By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

Will Whitewater land a new full-service grocer at some point in the foreseeable future?

Dave Carlson, executive director of the city’s Community Development Authority, expressed optimism about the oft-discussed question when he gave a routine report to members of the appointed body at a monthly meeting March 28.

“I think substantial progress has been made over the past several months in terms of considering a deal,” Carlson said as he updated the CDA’s board.

“I think we’re closing in,” Carlson added. “I can’t guarantee we’re gong to have a deal, but it feels to me like we’re getting a lot closer, and things are getting more serious. There certainly is an effort being made that is leading to some possibilities.”

City officials have been in pursuit of landing a traditional full-service grocer since local businessman Terry Daniels closed his Sentry store at 1260 W. Main St. in late 2015.

Wal-Mart, which operates a big box store adjacent to the former Sentry, offers a limited assortment of groceries. Efforts for a new store, Whitewater Grocery Co., under a co-op model also continue.

But the CDA and other city officials have maintained a stance Whitewater should be able to support a traditional full-service grocer similar to the defunct Sentry operation within the community.

Carlson, who read from a prepared memo at last week’s CDA meeting, said city-owned land could be an important lynchpin in bringing the project to fruition.

“Active discussions are continuing on three separate and distinct proposals, which would include a grocery store — either as a stand-alone project, or as part of a multiuse project,” Carlson said.

Carlson said the city has three confirmed undisclosed leads for a potential grocer. A possible fourth developer also could be in the mix, based on tentative conversations shortly before the recent CDA meeting, Carlson said.

Of the three confirmed prospects, Carlson said, “Two of these leads are looking at city-owned property at the east side roundabout location. The third is looking at privately owned land on the west side.”

One issue that was discussed briefly, in vague terms, was the asking price for the city-owned properties.

Some of the conversation has taken place behind closed doors, in executive session, because the matter deals with negotiations. State statute gives governing bodies the authority to hold meetings outside the public lens in narrow circumstances.

Speaking in generalities, Carlson said the sale price of city-owned property, while important, is just one piece of a much larger puzzle.

“The answer is, make an offer, and we can go from there,” Carlson said. “Serious interest in doing something is what is critical.”

Moving forward, plans call for Carlson providing the CDA with regular monthly updates on the grocery store recruitment effort.

In other business

In other business March 28, the CDA approved an amendment to a crop lease agreement at the Whitewater Business and Technology parks.

In February, the CDA approved a plan to have Milton-based farmers Timothy and Rachel Keil lease 113 acres of land earmarked for future development during the 2019 growing season.

The amended agreement gives the Keils the authority to also farm on additional land that had been considered for DP Electronics. The Keils will pay the CDA $1,326.50 to farm on the DP site, which is on top of the previous $19,775 lease price.

 
 

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