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Merickel requests lift of Hwy. 10 moratorium

Jim Merickel of Merickel Lumber approached the Wadena City Council May 10 to request a variance on the moratorium against building in areas of the U.S. Highway 10 tornado damage zone. The moratorium expires Sept. 13 and cannot be extended again.

The council decided not to take action until they could get counsel from city attorney Jeff Pederson.

"What I would like to talk to you about is an opportunity to bring another business into Wadena that would, in tune, benefit Merickel Lumber," Merickel said. "He's currently in business in the Verndale area."

He said he wanted to put buildings on the Express Central property which was damaged by the tornado.

"The units would be movable. They're not going to be permanent," he said, adding that there would need to be sewer, water and electricity, however.

"I'm currently paying taxes on that bare land, and I need ways to generate revenue to help pay those taxes," Merickel said.

"What would you do if MnDOT suddenly came to life and decided to put the other four lanes through there?" council member Jeanette Baymler said.

Merickel responded that he would move the business if that was the case, and pointed out that after decades of talk on expanding U.S. Highway 10, it hadn't happened yet.

Mayor Wayne Wolden said that after the 2010 election, the U.S. Highway 10 project was not moving along as they were hoping, but legislators were working on it.

Merickel said that he had spoken to MnDOT in Detroit Lakes and even if they had the funding, they would need a willing seller. He said he had received a letter asking if he would be a willing seller, and he had said yes on the model homes and property. He said that however, when he asked for advice in person, he was told to do business just like he had in 1980.

"You can purchase and hold land, but you still have to bond and fund an entire four-lane highway through Wadena," he said.

He said the property could become an eyesore and the city might lose the opportunity for tax revenue on the model homes and for job creation.

City administrator Brad Swenson said that MnDOT would need to come up with the money to buy land along the highway, but if the land was built on, the property values would go up.

Wolden said that when U.S. Congressman Chip Cravaack and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar visited Wadena, they said the U.S. Highway 10 project made sense.

"Will there ever be a Highway 10 expansion? I don't know," he said.

"Even if you get the $750,000, because of what would happen if I sold and had to lease back and I would be without model homes across from Merickel's, I'm not selling," he said.

Niles asked Merickel what would happen if he couldn't build until September, and Merickel replied that the potential business owner might or might not wait because he was looking at other towns.

"I have no intentions of selling that until they have a project," Merickel said. "There's no benefit in selling to these people when it's going to sit bare for 15, 20 years - potentially could."

Council member Jeanette Baymler said there was eminent domain law if a project was going to go through.

She asked if the business was Verndale Custom Homes, and Merickel said it wasn't.

City administrator Brad Swenson said they could consider repealing the ordinance.

The council decided they could see what the city attorney Jeff Pederson would say, and said they could get Merickel on the agenda of a special meeting before the next regular meeting.