By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — City leaders in January will reconsider a proposal for a $10.5 million development project that would bring up to 60 full time jobs to the area within two years.
Scannell Properties LLC on Dec. 5 submitted a letter of interest on behalf of a confidential client interested in building a 175,000-square-foot warehouse on a 16.48-acre parcel of land in the city’s Business Campus Expansion Area.
The price for land in the expansion area was previously set at $12,500 per acre, which means the land proposed for the project is worth about $206,000. Scannell is asking to purchase the property from the city for $1.
Selling land to a for-profit entity for less than the property’s value can be a legal quagmire for municipalities. Though selling land at a reduced rate is not expressly illegal, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities advises against such transactions because they can potentially be successfully challenged in court.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has held that a sale of municipal property authorized by the governing body may be voided if a taxpayer can establish illegality, fraud or a clear abuse of discretion on the part of the governing body. If a municipal governing body sells property for substantially less than a fair consideration in money or other benefits, it may be found to have abused its discretion, according to the League. This is especially true if the land is sold to private parties who intend to use the land for purely private purposes.
Members of the city’s finance committee on Thursday went into closed session to discuss the proposal, but took no formal action. Council President Lisa Rasmussen said the committee has directed Economic Development Director Chris Schock discuss additional options with the developer and report back to the committee on Jan. 9.
Scannell is a privately owned real estate development and investment company that focuses on build-to-suit and speculative development projects throughout the U.S. and Canada.
This is not the first time Scannell has been involved in city development. The company was involved in building office and manufacturing space for Wausau Window and Wall Systems more than a decade ago.