Suspicions Abound Over Edgewater Sale
By Brandi Makuski
The Community Development Authority (CDA) formally approved the sale of the Edgewater Manor Thursday night, with some residents calling the move “suspicious” and “under- handed”, as many of the details were worked out in closed session.
Edgewater, an 81- unit senior living facility located on waterfront property, is primed for inclusion in an expanded TIF district, and will be sold to Seramur Family Limited Partnership for $800k. As part of the deal, Seramur would be eligible for tax credits of up to $300,000 if it can raise the value of the Edgewater property to over $2 million within the first six years.
The developer’s agreement must be approved by the Common Council when it meets later this month, but it’s the speed and finality of the sale that’s got more than a few people mad.
“I was approached by an individual- someone who owns rental units in the area- who asked why this sale wasn’t publicly listed,” said Alderman Jerry Moore. “Why wasn’t this made publicly available so others could have a chance at this opportunity?”
Mayor Halverson said the agreement reached between the CDA and Seramur Family Limited Partnership was satisfactory to the city, and there was no need to publicly advertise the property.
Residents argued the property is already worth far more than the agreed- upon price and it won’t take much investment to raise the dollar value to city expectations.
“Don’t you use comparable sales when you sell your house to get the best price?” Reid Rocheleau of Whiting asked the City Plan Commission Monday night.
“This is almost criminal if you sell the property with this deal. You’re taking advantage of taxpayers.”
“Once again, we’re being informed on a major development project that requires many stop to be pulled out, including moving a TIF boundary, and reaching the press only three days before it’s presented,” said Mary Ann Laszewski of Stevens Point.
Laszewski said if the property had been marketed publicly, the city could be sold at four times the price reached with Seramur. She also questioned the specifics of the deal, asking the extent of improvements, the fate of current residents and whether the property would become student housing.
CDA Director Michael Ostrowski said the property would need $15k- $20k in improvements for each unit. Seramur wasn’t sought out, Ostrowski said, but rather approached the city about investing in Edgewater while in talks over another unnamed property the company was originally interested in. Ostrowski said two other developers also approached the city, but no agreement couch be reached.
One developer met with Ostrowski, along with Mayor Halverson, over the summer, when she said she first heard rumors Edgewater might go up for sale.
“I said we had interest in the building, and asked how much they were selling it for,” said Krista Mendyke, who owns three successful senior living homes in Stevens Point and Plover, including Pioneer Place, which is located a few blocks from Edgewater.
“He said at that time they weren’t even sure if they were going to sell it or not, but he said they would contact us if and when the city decided to sell,” she said.
Mendyke said she offered to manage the property for the city’s short- term needs until a decision to sell was made, but never heard back.
“Until I saw the story in the paper, I didn’t know anything about it. I called Mayor Halverson and said, ‘what the heck? Why didn’t you call us back?’”
While on the phone with Halverson earlier this week, Mendyke said she offered to write a check for $1 million to buy the property immediately without TIF incentives, but “Halverson said he was ethically bound to work with the Seramurs” by then.
Mendyke unsuccessfully asked the CDA Thursday night to postpone the sale for 30 days so other interested parties could submit bids, some of which she suspected could have exceeded $2 million. She said an open bid process is the right thing to do when it comes to taxpayer- owned property.
“All these decisions on taxpayer property, made behind closed doors and under the table- it’s insane, it’s got to stop,” she said.
Halverson told members of the City Plan Commission on Monday one condition of the sale is the inclusion of Edgewater into the downtown TIF district. The matter comes before the city’s Finance Committee Monday night, and then moves to the Common Council later this month for approval.
Should the expansion of the downtown TIF district not be approved, the Seramur deal will not proceed, he said.