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Willmar, Minn., mayor delays signing Torgerson resolution until abatement policy is on committee agenda

WILLMAR — Willmar Mayor Frank Yanish says he’s withholding his signature from the Torgerson Properties tax abatement resolution until he sees if a City Council committee will be discussing development of a tax abatement policy.

Yanish said Tuesday he is withholding his signature “because I want to see what the policy is. I’ll sign it, no doubt. Without a doubt I’ll sign it. But the fact of the matter is I would like to have some kind of a policy and this is the only way I can see that we can get that done.’’

The mayor decided to withhold his signature from the resolution approved 6-1 by the council Monday under which Torgerson Properties will receive a 10-year property tax abatement in an amount not to exceed $189,750 for the company’s $12 million hotel and conference center renovation.

The mayor said his concern for a tax abatement policy is similar to requests made by council member Steve Ahmann for city staff to develop a tax abatement policy.

Yanish said he would like to have a policy the next time a developer comes forward with an abatement request.

“Obviously we can’t do anything about this one, but for the next one so that we have something to go back on and look at,’’ he said.

The Tribune asked Yanish if he thought that having a policy would have resulted in a different outcome than what happened Monday night.

Yanish said he emailed the mayor of Shakopee about that city’s abatement policy.

Yanish said he read a newspaper account of a tax abatement discussion in that city.

The Shakopee mayor replied his city requires developers to pay wages of 200 percent of the minimum wage in order to qualify for an abatement.

Yanish was asked if he has suggestions for any particular abatement qualifications.

“No. I would like to see what they come up with and then take a look at it and they would either approve it or not approve it or send it on to the council,’’ he said.

The resolution was among resolutions and documents given by City Clerk Kevin Halliday to Yanish to sign after the council adjourned. Halliday’s past practice has been to give council-approved resolutions to the mayor to sign after the meeting adjourns.

During discussion Monday, council member Rick Fagerlie said the Community Development Committee, which he chairs, will discuss the policy at the April 25 meeting.

Yanish said he wants to see policy discussion stated on the committee’s agenda before he signs the resolution. After he sees it, then he’ll sign it.

“If somebody says that they’re going to do a policy on it or come up with a policy, I’ll take their word for it that they’re going to come up with a policy,’’ the mayor said. “I don’t want to delay it. I do believe in the project that they’re thinking of. I just want to force the issue a little bit.’’

Halliday said committee agendas are mailed to council members Thursday or Friday.

Yanish was asked if withholding his signature was unusual. Yanish said he’s done it before on certain items. Yanish said his decision was not a veto of the resolution.

Torgerson Properties Senior Vice President Kathy Aamot said Tuesday the company is pleased with the council’s vote and looks forward to moving ahead on the project.

She said the company had no opinion on the mayor’s decision to delay signing the resolution. Aamot doubted the delay would have any effect on the project.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150