By Shereen Siewert
City leaders will revisit a discussion on an agreement for developing the former mall site after a Wausau Pilot & Review inquiry resulted in a correction by the City Attorney.
On Tuesday, the City Council discussed a previously approved agreement that allows Wausau Opportunity Zone, Inc. and Greater Wausau Prosperity Partnership, LTD the right to purchase an existing parking ramp structure from the city. Dist. 10 Alder Lou Larson proposed an amendment to modify a clause that gave the developers the right to purchase the former Sears ramp for $1, asking that the city ask for fair market value on the property.
The motion failed on a vote of 2-9 following a discussion about the provision, in which Finance Director MaryAnne Groat defended the $1 price tag, suggesting that the parking ramp has little practical value and demolition costs would be in the $2 million range.
But city documents reviewed by Wausau Pilot & Review showed that the $1 provision had already been removed from the development agreement. According to an October 2020 memo from Groat to the Finance Committee, the negotiated terms called for WOZ to “surrender the option for possession of the Sears Parking Ramp.”
City Attorney Anne Jacobson subsequently sent a corrective memo to Mayor Katie Rosenberg and all council members after examining the documents and speaking with outside counsel. The memo, which Jacobson forwarded to Wausau Pilot & Review, confirms the $1 option to purchase the parking structure was previously released.
As part of the negotiating process, WOZ requested a “springing” option in the event the city chooses to cease parking operations, Jacobson said. The proposed amendment under discussion includes a provision that the city requested, allowing Wausau to stop parking operations after giving notice to WOZ. In return, Jacoboson said, WOZ requested that the draft include the $1 option to purchase if that happens – but that is a negotiated term that is still subject to council approval.
Jacobson said she asked Council President Becky McElhaney to place the file back on the next Council agenda, set for May 24. No action has been taken in the interim, she said.