As expected, Sturtevant trustees Tuesday unanimously approved the dissolution of a negotiating committee charged with working out a deal with SC Johnson to re-direct Willow Road ahead of a state plan to widen Durand Avenue.
The decision followed the news that SCJ is interested in buying vacant Highway 11 frontage properties as well as the condo units of Cobble Court, making the re-direction of Willow Road a non-issue, sources close to the village told Racine County Eye.
Specifically, Village President Steve Jansen said anticipated commercial development along Highway 11 across from Blain’s Farm & Fleet is no longer an option so it doesn’t make sense to use taxpayer money for the project.
“We won’t be able to develop that land, which is prime real estate, and that means we can’t bring more jobs to the village in that location,” he added.
But, during public comment at the Sturtevant village board meeting and during a short interview after the meeting, SCJ spokesperson Kelly Semrau disputed the characterization of these developments as a “break down.”
“I don’t think talks broke down,” she said. “I think (a break down) is an unfair characterization.”
Semrau would not confirm whether or not SC Johnson is extending purchase offers to residents of Cobble Court and to the owner of the vacant frontage parcels. She would only say that since 1967 the company has been creating green buffer zones around its facilities.
Offer to purchase recycling center
During public comment, Semrau also presented two different purchase offers regarding Sturtevant’s 8.5-acre yard waste recycling center located on north 87th Street near a border with Waxdale, SC Johnson’s flagship manufacturing facility.
The first offer is a straight offer to purchase the site for $200,000, and the second includes the additional purchase of a 25-acre parcel that is in foreclosure south on Highway H, across from UNFI. Under the terms of that agreement, SCJ would develop a new yard waste recycling site to Sturtevant’s specifications, including a new pole barn.
“The village has tens of thousands of dollars wrapped up in that recycling center because of the sewer and water infrastructure we put in,” Jansen said. “I’d have to check with the board on this, but at this point, I don’t think we’re inclined to sell. Plus, if SCJ buys that land on Highway H, that just removes even more land for potential development and jobs.”
What happens now
Now that the village is in possession of SC Johnson’s offers, Administrator/Clerk Mary Cole will confer with legal counsel on the best way to proceed.
“We’ll need to figure out if these conversations can take place in open session or if we need to schedule closed session meetings,” she told the board at the meeting.
Part of the Willow Road project included extending Willow Road south from Durand Avenue next to Farm & Fleet and on the other side of the Kirkorian Nature Preserve, and that will still happen. Whether or not the state Department of Transportation will still want to turn Willow/84th Street and Highway 11 into a controlled intersection remains to be seen.
Village Engineer Jeff Seitz is meeting with DOT representatives this week to try and work out some of those details.
Construction of the southern extension of Willow Road is expected to commence next year.