Some business have expressed interest in expanding to area of new industrial park where old municipal airport is currently located

WILLMAR -- A city official says discussions have been held with several local businesses interested in expanding or building in the eastern portion of the new industrial park being planned at the old airport site.

WILLMAR -- A city official says discussions have been held with several local businesses interested in expanding or building in the eastern portion of the new industrial park being planned at the old airport site.

"There's a potential for some significant development in that part of the park by existing businesses,'' said Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services for the city of Willmar.

"We've also dealt with a couple of companies that have expressed interest in building new in the park, but they would be at a different portion of the park,'' said Peterson. He updated the City Council's Community Development Committee Thursday on industrial park development plans.

The committee approved Peterson's recommendation to request proposals from real estate agents to help the city market and provide transactional services during the development process.

Peterson said he and his staff do not have real estate licenses to sell property.


"Let's take advantage of the expertise that's out there and market the property and get it producing,'' he said.

Peterson said Bonnema Surveys of Willmar has prepared a boundary survey of the 600-acre site and is preparing a preliminary plat that will show locations of proposed streets and lots. Peterson is recommending a final plat of the eastern portion of the property be prepared because it's the area where construction of initial roads and utilities is most feasible.

Demolition of hangars, runway and taxiways, and construction of infrastructure, will take place after the platting is done.

"Once it's platted and we know where the infrastructure is, then we'll go to final design and bid and construct it,'' he said. "Before we do that, we'll get in there and have specifications for demo and get the old runway and taxiway and hangars cleaned up.''

He said preliminary planning is pretty much on schedule, but business interest is greater than expected.

"We've had more interest expressed in developing and redeveloping portions of the former airport than I ever dreamed would happen this fast,'' he said in an interview.

"I feel very fortunate that the city's poised to be involved in these projects, and I think the public's going to be very impressed if the develop occurs as proposed and predicted.''

The demolition and infrastructure will be funded with proceeds raised by the half-cent local option sales tax, which voters endorsed in November 2004 and which went into effect at the start of 2006.


The new airport west of the city opened Sept. 5 and old airport closed in mid-September.

In other business, the committee received a report on the city's inspection of a rundown house at 409 Litchfield Ave. S.E. The house was used as a four-plex apartment. Neighboring homeowners had complained to the council about the house's unsightly condition.

At the Nov. 6 meeting, the council voted to pursue corrective action against the house under the building code's hazardous buildings' section. The code considers a building unsafe if it is structurally unsafe, does not have adequate egress, is a fire hazard or otherwise is dangerous to human life.

Among the problems cited by the Building Inspections Department, the house has missing windows, siding and screens; lacks exterior maintenance; has sewer problems including human waste on the basement floor and walls; and has mold and fungus on the basement walls, electrical violations, and leaking plumbing fixtures.

Building Official Randy Kardell recommended an ordinance that would require "these types of properties'' to be brought in compliance with the most current codes before an exchange of ownership takes place. He said such an ordinance would discourage he "slumlord'' type property owners and encourage these properties to become owner-occupied.

However, such an ordinance would not be constitutional, according to City Attorney Richard Ronning, unless it applies to all sales and not just selected sales, Peterson said.

He said the health and safety concerns have been addressed because the house is no longer occupied, and the entrances have been boarded up.

But because the property is in tax forfeiture status, there is no identifiable owner the city can pursue to make the repairs or demolish the property. As a result, the committee decided to wait until the property would be purchased out of tax forfeiture after the one-year redemption period and deal with the future owner.


"We think we're in a position where we've achieved about the best result we can short-term, given the tax forfeiture status of the property,'' Peterson said.

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