Janesville City Council OK business-friendly initiatives

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Marcia Nelesen
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

JANESVILLE--In two business-friendly votes Monday, the Janesville City Council agreed to buy property to help SHINE Medical Technologies build a proposed medical isotope plant, and to extend Todd Drive to increase rail service to industrial land.

SHINE said it needs the two parcels, which total about 8 acres, to satisfy a federal buffering requirement for the $85-million plant the company plans to build on Highway 51 across from the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.

The city's acquisition and carrying costs would be about $150,000, which SHINE would repay when it occupies the plant.

In March 2012, SHINE signed options to buy the parcels, but the options expire at the end of this year.

SHINE is asking the city to buy the two parcels on its behalf so it can keep its financial position more liquid in the early stages of both the project and the company's capital campaign.

Company officials fear the land costs will increase if the options aren't exercised by the deadline, according to city staff.

If the plant is not built, the city would retain ownership of the two parcels and market them for industrial development.

By the time the plant opens, SHINE officials have estimated that construction, equipment and regulatory costs will hit $180 million.

The vote was 6-1 to buy the land, with Councilman Jim Farrell casting the lone “no” vote.

The council also unanimously directed staff to build an at-grade rail crossing at Todd Drive so it can be extended south to intersect with Freedom Lane.

The extension would make 350 acres of land available for industrial development that would potentially be served by rail on Janesville's south side, said Al Hulick, economic development coordinator.

The city has few, if any, rail-served industrial sites available for development.

Staff receives several inquires each year for rail-served industrial sites, and Janesville is often dismissed because of its inability to meet the requirement, Hulick said.

The extension and the potential extension of rail service will better position Janesville to compete on a regional and national level for large-scale industrial and distribution development, Hulick said.

The city must petition the state Office of the Commissioner of Railroads to establish the urban at-grade crossing.

The approval process typically takes about four months, but Hulick said he would try to expedite approval. Staff also must design the intersection.

Councilman Doug Marklein said the crossing is smart because it is infill development that does not use up good farmland and that it also encourages industrial development.

The council also accepted a staff recommendation that gives corner lot owners in R2 neighborhoods greater flexibility in building privacy fences. Homeowners can ask for exceptions to the ordinance at a cost of $200.

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