BELOIT, Wis. - The Beloit City Council voted Monday to approve a proposal to sell 41.5 acres of city property to the Ho-Chunk Nation for development of a casino.
The city and the Ho-Chunk Nation have negotiated a price of $1.87 million for the land that's connected to land it already owns. The nation will pay a down payment of $187,195 followed by monthly payments for 20 years at a 4 percent interest rate.
The Ho-Chunk Nation already owned 32 acres in the area near Interstate 39-90 the state line where it plans to build a casino and convention center. The nation's application for a casino is being reviewed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Most of the 41.5 acres being sold was purchased by the city in 1982 with money from the city's sewer fund for the purpose of using the land for possible sewage sludge disposal. The city then offered an option to purchase most of the land to the Bad River and St. Croix Chippewa. The tribe's casino application was denied by federal officials in 2009.
The sewage fund will be reimbursed with money from the land sale. The rest of the proceeds will be used for debt service for TIF expenses to support the casino project.
The council met in a special session Monday evening and unanimously approved the sale.
"The land sale is a relatively minor item," said Beloit City Manager Larry Arft. "Although at $45,000 an acre, that's considerably more money than we've ever received for vacant land."
The casino itself is still years away, but the city said construction projects would be valued at $100 million, with more than 2,000 permanent jobs up for grabs.
The economic boost still doesn't sit well with Pat Ward, a seven-year resident of Springbrook Village mobile home park, which is adjacent to the property being purchased by the Ho-Chunk Nation.
Ward believes the casino would eventually force her hand.
"We have heard, 'Oh they'll come in and buy you out.' Or, 'We will move you.' But we have not heard where we're going to move, when this is going to take place, and a lot of us are wanting answers," Ward said.
"They're not on the casino site. They're away from the casino, so there's no plan they're aware of at this point in time to acquire the mobile home park," Arft said.
While the city said the mobile home park's residents are there to stay, Ward said her luck may change at any stage of development.
"I'm gambling right now and staying here when I'm hearing all of this," Ward said. "But what can you do?"
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