MEQUON - After nearly a year of talks, the second phase of the Mequon Town Center, Spur 16, is ready to move forward.

Since its original presentation, the project has changed. According to Cindy Shaffer, owner of Shaffer Development, Spur 16 has 156 apartments.

The development agreement was approved by the common council by a 5-2 vote March 14.

Shaffer also referenced other proposals for the area at the meeting, saying hers was the only one with “traditional design elements and historic content.” She said others were modern buildings with more of a strip mall approach.

The project includes retail, restaurants, apartments, townhomes and other features, all with a railroad theme.

The purchase agreement for the land at 6200 and 6300 W. Mequon Road and 11300 and 11350 N. Buntrock Ave., was recently approved by the council.

According to Shaffer, the payback to the city for the development is about four years.

The development agreement has been discussed since May.

The first phase of the project must be completed by Dec. 31, 2018. It includes the majority of the residential development at the north end of the site as well as the east-west road with access off Buntrock Avenue and the north-south road with access off Mequon Road.

Wirth's worries

The city’s finance and personnel committee voted 2-1 to accept the development agreement prior to the council’s vote. The vote against was Alderman John Wirth, who said he was worried that protections to ensure the second phase of commercial development was completed were removed.

“I just think there have been a lot of concessions here,” Wirth said.

According to the agreement, if certain deadlines aren't met the city gets to purchase the property back for $1. Wirth was concerned the city would end up getting the property with only a large apartment project on it, which they’d have to market to a third party. He was worried citizens would be upset the city put about $1.5 million into an apartment project.

In regard to the apartments, Alderman Mark Gierl expressed concern about them sitting vacant based on a study from 2013 that looked at people’s moving habits.

Wirth said retail and restaurants are the gathering areas for the civic campus and the city should insist on retail if they’re going to subsidize the residential portion of the development. Additionally, he expressed concerns that the project as a whole wasn’t what the council was originally promised.

“This isn’t really the project that was sold to the council over a year ago,” he said.

Alderwoman Connie Pukaite disagreed, saying Wirth's comments were unfair to the developer. Pukaite said Shaffer does have to make deadlines, which include commercial.

Aldermen Andrew Nerbun and Robert Strzelczyk said they still like the project as presented.

“I think that the Spur 16 project is getting done our way,” Strzelczyk said.

He said the developer does have some penalties for not building in time and said he thinks the city is “well covered.”

Strzelczyk added he was embarrassed the agreement took this long to finalize, however.

Wirth agreed, saying he "understood the applicant's distress" in regard to the amount of time it took to approve the agreement.

Director of Community Development Kim Tollefson said the development agreement took as long as it did because some parameters of the agreement were outside what the city had done in the past. She added the city is exposing itself to some risk by not exercising all the penalties within the agreement.

Mayor Dan Abendroth said this development will help with tax incremental financing debt and the project guarantees payment of the TIF debt whether or not the retail goes ahead.

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