The Sun Prairie Area School District (SPASD) officially presented a counteroffer to Sun Prairie Utilities to sell 5.017 acres of land near Linnerud Drive for $416,556.

The offer was approved as part of the 3 hour and 52-minute Sun Prairie School Board meeting held on Monday, July 27.

Although the parcel is 5.017 acres, roughly 3.5 acres are buildable. But because they are adjacent to properties already being pursued by SPU for its proposed headquarters facility, the acreage from the district would be combined with those parcels to offer more land for storage or to construct buildings.

Besides the revenue from the sale of land, advantages to the SPASD include a reduced amount of grounds maintenance at Cardinal Heights, a possible collaboration with SPU to providing public access to Cardinal Heights fields from the south, and a possible collaboration with SPU on use of the facilities they build (including potentially a truck wash, and salt shed).

Although the sale would mean a loss of land to SPASD, it would not really be a loss because the land is not being used and there is no concern of loss of future opportunity by selling it, according to a presentation to the board by SPASD Director of Facilities and Grounds Kevin Sukow.

SPU has also acknowledged SPASD would like to create public access to the athletic fields at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School (CHUMS) and would like to explore collaboration to utilize amenities that might be built into the SPU facilities on the site such as a truck wash or salt shed.

“While SPU has done some conceptual work for the property, they do not have any concrete designs at this time. Therefore, they have not committed to any of the district’s desires, but would take them into consideration during their design work,” Sukow wrote in his memo to the board.

According to a letter from SPU Manager Rick Wicklund to the district, the sale of land from SPASD is contingent on the purchase of 510 Linnerud Drive, environmental acceptance and Public Service Commission construction authorization. SPU is also pursuing the purchase of 440-450 Linnerud Drive (see accompanying photo illustration), citing its need to move from its 125 W. Main St. facility.

A one-acre portion of the SPASD land is used as a borrow pit, from which clean dirt was taken and used for the new Bank of Sun Prairie Stadium at Ashley Field. Sukow said that saved the district $350,000 because the SPASD did not need to truck in clean dirt, or fill material, from elsewhere.

Two appraisals were performed on the SPASD property — one each at the request of SPU and SPASD. Both appraisers performed their assessment independently with no SPASD or SPU representatives present. The SPU appraisal was $441,786 or $2 per square foot, while the SPASD appraisal was $390,000, $1.79 per square foot or $78,000 per acre.

The $416,556 figure splits the difference between the two appraisals.

Sun Prairie Stronger

The current SPU Main Operations Facility located at 125 W. Main St. is assessed in 2020 at $251,000, or $127,865.51 per acre, but is exempt from paying assessments because the utility property is municipally owned (SPU makes a payment in lieu of taxes to the city each year).

Wicklund has said in the past the current 1.963 acre facility which houses office, garage and some storage facilities is too small to serve operations for the growing utility that serves one of the fastest-growing municipalities in Wisconsin.

The Sun Prairie Stronger redevelopment plan for the properties located near the Main-Bristol intersection includes land currently occupied by SPU at 125 W. Main — a site that stretches all the way to Lane Street to the south.

Features of the Sun Prairie Stronger plan adopted in 2019 as a component of the city’s Comprehensive Plan 2019-2039 document include:

• Preservation of The Crosse House, the historic home of Dr. Crosse, founder of the Countryman newspaper which eventually became the Star-Countryman and then the Sun Prairie Star. The plan shows initial preservation of the site, located just west of the SPU site, with a neighboring home razed to allow for more space in a campus-like setting for the historic home;

• Mixed-use development at the corner of Main and Bristol streets to fit in with the existing environment along the balance of the downtown’s traditional business district to the east. The recommended step back of the upper floor for buildings at the Bristol and Main intersection will help balance the need for financial attainability and an acceptable scale along the streetscape;

• The provision of public spaces for the community to enjoy, including the proposed ‘festival street’ along Lane Street, to help create a vibrant environment and activate the area; and

• The extension of both Lane and Jones streets to help connect the downtown with Ashley Field in a positive way, and provide not only an opportunity for pedestrian-oriented events and circulation, but also improved access and circulation for both bicyclists and motorists in this area.

The current SPU site is included as part of a possible 14th tax increment finance (TIF) district that will not only include the properties near the Bristol-Main intersection destroyed as part of the July 10, 2018 natural gas explosion, but also a parcel at the corner of Main and Vine that is being redeveloped by Sun Prairie Glass Nickel Pizza owner Adam Bougie.

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