Danedri Thompson
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Gardner City Council members agreed to continue discussions with Zimmer Real Estate Services about a possible abatement and incentives related to a proposed warehouse at 183rd and Waverly Road.
The city’s tax abatement policy offers up to 50 percent in abatements for capital investments of more than $1.5 million. Zimmer estimates its Big Industrial warehouse development would be worth approximately $40 million.
The property is contiguous with the city of Edgerton, whose abatement policy allows abatements of up to 75 percent. However Gardner Community Development Director Mike Hall told Gardner council members during a Sept. 3 work session that Edgerton and Gardner abatement policies are roughly equal when all fees are considered. Edgerton’s abatement policy is equal to a 52.5 percent abatement in Gardner.
“The real issue is paving Waverly Road,” Hall said.
Zimmer has requested that Gardner pave Waverly Road to heavy haul standards, an expensive proposition estimated at $4.5 million.
“We do not have the funds to pay for Waverly Road,” Hall told council members.
He suggested that the city could request CARS funding. The grant funding would pay for half the cost of construction, but Gardner would still need to fund the other half as well as design and engineering plans.
Council member Steve Shute said the developer, Zimmer, is attempting to leverage Gardner against Edgerton. The two cities debated an annexation agreement a few years ago, but never came to terms. However, a Waverly Road boundary was frequently discussed. Officials kicked around jointly funding maintenance and construction of the road, but discussions were dropped years ago and have not been re-instated.
In the meantime, Edgerton has annexed a portion of land east of Waverly Road at 191st Street.
Zimmer has also requested that trucks be allowed to utilize 183rd Street until Waverly Road can be paved.
Cheryl Harrison-Lee, city administrator, said the request is for temporary access.
“But in this case, temporary is a long time,” she said.
City staff estimates it will take up to two years to plan and construct upgrades to Waverly Road. In the meantime, truck traffic would be diverted through a residential neighborhood.
That is a deal breaker for at least one council member.
“We are absolutely not going to have trucks in residential neighborhoods,” council member Larry Fotovich said. “…That’s off the table.”
Harrison-Lee said Edgerton’s agreement with the intermodal developers requires that they pave Waverly Road once 1.5 million square feet of warehouses are built.
“The incentive for them to do it early really isn’t there,” Harrison-Lee said. “They would probably not be inclined to do it early.”
Fotovich said the city is sitting in the best position possible.
“We just need to leverage it,” he said.
He said he would prefer retail on that property and suggested that maybe the city should consider offering abatements for desired development there. He added he’d likely vote against offering incentives, however.
Council member Heath Freeman said paving the road opens up the eastern part of Waverly Road to development. It also offers Gardner control of what development locates there.
“I think I’d be willing to go to Zimmer and see what they’re willing to do on the road,” Shute said. “If they want to develop there, they’re going to have to pitch in for Waverly Road.”
In other business, council members:
• named Kimberly LeRoy as city clerk.
• authorized an escrow agreement for the acquisition of right-of-way near Gardner Municipal Airport for future expansion.
• authorized an acceptance agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration for right-of-way at Gardner Municipal Airport.
• recognized outgoing city attorney Jim Hubbard.
• approved a general retailer’s liquor license for Celebrity’s to sell cereal malt beverages at 405 E. Main Street.