SHINE project still uncertain
“I would say there are still unanswered questions on both sides,” City Manager Eric Levitt said Tuesday.
The city is interested in the company and bringing jobs to the community, but it wants to protect taxpayers, Levitt said.
“On the positive side, I have a lot of respect for the management of SHINE. At the same time, the city council has to make sure to protect the interests of the city of Janesville,” he said.
The council is scheduled to consider a developer’s agreement at a special meeting Thursday, Dec. 22. An option to buy the land expires Dec. 31.
Negotiations with SHINE continue, and Levitt said benchmarks must be reached before city incentives go forward.
Protecting taxpayers is critical, he said.
“Hopefully, negotiations will go well, and we’ll have something for the council to look at,” Levitt said. “We have no assurance at this point.”
SHINE is a medical isotope manufacturer that could bring 100 or more high paying jobs to Janesville.
The cost of the land, located across Highway 51 from the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport, is about $1.5 million. The 84-acre parcel abuts the 224-acre Tax Increment Financing District 35. If acquired, it would be folded into the TIF district.
The council voted 5-1 to buy the land if a development agreement is reached.
Council members Russ Steeber and Yuri Rashkin supported buying the land regardless of an agreement with SHINE.
Vic Grassman, economic development director, said the land is desirable because of its proximity to the Interstate. He said the council could “bank” it for future growth.
“Right now, we have a willing seller, and I think that should be considered,” Grassman said.
Nobody knows what the price might be in the future or even if the land would be available, he said.
Steeber said he saw the value of owning the land regardless of whether SHINE locates here.
“The biggest question is, what would the property cost two years from now, five years from now, even six months from now when that option expires?” he asked.
But other council members were more cautious, and Kathy Voskuil made the motion to tie the purchase to a signed development agreement.
Council member Deb Dongarra-Adams said she is willing to gamble on a price if the city needs the land in the future.
Councilman Tom McDonald agreed that jobs are a top priority but questioned the cost of lost farmland.
“I just can’t support the city of Janesville continuing to pave over farmland year after year,” he said.
If the city does not have a brownfield site available for SHINE, perhaps another nearby city has other, less fertile farmland that could be used, McDonald said.
McDonald was the lone council member to vote against the motion to buy the land even if a developer’s agreement is signed.