Exploring options: City looks into purchasing land for big box store
City officials are exploring what their options and obligations are in their efforts to lure a big box home improvement store to Jamestown. That includes whether the city will purchase the land the planned store would occupy as well as surrounding property for possible additional development.
“Our obligations haven’t been determined,” said Jeff Fuchs, city administrator. “The developer has an option on the land. Whether the big box store purchases it or the city purchases it is under negotiations.”
On Aug. 14, the City Council signed an agreement with developers The R.H. Johnson Company and Woodsonia Real Estate Group. The developers agreed to attempt to lure a big box home improvement store, such as Lowes, Menards or Home Depot, to Jamestown in exchange for fees that could reach $900,000 if certain goals are met. The goals include completing a development plan, closing the deal for the city to purchase the land, the opening of the big box retailer and the sale and development of the lots around the store.
The signed agreement followed an executive session meeting of the City Council on Aug. 7.
Mayor Katie Andersen said the city is exploring the possibility of issuing bonds to fund the project.
“That could extend to include the acquisition of the land and the streets, water and sewer necessary for the project,” she said.
Andersen said the bonds would be repaid with tax proceeds generated within the new development. This could include a tax increment financing district and the possible use of sales tax proceeds from the new businesses in the area.
“The only exception would be roads with benefits beyond the district,” she said. “The portion of the bonds used for those roads could be paid for from other sources.”
One such road might connect the new development with Jamestown Regional Medical Center.
The total cost of the land and infrastructure is not known. The parcel includes about 75 acres. The home improvement store would use about 20 acres with another approximately 10 acres used for streets. The city could possibly end up with about 40 acres of land suitable for other retail businesses.
Andersen said the developers have a purchase agreement with Liechty Associates, the current property owner, but the purchase price has not been determined.
“One of the problems is there have been few commercial land sales recently in Jamestown,” she said. “It is difficult to determine the value of the property.”
Dan Buchanan, city councilman, said he is opposed to the city purchasing land.
“There has been no talk of buying land and I would be uncomfortable with that,” he said.
Buchanan also said the city should not be involved with real estate development for retail space.
“If they (big box store management) have a market they know what to do with it,” he said.
Dwaine Heinrich, former city councilman, said there should be more public debate on the issue.
“My biggest concern is the failure of the council to engage the community in the process,” he said. “They are making a major shift in policy to use tax dollars to subsidize one business over another.”
Heinrich said the council should give the topic more consideration.
“I don’t doubt the good intentions behind this,” he said. “I’d almost feel better if they had illegal meetings to discuss this. To make this big a shift in policy with just a single meeting seems improper.”
Andersen said the negotiations with the developers and big box store are continuing.
“I think it is all doable,” she said. “Everything is going very well.”
An announcement on the project is anticipated within 60 days. If the project moves forward, construction is anticipated in the summer.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org