Beloit OKs $1.87 million land deal for Ho-Chunk casino project

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Frank Schultz
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

— A deal that will enhance the proposed Beloit casino project and bring cash to city coffers was approved Monday by the Beloit City Council.

The council discussed the sale of city land to the developer, the Ho-Chunk Nation, for about an hour behind closed doors before opening the meeting and voting unanimously without public discussion.

The nation is buying the 41.5 acres on a land contract for $1.87 million.

The nation’s Legislature still needs to approve the deal at its meeting tonight, a representative said.

The land is next to 32 acres the nation already owns at Willowbrook and Colley Roads just off Interstate 90/39 near the state line. The tribe holds the 32 acres in trust and plans to build a casino, hotel and convention center there.

The nation is waiting for approval of the project, for which it applied late last spring, from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Approval could take another 18 months or more, according to a statement the nation released Friday.

Rep. John Holst of the Ho-Chunk Legislature addressed the council briefly before the vote, saying the new purchase is “essential” to the casino project.

The land would not be put into a trust, as the original 32 acres is, Holst said.

Keeping the land out of trust status makes it subject to all zoning and taxation, like any other commercial property in Beloit, according to the Ho-Chunk statement.

Controlling the land “allows us to move forward in future ventures,” Holst said.

Holst said after the meeting that the land would be used for parking, and at some future time it might also host retail development.

“Not having the land would place considerable restraints on the project,” according to the Ho-Chunk statement, but regardless of what happens with the sale, “the Nation remains committed to delivering on the expectations of this project.”

The sale calls for a 10 percent down payment and monthly payments of about $10,000 for 10 years, Beloit City Manager Larry Arft said before Monday’s meeting. Terms include a balloon payment in the 10th year, he said.

Arft said both sides hope the casino will be approved and the land contract paid off before its 10-year term runs out.

But casino or not, the tribe is buying the land, Arft said.

Owning the adjoining land could help the tribe in the application process, Arft said, but it’s hard to say how much.

The city has never sold a parcel for so much money, about $45,000 an acre, Arft said. Arft said the city bought the land in the 1980s for $152,000.

If the Bureau of Indian Affairs approves the casino, the governor would have the final say. Arft said Gov. Scott Walker has made no commitment one way or the other.

Last updated: 8:09 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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