By Kylie Balk-Yaatenen - April 2nd 2024



The company that owns the sprawling former General Motors site on Janesville’s southside says it was “surprised” by the city’s February decision to move forward with possible condemnation and acquisition of 250 acres that includes the former GM and adjacent JATCO properties and five smaller surrounding properties.

The GM/JATCO property was purchased in 2017 by Commercial Development Company, which specializes in brownfield redevelopment. The five smaller properties have other private owners.

In a statement sent to local news agencies, Commercial Development Company, owned by Jaines LLC, said it was “surprised to read in the newspaper that the city of Janesville may try to condemn and forcibly acquire our site at 1000 General Motors Drive.”

“We have not yet received a written notice from the city. When we left a message at City Hall to discuss the news, we received an email to direct our questions to the city’s attorney in Milwaukee,” CDC’s statement said.

Nick Faust, assistant to Janesville City Manager Kevin Lahner, said Monday that state statute dictates the process the city is following toward condemnation and acquisition of the property.

“The city can’t legally have contact and that can probably lead to misunderstanding which is unfortunate, but we are following the legal process outlined by our hired attorney,” Faust said.

Faust said the city hopes to complete an appraisal process by fall of this year, a first step toward condemnation and acquisition.

CDC’s statement went on to say that:

• Over the past 35 years CDC has acquired more than 300 sites in 38 states and in Canada including five GM facilities. It said that in those years no city has ever condemned or “forced the sale of a site” it owned.

• CDC has worked “productively” since 2018 with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on a state-required remediation and redevelopment program for the GM property. “We acquired all necessary local and state permits to demolish the former assembly plant and dredge the Rock River,” the statement said. The DNR issued closure reports on the northern part of the site in 2020 and 2022 and on the southern part of the site in 1999, 2013 and 2017. In a December 2022 letter to the city of Janesville, Madison engineering consultant Ayres Associates confirmed that all the DNR requirements had been met.

• Jaines LLC spent $40,000 on a year-long planning study that included public hearings, to re-envision the former GM site as Centennial Industrial Park, at the city’s request. The Centennial Industrial Park plan was approved the Janesville Plan Commission in December 2019. The City of Janesville later adopted an “overlay” zoning district that gave the city more extensive review authority. This move by the city, the company says, made it extremely difficult for prospective buyers and tenants to secure necessary approvals.

• The company says it received at least eight purchase or lease offers, that ultimately did not go forward. “We successfully sold two small parcels to local developers, but larger prospective buyers who often worked for months to secure city approvals withdrew their offers, often in frustration due to slow and burdensome city requirements.”

The city recently created a new tax incremental finance district that encompasses the seven parcels.

Lahner and Jimsi Kuborn, the city’s economic development director, told the Gazette in February that the city doesn’t expect Commercial Development Company to move forward with any more cleanup.

Lahner and Kuborn said it’s been at least three years since the city has seen any meaningful cleanup effort on the site. They said neither does it appear that the company has any other buyers lined up, if its intent is to resell it.

“They [CDC] still have several DNR violations on the site, that there’s been no significant progress and the prospects that they brought to the city have been less than spectacular,” Lahner said in February. “With that track record, and the fact that the site continues to have been in a state of disrepair, this is the best option that the city has to move forward.”

Lahner said in February that it was not an option to leave the site as is and that the city needed to intervene.

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