By Shereen Siewert
A proposal by Wausau’s Community Development Authority to purchase the former Ponderosa Motel from Marathon County is set for approval on Tuesday, according to city documents.
The WCDA Board is expected to discuss the plan in both open and closed session during their regularly scheduled meeting at noon. Then, the full council will take up the issue Tuesday night.
The plan calls for the WCDA to purchase the property, at 2101 Grand Ave., for a negotiated price of $52,567.12. Economic Development Director Chris Schock in August told board members that when the property is eventually sold, any proceeds in excess of the purchase price would be split between Marathon County and the WCDA. Once the purchase is finalized the WCDA will issue a request for proposals to redevelop the property.
Community Development Block Grant funds will be used for both acquisition and demolition of the property, Schock said in August. Because CDBG funds are being used, some federal award requirements apply to any future development. Appropriate uses for the property would include affordable housing and could contain job creation requirements. If those requirements are not met, any funds used in the purchase or demolition would need to be repaid at the appraisal level.
Total costs including demolition are expected to be no more than $100,000.
Members of the WCDA board in August reviewed the proposal, but opted to wait on approving the purchase until members had an opportunity to review environmental assessments related to the property.
An initial proposal for the city to acquire the property was met with strong resistance in April from City Council President Lisa Rasmussen and Committee Chair Tom Neal, both of whom questioned why the city should be involved in such a purchase. The proposal called for spending about $73,000 to buy the motel.
Marathon County took ownership of the property in an effort to recover unpaid property taxes dating back to 2013.
Officials said the Aug. 17, 2015 fire was caused by negligent use of burning materials, possibly a cigarette.
Unpaid property taxes at the site totaled more than $63,000 when the property changed hands. In addition, the county spent about $9,400 on environmental site assessments and other costs associated with the building, according to city documents. The total value of the property in 1998 was $217,900, according to the Marathon County Land Records system; the value dropped to $150,000 in 2016.
The motel’s previous owner, Rajshree Inc., of Weston, was issued repeated assessments for noxious weeds, snow removal and delinquent utilities in recent years, county records show.
But the council did approve a motion by Pat Peckham, who represents Dist. 1, to ask the WCDA to assess the possibility of owning and razing the old building.
See the full proposal here.