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Sussex cannery site plans still on hold

No progress made in moving Bug Line Trail off site

Jan. 24, 2012

Village of Sussex -Village officials and the developer of a proposed multi-use commercial and residential complex at the former site of the Mammoth Springs Cannery Company, remain optimistic about the project even though they acknowledge little progress has been made in the last year to remove the biggest hurdle to planning the development.

Arthur Sawall, a Brookfield computer software entrepreneur, purchased the 10-acre site near the intersection of Main Street and Waukesha Avenue in March 2011.

Since then, he has been negotiating with village and county officials in an effort to get federal approval to transfer about eight tenths of an acre of land from the center of the site to land adjacent to the site.

So far, no agreement has been reached according to county and local officials.

Village Administrator Jeremy Smith said last week there is a possibility that Sawall might present tentative plans for the development to village officials in March. However, Sawall said Monday he will be in Europe for the next week and will not be able to confirm his plans for the development until he returns to the United States.

"I cannot say enough about Village Administrator Jeremy Smith and the other members of the village staff, they have done all they can to be as helpful as possible," Sawall said in a previous interview.

The development is essential to the village's plans for redevelopment of two sections of Main Street; commercial and residential neighborhoods near the intersection of Waukesha Avenue and Main Street and commercial and residential neighborhoods near Village Hall and the Piggly Wiggly grocery store.

Initially, the village, according to Smith, was considering creating two Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts to pay for public improvements in the two Main Street sectors.

However, the owners of the Piggly Wiggly have changed their plans about building an addition to the store and, instead, are opting for internal remodeling. Because internal remodeling will not significantly increase the neighborhood's tax base, it is likely the plans for that Main Street TIF district will be eliminated, according to Smith.

The financing for the remaining TIF district, which would now serve both Main Street sectors, will depend upon the success of Sawall's development.

Sawall and village officials agree the development cannot proceed until the eight tenths of acre of the Bug Line Recreational Trail - a former railway right of way - is moved from the center of the site to nearby adjacent property.

The federal government provided the funds for Waukesha County to purchase the abandoned rail right of way to be used as biking/hiking trail. The right of way was located in the center of the cannery to accommodate freight trains that carried cargo to and from the cannery.

Because the land was purchased with federal funds, it can only be used for recreational purposes. If Sawall wants to use the land for any other purpose, he must find land of similar value that can be transferred to the county, according to Waukesha County Parks System Manager Duane Grimm.

Grimm added the county would expect that the transferred land would be in a location that would accommodate the continuation of the Bug Line Trail around the development in order to replace the federally funded rail right of way that went through the development.

Sawall and village officials have been looking for a tract of land that can be acquired and transferred to the county.

"There are several options on the table," according to Smith.

One of those options might be for the village or Sawall to acquire land adjacent to the Spring Creek, located north and west of the cannery site.

The village is being required to reroute the creek and remove the asphalt surfaces that have covered it. The continuation of the Bug Line trail adjacent to the development site and along the new path for Spring Creek might be one of the options available to Sawall and the village, according to Smith.

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