Common Council OKs $3.15M industrial park purchase
153-acre plot is near corner of River Road and Highway NN

By McLean Bennett

July 4, 2019

WEST BEND — The city could pay nearly $3.15 million to buy a swath of rural property off its southeastern border for a future industrial park — something city leaders have said West Bend needs but that some neighbors have said they don’t want.

The Common Council on Monday night approved a purchase agreement authorizing the city to pay $20,500 an acre for the targeted roughly 153.5-acre plot near the corner of River Road and County Highway NN.

Closing on the sale could take place in January, and Mayor Kraig Sadownikow noted the final sale price could depend on the land’s precise acreage, which has yet to be officially platted. The seller, meanwhile, would keep a small portion of property near the River Road-County NN intersection.

City Administrator Jay Shambeau had previously said West Bend would combine the newly acquired land with a neighboring 63-acre parcel the city annexed earlier this year. That would give the city room for a new, roughly 215-acre industrial park — which Shambeau and other city leaders have said West Bend badly needs.

“Back in the Great Depression, West Bend was known as being depression-proof because our moniker at that time was the ‘city of varied industry,’” Sadownikow said Monday night. He noted the city now has only a few “scattered sites” that can accommodate new or expanding companies.

“We really need locations not only to recruit new businesses, but for our current businesses to grow,” he said, calling Monday’s purchase agreement a “huge deal” for West Bend.

Moves to prepare the area for industrial development, though, have met with pushback from residents of a nearby subdivision along High Ridge Trail and located just north of the proposed industrial center.

A few of those residents turned out to protest efforts earlier this year to zone part of the nearby area for heavy industrial use. One of them, Eric Weckwerth, was at Monday’s Common Council meeting and told a reporter afterward he was concerned about the council’s apparent “lack of concern” for his neighbors.

“There’s no concern whatsoever for anybody else,” he said. “I don’t understand the thought process.”

Sadownikow said he understood the neighbors’ worries, but noted many of their homes already sit near where several industrial companies already operate. “I’d say that many of those homes are closer to this exact same zoning right now than they will be with the new development,” he said. And he noted the city could take steps to mitigate future industrial users’ impacts on the neighborhood as development plans in the future park materialize.

Monday’s 19-page purchase agreement notes the city would inaugurate a new tax incremental financing — or TIF — district on the property, a move that could incentivize future developments there.

Plans also call for annexing the property from the neighboring Town of Trenton — a step city leaders said could get started as soon as Tuesday but would require future Common Council approval.

Council members could also act on future zoning and comprehensive plan changes to mark the land for heavy industrial uses. Alders already approved similar steps this year on the nearby 63-acres site.

Sadownikow said there’s an urgency behind the purchase, given the convoluted series of steps needed to implement a new TIF district by the time the sale closes next year.

“It might seem like a long time,” he said of the Jan. 10 closing date, “but it takes some time” to establish a new TIF zone.