Editorial

The ‘Rest of the Story’ about the city’s sweetheart land deal

ACHTUNG: The following is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor.

The City of Wayland’s purported “sweetheart deal” for a 25-acre parcel deserves a Paul Harvey-style “Rest of the Story” comment.

At first glance, there is good reason for outrage over the City Council agreeing to an offer of only $20,000 from Josh Otto and Keith Nickels for land near the corner of Reno Drive and 133rd Avenue. Indeed, that’s less than $800 an acre, far less than other businesses have paid in the Reno business district for their properties. It just doesn’t seem fair.

However, closer examination reveals that the city has tried to unload that site for almost 20 years with no success. When it was learned that 25 acres of property has serious issues with wetlands, potential buyers lost interest because they were told it could cost as much as a million dollars to handle the problem.

The city got so desperate to get at least something for the site, to lure a business that would provide jobs, that it offered it to a valve manufacturer from Portage for $1 in 2014 and even tossed in a 50% tax abatement for 12 years to sweeten the pot. The Portage firm promised between 150 and 200 jobs with an average annual wage of $48,000 over the next 10 to 15 years.

Then-City Manager Mike Selden said, “The city lowered its offer (price) to this company due to the fact once they reviewed the site closer, it was determined that there would be a substantial amount of site work to do, because the ground is so wet. If they accept our offer, it will be for all but about 4 acres of the large site, leaving them about 23.48 acres.”

Eventually, the Portage firm said no thanks to a deal that was even sweeter than what Otto and Nickels are getting.

The only real problem with the city’s agreement to sell this land is that the developers’ plans for the site are not known. That is the only problem.

I agree with Tom Andrews, a commenter on this site, who said last month:

“Come on folks, get real. The Reno industrial park has not been a rousing success for many years. The parcel in question is part of 40 acres the City bought more than 20 years ago. Ten years ago, it was platted into smaller parcels, and this one still sits there empty.

“Empty – The city has costs, but no revenue for 10 years. Two potential deals flopped three years ago, and still it sits empty. So the city jumps at an offer to sell. Did they sell it cheap? Hell no, they got $20,000 more than they did when it sat empty. Cash in the city coffers and future revenue, as the owners have to pay taxes. And when they build something, more revenue to the city. And maybe they hire employees and one of them decides to move to Wayland and starts spending money for gas and groceries in Wayland. And yes, some home needs from Wayland Hardware!

“All you who claim that you would have jumped to buy it for $800/acre – why didn’t you? Do you have business plans ready to go? There is more land there – show the city your business plans and see what you can do with them. If no, then congratulate the city for generating a little life in a moribund industrial park project.”

 

2 Comments

  • With the real value of this property at $800.00 per acre, will the other companies who own property in this development have their property tax bill reduced to the new “real” value?

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