By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

Undeveloped land within the Whitewater business and technology parks again will be temporarily repurposed for farming, based on a recent plan in motion.

The board of directors on the Whitewater Community Development Authority on Feb. 28 approved a bid submitted by Milton-based farmers Timothy and Rachel Keil to lease the land.

Terms of the transaction state the Keils can farm on 113 acres of the as-yet unused land east of Highway 59. CDA officials anticipate the land eventually being developed as the parks continue to grow.

In January, the CDA board gave Executive Director Dave Carlson the green light to initiate a bidding process for the land for the 2019 warm-weathered growing season. At the Feb. 28 meeting, Carlson reported the Keils were the sole bidders.

The Keils’ bid of $175 per acre pegs their lease agreement at $19,775.

“As young farmers, we are looking to grow our farming operation for the future, as we have a son and another baby on the way,” the Keils wrote in a letter to the CDA. “It is our dream for our family to live and cherish the farming lifestyle.”

The Keils revealed in their letter that they have been farming for about three years and are still honing their skills.

“We will care for the land by maintaining fertility and using conservation practices,” they wrote. “We would be extremely grateful if you would consider partnering with a young family farm.”

For his part, Carlson said he was presenting the Keils’ bid to the CDA with a hearty recommendation.

“It just seems like a good, solid bid with local farming,” Carlson said.

Prior to accepting the bid, CDA board member Bruce Parker asked whether an additional 10-acre site that had been earmarked for DP Electronics also should be made available.

There is a possibility the DP site will be developed this growing season, though Carlson said at the Feb. 28 meeting the prospect remains up in the air.

“It may very well be developed this year,” Carlson said. “It just didn’t make sense to put it in there and then pay damages for crops.”

Carlson said in his introductory remarks about the proposal that he would like the DP site used for several reasons, including “to keep the weeds down.”

Several board members suggested offering up the DP land to the Keils for an additional price, with the potential development caveat thrown into the mix.

But council member Chris Grady said the exclusivity to the Keils could bring unintended consequences.

“I don’t think it’s fair to not put that out to bid again,” Grady said. “You might wind up with some complaints being filed because some sweetheart deals were offered.”

While plans for the 113 acres the Keils bid on are solidified, plans call for Carlson and the CDA to further discuss leasing the DP land when the board meets again late this month.

“We’ve got time,” Carlson said, noting winter’s prolonged state. “Nothing’s going to get planted right now.”

 
 

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