With Tax Incremental Finance assistance for two grocery store proposals off the table, Waunakee village officials are tasked with deciding whether both HyVee and Festival Foods should proceed with plans to build across the street from one another on Hwy. Q just south of Woodland Drive.
Just before the March 25 Waunakee Village Board meeting, representatives from the Forward Development Group informed board members and staff that they were withdrawing their request for $2 million in TIF assistance to complete public improvements on the east side of Hwy. Q, just south of Woodland Drive.
The move came 10 days after Festival Foods’ submittal to the board, one that sought no TIF assistance.
Dan O’Callaghan from Forward Development group said the parties understood the village’s need to make the best choice for Waunakee taxpayers.
“We’ve agreed to make further concessions to advance the project cost so that TIF is not required,” O’Callaghan said, noting the same agreement would be in place without the TIF request.
“We understand our need for TIF was the only one and only issue giving the village board pause… what you’re seeing tonight is the direct result of competition,” O’Callaghan added.
In advising the board how to proceed, Bryan Kleinmaier, the village’s attorney, said if the board wants grocery stores on both sides of the street, it can proceed with both proposals.
Board members noted higher land costs within the Forward Development Group, or FDG, proposal, seemed to factor into that TIF request.
Trustee Phil Willems said he was prepared to withdraw his support for TIF assistance for the HyVee project.
“I think there’s a tremendous mark-up in this land by the landowners,” Willems said.
Village President asked O’Callaghan if the any changes in the actual project led to FDG’s withdrawal of the TIF request, or if the driving force was the land cost.
O’Callaghan said the scope of project factored in.
Zellner added he had been up front about his concern for the land cost since TIF assistance was requested, adding he was glad another party came forward.
“I retrospect, I wish we would have been there to start with instead of going through the angst of a TIF process,” Zellner said, and then added he appreciated FDG’s willingness to return with a revised request.
Board members’ reaction to the prospect of two grocery stores seemed mixed.
Willems said he “had no problem” with the idea of both stores, and that the market will be deciding force, but added he was concerned about opening up the west side of Hwy. Q to commercial development.
Trustee Susan Springman noted the question may be whether commercial development is appropriate on both sides of the road.
Trustee Bill Ranum said having both grocery stores could put the village at risk an empty building if one were to go out of business.
Festival Foods has agreed to a vacant building agreement in other communities, and the village could work on similar agreements with the stores, Kleinmaier noted.
Trustee Sam Ballweg agreed was in favor of both grocery stores but added the board should consider what the view of Waunakee will be coming into town.
Trustee Erin Moran said she would not be in favor of two stores.
Zellner said he would not want to see an empty store at the entrance to the community but noted that the zoning allows for two.
A public hearing is scheduled for the April 1 meeting of the village board on the FDG’s Woodland Crest Development, where HyVee is located, to take comments on the General Development Plan, preliminary and final plat, annexation petition and related zoning.
Contacted Tuesday, Ron Henshue, CFO and vice-president of operations for FDG, told the Tribune that no changes to the development plan are expected, and HyVee has agreed to pursue its proposal whether or not Festival Foods is approved.
“Our client has said publicly they’re not afraid of competition, they compete every day, they compete in every market, and that they’re happy to compete in Waunakee,” Henshue said.