T. Wall owner calls for council members' resignations
T. Wall Enterprises owner Terrence Wall trashes Wausau compared to how other cities handle development; but many of his facts are incorrect.
Council members such as Tom Kilian have not spared their words in addressing the current mall crisis. Kilian in Monday’s meeting said the city in the past has had trouble recognizing red flags from developers working on projects.
“And we’re seeing flags now, and hey, they’re red,” Kilian said of the current proposal by T. Wall Enterprises on its current Wausau Center mall redevelopment.
That was all laid out in this week’s story about the “delay of the delay” on the Foundry on Third project. You can read it below:
This week, T. Wall Enterprises owner Terrence Wall decided to strike back. Wall wrote a letter to the editor in news start-up The Wausau Sentinel, and he equally spared no words in his distain for Wausau’s development approach and some of its leadership.
Specifically, he calls for city council members Tom Kilian and Gary Gisselman to resign, or at the very least that the council should demand they recuse themselves from any further discussion around the mall project. It’s not something I have seen in my nearly 20 years in journalism, though I’m sure it’s been said under one’s breath at meetings at times, or perhaps loudly over cocktails in a lounge somewhere.
Letter of discontent
Wall starts his letter by saying that no taxpayer dollars are involved in the project:
In regards to the council meeting Monday night in which the council delayed granting an extension of the development agreement for the mall redevelopment site, it’s important to understand that the city is not the property owner. The only obligation of the city is to provide a developer-financed TIF. One hundred percent of the risk on this project is on the developer because there is no TIF granted if the building is not built. There is NO taxpayer money involved; the developer secures a loan from a bank for the TIF and new property taxes generated by the new building each year are refunded to pay the bank loan. The developer signs the bank loan and the city has zero risk as the project gets developed.
In An Out-of-Control Monster?, The Wausonian showed how even reverse TIF dollars come at the expense of taxing entities which must make up the differences in another way. But besides that, plenty of money is being spent on other aspects of the project.
What about risk? There is a reason cities set deadlines on their development agreements. The city started the process of tearing up the street, all of which costs money. If the project were not to come to fruition, that leaves all that spending (and staff time) with no way to recover it through increased value.
That was almost exactly the scenario in downtown Stevens Point in its redevelopment project: The mall was taken down to be replaced by a non-profit technical college campus. The district was underwater for a long time, and kept other districts open longer to donate to the original district.
Were that district to close underwater, taxpayers ultimately foot that bill. But even delaying closures of TIF means tax dollars going back to the taxing entities to relieve taxpayers takes longer as well. 1
I find it interesting to compare Wausau to other communities where we are developing. In the Village of Howard, the village granted concept approval for a new development four times larger than Foundry on 3rd in Wausau in a matter of just four weeks. In LaCrosse, the city approved the development and rezoning in just six weeks. In Oshkosh, the city granted full approval for a similar-sized project in just five months. In Neenah, the city granted full approval in just four months. All these included a TIF and a couple included city-owned land granted at no cost. Last night during the Wausau council meeting, the Village of Howard at the same time approved a plan with 16 buildings in it with 1,300 units.
Both municipalities held hearings for proposed developments of ours on the same night. Wausau chose to delay once again and put up more roadblocks, even though we started the Wausau process over two years ago. Howard approved and is moving forward in just under four weeks. In Wausau, the development is stalled out once again by action initiated by two alders who have their agenda. In Wausau, it’s two steps forward and one giant step backward. In Howard, it’s “How can we help move this project forward?"
The project is already delayed though, because of lack of funding, as The Wausonian reported even before WOZ Managing Director Chuck Ghidorzi spelled it out Monday. City leaders are concerned because under the original timeline given, construction should already be underway right now. Instead, Wausau residents are left with a broken up concrete slab.
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