Little Chute board mulls land-takeover issue: Appleton WI Post-Crescent, 9/17/07

By J. E. Espino

Peter Van Groll refuses to sell housing developers 12 acres of land [in Little Chute WI] his family has held for 62 years.

The only offer he plans to accept is one that would involve the purchase of all 160 acres, if developers want to take note.

"We're not ready to sell," Van Groll said.

The decision, however, may be out of his hands.

Erickson Construction & Development is asking the village to use its eminent domain powers to seize a strip of Van Groll's land that abuts Appleton and stretches a half-mile to Evergreen Drive.

A government body exercises eminent domain to take private property for public use.

Village trustees meet Wednesday to take action on the matter. The board meets at 6 p.m. at the Village Hall, 108 W. Main St.

"There is a greater good here," said Derek Erickson, whose offices are based in the Green Bay area.

"I know that eminent domain is not a pretty (term), but if a person takes time to understand the value to the village, it makes all the sense in the world."

Until officials annexed 26 acres of Van Groll's property into the village just over a year ago, all the land was in the Town of Vandenbroek.

Erickson says his company needs that land to access some 29 undeveloped acres directly north it proposes to buy from Northern Solutions for a housing project that could create a $27 million tax base for the village once it is fully developed.

"Appleton's all built out. There's nowhere else to go. I think it makes sense to spill over into Little Chute," Erickson said. "There's no reason why Little Chute shouldn't be able to capitalize on the fact that Appleton is a growing community."

The project, west of Holland Road, between Outagamie County JJ and Evergreen Drive, would be built in phases. The village does not have any subdivisions open for development, said Village Administrator Chuck Kell.

Persuading village trustees to use eminent domain could be difficult.

"Eminent domain is awfully extreme in this case, in that when you look at that map, there's absolutely no development there," said Trustee Janet Verstegen. "It's not like the public need is there."

Plans submitted to the village show in the first phase 18 condominiums at $130,000 to $175,000 each, three houses at $185,000, three twin duplexes at $165,000 each and five single-family lots.

Erickson also says the village should begin to recoup some of the costs of more than $500,000 for a pipeline the village installed on Evergreen Drive in 2005 to encourage development.

Van Groll, a former Vandenbroek town chairman, leases some 95 acres of land to Shade Today Nursery. The rest is used for corn and bean crops.

"If they are going to put a road in, it's got to be put in the right spot (so everyone) gets full benefit out of it, not because they want it," Van Groll said.

Appleton WI Post-Crescent: http://www.postcrescent.com