October 2, 2008

Oak Creek Seeks to Purchase MMSD Land 255 Acres on City’s South Side Could Cost $7 Million


Oak Creek officials want to jump-start development of 255 acres of open space on the city's south side by acquiring the property early next year from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District at a cost of $7 million, city attorney Lawrence Haskin said.

MMSD amassed the property in 1986 for a proposed sewage sludge landfill that was never built, and the district has rented most of the land to farmers since that time.

Private developers have approached the city about future uses for the property, southwest of the intersection of Oakwood Road and S. Howell Ave., and Oak Creek might be able to sell much of the parcel within six months of closing with MMSD, Haskin said. He declined to identify the developers.

If the sale goes through, Haskin said, Oak Creek will achieve two long-held goals for the property: preventing its use as a sludge landfill and getting most of the valuable land back on the city's tax rolls.

The city is offering to pay an average of $27,451 an acre for the land west of the Oak Hills Golf Course and east of the Canadian Pacific Railway line. An undeveloped city park is in the middle of the block.

The Oak Creek-Franklin School District has its eye on at least 50 acres of the MMSD property along Oakwood Road for use as a future school, district superintendent Sara Larsen said.

"We know we're a growing district, and we need to secure land now for our future needs," Larsen said. "It's tough to find land in the city."

Four years ago, the School District offered to buy 50 acres from MMSD. But the city stepped in to assert its legal option to be the first in line to acquire any portion of the property, and the School District's offer was put on hold, Larsen said.

Oak Creek will not block the School District from eventually buying a portion of MMSD's property, both Larsen and Haskin said.

In a lawsuit filed in November, the city asked a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge to rule that Oak Creek had a right of first refusal on any future sale of the property based on a 1988 agreement. City purchase of the land from MMSD would settle the lawsuit, Haskin said.

MMSD paid a total of $1.2 million in 1986 to acquire the land from nine separate private owners, sewerage district real estate agent Dennis Stefanik said.

Development value of the property has increased significantly since that time because the city has extended both sewer and water service to the area, Stefanik said.

MMSD intends to place a conservation easement on a wooded 34.3- acre strip along the southwest edge of the property if the land is sold, Stefanik said. The easement would restrict future development of just those acres, which are adjacent to a drainage ditch and the rail line.

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