Possible redevelopment to the downtown area took a step forward Tuesday, Sept. 1 with the Lake Mills City Council proceeding with TID #8, a financing tool for the city to fund infrastructure investment and other eligible projects to facilitate private development.

“Approval of this document does not obligate you to what is shown here,” said Dustin Wolff, city planner. “This is the tool; the city has used successfully for a number of years in the Industrial Park and other areas (in town).”

“This doesn’t even finalize the TID, it just starts it back up again,” said Steve Wilke, city manager.

Earlier this year the city was working on creation of the Tax Incremental District #5 and #8 but held up the public hearing for TID #8 to finish the process due to COVID. TID #5 moved forward, but the public hearing for TID #8 hasn’t been held yet and the process needs to be completed by Oct. 1 or the process has to start over because the completed documentation will be dated and unusable after that date.

If the city would choose not to move forward with the TID it will lose out on $10,000 and have to pay it again to move forward.

At the beginning of the year the city had a development proposal for the former Sentry Foods property by Gundlach, but in mid-March the project was withdrawn. The project would have built condos on the property.

Renderings that accompany the Tax Incremental District proposal included renderings for a multi-story building that many around town told council members they were not in favor of, but Wolff explained to the council the renderings are just an example of something that could happen at the site.

If completed the project would have changed the economic impact that a Tax Increment District would have in the downtown area. Gundlach’s market evaluation indicated the proposed condos wouldn’t work at the site. There have been no new projects brought forward.

“It’s good to have the TID in place even though we don’t have anything now. It’s easier to have it in place now. There are probably some things we need to do to make the proposal better,” Wilke said. “The comprehensive plan does say you should look at taller buildings in the downtown area.”

He said it may be advisable to change the boundaries of the TID.

“I was always looking at this TID as a tool the owners of the downtown businesses could use to improve their businesses for the better,” said Diann Fritsch, council vice president. “If we do nothing there are no options for them either.”

Wilke said the city wouldn’t have anything to offer the business owners without the TID.

“This is a really unique opportunity in a downtown setting,” Wolff said. “This is a good opportunity for the city. You don’t have to impact other properties in the downtown, historic and non-historic. The graphics that are in the project plan were just a scale to show what could happen there and show how it would feel.”

He said whatever happens on that site will be reviewed by the Plan Commission, city staff and council.

“Without the TID in place you wouldn’t be able to capture the opportunity that is right in front of you on a key vacant site in your downtown,” he said.

Any proposed projects for the downtown would go before the Plan Commission and the city council before approval.

Redevelopment on the south side of Lake Mills will go forward. The council approved applying for a grant with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for Topel’s Towing.

Topel’s Towing and Repair, located in TID#5 encouraging redevelopment on the south side of town, has been working with the city to redevelop their site.

“We are looking at applying for grant money to help offset some of those costs,” Wolff said. “The city is looking to acquire land and construct a regional retention basin in that area.”

Some of the buildings in the area as well as clean-up will have to occur. The stormwater facility would solve drainage problems on the Topel’s site and other surrounding properties.

The grant has a maximum award of $250,000 from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the city has to match the awarded grant.

“We’ve looked at the assessed value of what the new site would be, and we’ve made some estimates about what it would could contribute to that and we are looking at about $600,000-$700,000 in TID dollars that could be contributed in addition to the $250,000,” Wilke said.

The council also approved the conditional use request for Topel’s Towing. The Topel’s plan to raise their facility to develop a new 14,000 square foot facility.

“(It’s an) all new building, all new site and storage areas,” Wolf said. “It’s clean, white, crisp, contemporary feel while retaining that historic feeling.”

“It will be a catalyst project for more redevelopment in that area,” he said. “They are looking to grow their facility and grow their staff.”

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