The Merrill Common Council last Tuesday passed a resolution accepting the former Anson & Gilkey property for redevelopment purposes. Development & Leasing Corp. (D&L) donated the riverfront property to the River District Development Foundation of Merrill for future construction of a hiking and biking trail.
Because the foundation can’t own property, the foundation transferred ownership of the land to the city.  The foundation retains an easement along the river for the trail and the balance of the property will be marketed by the city for redevelopment.
The 15-acre property is located at the south end of Kyes Street, east of the Center Avenue bridge. Foundation president Gene Bebel has said the group has no immediate plans to construct the trial in that direction, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to secure an easement through that property. 
The city will clear all remaining buildings from the property. Private donors have come forward to fund that work. 
The city had placed demolition orders on several buildings on the property, and D&L has already removed some of the buildings by deconstruction and salvage of timber and other useful items. They have also handled asbestos abatement and removed a small area of contaminated soil. The city is getting a property with a clean bill of environmental health, Bebel said.
By taking ownership of the property, the city loses about $6,000 per year in tax revenue. To make that up, the city and the foundation will be splitting the $12,000 annual rent generated by a cell phone transmitter located on the D&L property. 
The city will be marketing the property for redevelopment. When the property sells, proceeds from the sale will go to the foundation for future construction and maintenance of the trail. The foundation would also get a greater portion or all of the cell tower revenue.
The council also granted a rezoning request to the owners of the Fox Point building at 1905 E. 14th St. from Industrial to Thoroughfare Commercial. The rezoning opens the property to the potential of more non-industrial uses.
Under the city’s zoning ordinance, a thoroughfare commercial designation allows for a wide variety of retail, amusement, motel and light industrial uses. In the application for rezoning, the building’s owners noted that the property may be out of place for its current zoning designation. The Fox Point property is surrounded by churches to the south and west, and Merrill High School to the east.
Following the rezoning, the council also granted a conditional use permit to allow the rental of 1,500 square feet of the 55,000-square-foot facility to a church organization. Churches are allowed as a conditional use in a Thoroughfare Commercial district.