Village takes step to buy former Clark station site

Board asks Ozaukee County to forgive delinquent taxes on downtown property so that land can be acquired, cleaned

THE FORMER CLARK gas station in downtown Grafton has been vacant since June 2016. The village is asking Ozaukee County to waive $27,940 in back taxes so that it can purchase the property for redevelopment. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

The Village of Grafton is seeking a waiver from the Ozaukee County Board for several years of delinquent taxes owed on the former Clark gas station site downtown.

The Village Board on Monday discussed in closed session a resolution requesting the county to forgive $27,940 in back taxes on the property at 1020 Washington St. The board unanimously approved the resolution in open session.

“This is the first step in the village’s effort to potentially take control of the property for cleanup and redevelopment purposes,” Village Administrator Jesse Thyes said, noting the county is in the process of foreclosing the property.

Thyes said the village wants to minimize the cost for taxpayers to gain control of the property. 

“We understand the priority is to get that abandoned building cleaned up because it’s right on our main street. We want to make sure we are doing it cost efficiently,” he said. 

In June 2016, the gas station closed its doors because the underground gasoline storage tanks had expired.

Since then, the property has become an eyesore because the grounds have not been maintained.

In March 2017, village crews removed garbage and secured the gasoline pumps to protect the public’s health and safety, Thyes said.

In November 2018, Ozaukee County Circuit Court approved a plan to have the Department of Natural Resources clean the site and remove the tanks. During the cleanup, the DNR discovered the site was contaminated, however, its inspectors did not follow proper procedures when conducting the test, officials decided.

“The testing results are informal in nature because the DNR didn’t follow protocol,” Thyes said. “It will have to be tested again before any development.”

The property is owned by Lakeland Real Estate Investments LLC.

“What binds our hands in this situation is that it’s still privately owned property. Unless there is a public health, public safety or public nuisance issue, we cannot enter that property,” Thyes said.

“In essence, we’re stuck.”

Thyes said the foreclosure process could take several months before the County Board makes a decision. 

“The foreclosure process lies entirely with the county. I know those are lengthy because there are, by law, required notices and time frames associated with the foreclosure process,” Thyes said.

Depending on the outcome of the foreclosure process, Thyes said, the village plans to remove the signage and raze the building.

“We don’t want to have an unsightly building,” he said. “We would like to see some redevelopment there, but that is far down the road.”   

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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