By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — A local corporation is accusing Wausau officials of acting improperly during the planning phases of a proposed road project by taking property without just compensation and interfering with their relationship with a tenant, according to court documents.
Secors, Inc., which filed the lawsuit Dec. 18 in Marathon County Circuit Court, owns two adjacent properties at 936 and 950 Townline Road, a portion of which requires significant semi truck traffic in order to be used for commercial purposes. One parcel also serves as designated parking for employees at a nearby business, which leases the space from Secors.
City officials in 2018 voted to block Townline Road access to the parking lot, which also restricts semi traffic from entering the industrial area of the property. The move essentially deprives the property of street access, according to court filings.
Secors alleges that city officials never gave them a jurisdictional offer for the taking and failed to fully evaluate the impact the closure would have on the company’s business.
Depriving road access “completely diminishes the commercial value” of both parcels, according to the lawsuit.
In March, members of the capital improvements and street maintenance discussed two potential solutions recommended by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to mitigate safety concerns for the driveway areas, which lie in close proximity to railroad tracks. The first solution was to close the driveway and allow access to the property solely from Single Avenue. The other would have added rail safety gates and lights to the property at a cost of about $50,000.
“Even though there were other more reasonable and cost-efficient alternatives to blocking off Parcel 2 from any road access, such as installation of a gate, the city did not take into consideration any such alternatives,” the lawsuit states.
Further, Secors is accusing Wausau officials of soliciting their parking tenant, proposing parking alternatives that are favorable to Wausau but are detrimental to Secors.
In their lawsuit, Secors calls the city’s action an “improper taking of property without justification.”
The company is asking a judge for an injunction prohibiting Wausau from blocking Townline Road access for both parcels until the court can decide whether Wausau acted illegally. The lawsuit also seeks an unspecified monetary award that includes attorney’s fees, damages, and other costs.
Construction and redesign on Townline Road from Grand Avenue to Easthill Drive is expected to begin this year.
City officials were served Dec. 20 with notice of the lawsuit, according to court records.
In an email to Wausau Pilot and Review, Mayor Rob Mielke said the lawsuit should not impact the start of the project.
“Because we just received this notice in late December, I cannot comment on pending lawsuits but the city’s position will be detailed in its Answer,” Mielke wrote.