By Shereen Siewert

Officials in Wausau will review major proposed changes to a plan for six single-family homes on city-owned parcels along Thomas Street, but so far have kept most details from the public in advance of Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

City documents state the developer, Tyler Knudson Construction, LLC, “is no longer interested in constructing six single-family homes on the remnant parcels nor in purchasing more than one parcel.” See the full packet, below.

Though that suggests the plan could be scrapped, Economic Development Manager Sean Fitzgerald said the project is still in play – though the developer is now requesting a “different approach.” But details about what that approach might look like have not yet been disclosed. City documents state only that Knudson requested an amendment to the plan that would allow his company to purchase just one of the parcels for $7,500.

The reasons behind the secrecy are not yet clear.

The city’s request for proposals for remnant parcels on the north side of the 100 block of Thomas Street resulted in a single response, from Knudson, which was approved in January. The initial proposal called for Knudson to purchase each of the six lots from the city for a total of $45,000 and build homes that would sell for between $200,000 and $240,000 each. Construction was set to begin in May.

The decision was not unanimous, and the plan was approved only after a lengthy debate. Some council members and residents balked at the price point of the completed homes, including Dist. 3 Alderman Tom Kilian, who represents the neighborhood in which the project would lie. Residents who spoke out said the selling price was not consistent with the rest of the neighborhood.

Adding to the controversy were concerns over the environmental fitness of the properties and who would be responsible for any potential cleanup. During the Jan. 26 meeting in which the project was approved, Dist. 10 Alderman Lou Larson shared an email from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources hydrogeologist Matt Thompson, who recommended any potential buyer or developer perform both a Phase I and Phase II environmental study to better understand the condition of the property. Questions also arose about whether the city would provide a real estate condition report upon sale of the property. Members of the council defeated a motion that would have added a requirement for the city to include the condition report, which would have been public record.

“We know that those properties are sitting on a plume of contaminated groundwater and it seems the buyer would want to know that,” Kilian said in January.

In an email to Wausau Pilot & Review Fitzgerald did not offer any additional information about the changes but said the developer will answer questions about the plan, which the public has so far not seen, on Tuesday.

“Our city attorney’s office believed it appropriate to bring this request before the city council,” Fitzgerald wrote. “The materials you noted in the packet provide options for the council hear from the developers, hold a robust discussion, then consider options for amending or possibly even rescinding the resolution passed on January 26, 2021.”

Wausau Pilot & Review has requested the city release additional details about the proposed changes prior to next week’s meeting to allow for public input. The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers at City Hall, 407 Grant St., Wausau.