Ramsey sets process for acquiring Wise property

by Tammy Sakry
Staff Writer

With a couple of future road projects planned for two areas of Armstrong Boulevard, the Ramsey City Council is starting to set up the process of acquiring three land parcels.

As one of the parcels, which includes a building and the business, Wiser Choice Liquor, is owned by Councilmember Jeff Wise, “this process is sensitive and we want to make sure everyone understands what we are doing,” said Mayor Bob Ramsey during the Feb. 14 discussion.

Wise recused himself from the discussion and vote.

A resolution unanimously adopted by the rest of council Feb. 14 publicly sets up the negotiation parameters for the three impacted parcels on the west side of Armstrong Boulevard.

This resolution only authorizes the negotiation, it does not set the cost or approve the acquisition, Ramsey said.

The city used an independent appraiser to determine the value of the building and land, and will use an independent consultant for the negotiations.

Councilmember David Elvig said he is in favor of being transparent and it is prudent to have this document, but he has concerns on some of the wording.

He is not sure that stating the acquisition of Wise’s property is critical to both the Highway 10/Armstrong Boulevard interchange as well as the Sunwood realignment is true, he said.

There has to be something in the agreement that allows the city to only buy what is needed, Elvig said.

While engineering options are still being explored to minimize the impact on surrounding properties, purchasing the entire parcel will be beneficial to both the interchange and the realignment projects, said Public Works Director Brian Olson.

“It is necessary,” he said.

The entire property will be required for the interchange project, Deputy City Administration Heidi Nelson said.

Were the city to acquire the Wise property, known as M&W Holdings, LLS, the city would be responsible for finding the business a new, comparable location and getting it set up again for operation, said City Attorney Bill Goodrich.

“It could cost more than the appraised amount,” he said.

He also does not understand the urgency, Elvig said.

The situation is the city has a willing buyer who wants to relocate to somewhere in The COR, which could mitigate some of the cost to the city if a land swap can be arranged, Ramsey said.

Without having the numbers on the costs and the impacts, “I feel like (the council) is being handcuffed by putting it into the resolution,” said Elvig of the resolution stating of the parcels being critical to the road projects.

The city also has no funding source for the acquisition yet, he said.

There needs to be a way to pay for it and the city should only acquire what it needs for the road projects, Councilmember Sarah Strommen said.

Before making a decision, the council needs to look hard at the numbers and what will be impacted by the longer-term projects, she said.

This is just the start of the process, said Ramsey.

“If we don’t have the money, we can’t write the check,” he said.

When the approximately $32 million Armstrong Boulevard/Highway 10 interchange project is done in the future, there will be a local match for a sixth of the project that the city will need to contribute to and the cost of the acquisitions will be considered part of that, said City Administrator Kurt Ulrich.

Staff is still reviewing funding options and expect to bring them to the council Feb. 28, said Nelson.

Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]