City of Oconomowoc — Oconomowoc Mayor David Nold says he wants to see the Fong's Garden building in downtown Oconomowoc owned by the city and demolished by the spring.
On Tuesday night, the common council unanimously approved a resolution of necessity, which legally allows the city to enter negotiations to purchase the property at 109 N. Main St. If the owner of the Chinese restaurant refuses to sell the building, the city could use eminent domain to forcibly buy the property for fair market value.
Nold said the time is right to try to buy the property because the city plans to begin redevelopment along Folwer Lake.
“We're at a point now where we're going to be developing with the boardwalk redevelopment,” Nold said after the council meeting. “I think it's appropriate timing to try to acquire the property again and see if we can do that and complete this project in a short amount of time.”
The city tried to buy the building in 2014 from its owner, Tommy Lin, for $525,000. At the time, an appraisal firm had valued the property at $400,000 and said the equipment inside was worth about $152,000. At the time, Lin asked for $1.2 million for the property, and the city was never able to reach a deal with Lin.
Nold said there are no plans currently to impose eminent domain, but the city would use it if necessary.
“Nothing's ruled out,” Nold said. “I hope it doesn't go to that point, and right now it's not planned to go to that point. Right now, we're going to try to negotiate and come up with a solution that's amenable to everybody.”
The resolution determines that it is necessary for the city to acquire the property "for redevelopment opportunities, elimination of blight and other benefits on behalf of the city of Oconomowoc."
"The city of Oconomowoc will acquire (the property) by condemnation ... if necessary," the resolution said.
The city acquired the other properties that are now part of Village Green through a land-swap deal in 2013 with developer Bob Felker. Lin has been the lone property owner to hold out from selling his property to the city, but now the mayor is determined to finish the park project that gives views and access to the lakefront.
“Nobody likes to do eminent domain,” Nold said. “I think we just want to go through the process and see what we can come up with.”