDA member Eric Stelter questioned how such a change could alter the
city’s liability regarding the project.
“You’re acting as a vehicle to provide funds; you don’t own it, you
don’t possess it,” explained Burns of the Amcast site.
The CDA also first took up the second issue regarding the property:
who should be responsible for the cost of snow and weed removal
during the remediation process. Burns contended that the city should
also be financially responsible for this, particularly the snow
removal, and he provided quotes from two local providers as examples
of the cost.
“For 14 years the city has been plowing the sidewalk,” he noted. “I
am now looking at thousands of dollars for plowing snow that I
He also added that, over the years, city contractors had been using
the Amcast parking lot as a staging area for their heavy equipment,
which damaged the parking lot, and said that no reimbursement had
been made for that.
Burns had approached the city about reimbursement for snow and
grounds maintenance and that was when it was discovered that there
was not a line item in the agreement that addressed this.
“When Arrabelle was proposed, they didn’t come to us and say, ‘Hey,
can you do snow removal?’” said Stelter of one of the other two TID
projects currently underway in Cedarburg.
“Arrabelle didn’t have $3 million of remediation on its site,”
countered Burns. “They asked for $2 million to help provide a return
on the investment for their investors.”
At the Common Council meeting, Council member Kristin Burkart
questioned why this funding was not included.
“Was this just discovered, was this just overlooked?” she asked.
“Was this just an ‘oops, my bad?’” she asked.
That essentially appeared to be the issue. Had it been discussed or
clarified initially, and had the city agreed to provide the
services, it would have just rolled into the original developer’s
agreement. Burns said it was his original understanding when the
developer’s agreement was completed that this would be the city’s
“While Mr. Burns takes this position … we never had a public or
private conversation about snow removal,” said Herbrand. “We have
agreed to disagree on this point.”
But the CDA and the Common Council both considered an additional
$50,000 in funding over a three-year period for snow removal; Burns
agreed to cover the cost of grounds maintenance, which he estimated
at about $8,000 for the year.
“We’re not talking Augusta National here, we’re talking the
bare-bones basics,” said Herbrand about the necessary grounds
maintenance. “It’s weed removal, vegetation issues.” “Do we have to
abide by city code?” asked Stelter. “What if we just threw up a
fence around the whole property? Seems like it would be a lot
The discussion also covered the fact that once a portion of the
project was completed, it would be removed from the city-funded snow
removal. For example, once Burns completes remediation and
reconstruction of the existing office building, he plans to move his
own consulting business into the building. At that point, it would
no longer qualify for the subsidized snow removal. Any parcel sold
would also be removed.
The CDA took no action on this particular proposal, though CDA
member Jack Arnett introduced the idea of providing additional city
funding of $50,000 ($10,000 for this year and $20,000 for each of
the remaining two years of the three-year remediation plan), and
instead pushed it to the Common Council for further discussion.
After significant discussion, including a suggestion by Council
President Pat Thome to possibly do a 50-50 cost split, the Common
Council voted 6-2 to approve an additional $50,000 in funding for
snow removal and the removal of the title company as a de facto
escrow agent for the project. Council members Burkart and Rick
Verhaalen voted in opposition.
The $50,000 in funding will be available on an as-needed basis and
Burns will request reimbursement for snow-removal services. It is
also a capped amount; should the cost of services exceed the amount,
Burns will be responsible for the additional costs.
Finally, staff also requested direction from the CDA on what to do
in regard to a required life insurance policy on Burns, also known
as a key-man policy. The city intended to pursue a policy of this
size as it was equal to the cost of the project. It was Burns who
alerted the city that this had not been purchased yet.
“It’s in the agreement, but it’s not inexpensive,” said Herbrand.
“The premium is $730/month.”
The purpose of such a policy would be to provide funding should
Burns die during the project. The quote the city received was for a
10-year term policy, though Mertes said she was told it could be
cancelled at any time. The CDA directed staff to continue
investigating policy options, including whether it was possible to
obtain a policy with a smaller payout or shorter term, as the city
did not need it for that long. Should such a policy be in place and
Burns would die, the money would be used more as a bridge to help
the city find a new developer to take over the project rather than
to just pay it off in the state it was left, they noted.
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