Meissner to Downsize Farm If Business Park is Approved

With Sussex’s latest business park on the fast track, Pete Meissner says he’ll pull his 600 head of cattle from Sussex if the deal is approved.

It has been a heated battle between the Village of Sussex and Sussex farmer Pete Meissner over plans to construct , but the situation has just reached new heights.

The 120 acres of farmland being evaluated for the new corporate center, near the corner of highways 164 and VV, was formerly owned by the Meissner family, but was sold in 2002. The family farm has continued to use the land after its sale, and Meissner says its essential to his cattle business in Sussex.

“If Sussex buys that ground and we’re left with 120 less acres, I don’t believe we’ll be able to maintain our farming enterprises here,” said Meissner, whose family has been farming on the site for nearly 80 years. “Once that happens, there’s no turning back. The (cattle portion of the) Meissner farm would cease to exist in Sussex.”

While Meissner says his family would still farm in Sussex, he said he’ll remove his almost 650 head of cattle from the village because he would no longer have the 120 acres to spread the manure. He currently has about 1,800 head of cattle at a farm in Iowa, and another 450 at his operations in North Prairie.

Sussex a detailed preliminary cost estimate for the proposed business park behind and , with the first phase totaling a little more than $4.6 million. A majority of that is to buy the farmland, currently owned by Johnson Bank, costing almost $2.4 million.

"...with having the village come in here and match us, I can’t beat them. I don’t think it’s fair.”

And while Meissner wouldn’t say specifically how much money his family sold the land for, he said it was less than the current asking price. Now his family wants to buy the land back to stamp out ideas for a new business park, but competition with the village is fierce.

“I’ve made a commitment that if we buy the farmland back, we’ll keep it in farming,” Meissner said. “I think the only other offer on the table is ours… We thought we offered a premium for what the farmland is worth, but with having the village come in here and match us, I can’t beat them. I don’t think it’s fair.”

In his offer to Johnson Bank, Meissner said it has provisions about selling the land to another party within 10 years. If they did so, it would result in huge monetary losses, so residents in the Sussex area can be assured he has the best intentions in mind — unlike developer MLG, according to Meissner.

The most controversial part of the potential corporate park deal is the developer’s refusal to purchase the land, instead saying that they’ll develop it if Sussex makes the purchase. Representatives with MLG said considering the current economy, it’s virtually impossible for developers to go to a bank and borrow money for land, but Meissner doesn’t believe it.

“For a developer not to buy it, it takes all the risk out of it for them,” said Meissner. “To make a blanket statement and say banks aren't loaning to developers on things like this, I don’t believe that at all.”

But Sussex’s plan to fund the purchase and development of the land using a new TIF district is leaving officials confident about the project. Under TIF district financing, the assessed value of the land is frozen for taxing purposes. As the value increases because of new development, any additional tax dollars generated from that increase go toward paying off the initial investment.

The village has done this successfully five other times, according to village officials.

Public to weigh in July 25

Similar to the public hearing held for the , the village will also hold a public hearing regarding the TIF district and farmland development on July 25 at 5:30 p.m. at .

While there are no plans for an official vote at the public hearing, there’s a possibility the group of officials could unanimously strike down the idea, similar to what happened with the idea for roundabouts.

“It’s all going to come down for a vote on July 25,” Meissner said. “I’m hoping for at least a 4-3 vote against buying the ground and putting the business park up. The public comments I’ve heard have been at least 90 percent against the park. They like the rural feel, and they don’t want a business park at every entrance to Sussex.”

Although it’s unlikely the Sussex Community Development Authority will strike down the project at the public hearing, Meissner says, for his family’s sake, he’s hoping they do.

“I’m the third generation farmer,” he said. “My grandpa Fred Meissner started here in 1935, and in 1958 my dad Dan went into partnership with him… My dad was instrumental — just a vision he had for the farm. He got to see us expand into Iowa (before passing away), and he would be against this business park.”

Joseph July 12, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Ok, so let's focus on filling the current open retail and industrial spaces.
Sparky July 12, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Joseph, again, I completely agree. A comprehensive plan to fill the current vacant spaces should also be developed. However, encouraging additional growth with only help to fill the vacancies as Sussex would have more people in the Village to help encourage and sustain those currently vacant locations.
Mike B July 12, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Everyone should be posting this to their facebook pages and asking people to come to the meeting to voice their opposition. We don't need more empty buildings in Sussex. We have plenty of those as is. And we sure don't need to spend $2-$3 million to do it.
carol jeffers July 12, 2012 at 07:08 AM
Why stores? people don't have jobs and our country is in big debt.People loosing ther houses.Where do we think we are going to get all this money? it will be vacant in a matter of time.than a eye sore.Just like it is where I live.most All the stores are closing up.it so said to see this. people just don't have the money today.
Justme July 12, 2012 at 11:49 AM
I agree, Mike. This is such a bad idea, especially with this very sick economy. MLG is a huge real estate developer and if they can't get the money from the bank then there is something terribly wrong. And if the board thinks this is a good idea, then something is terribly wrong with it! Why can't we learn from the boondoggle in Meno Falls? The taxpayers are on the hook for that one. It's NEVER a good idea for governments, big or small, to take a risk like this. This is NOT what their purpose is. http://www.jsonline.com/business/village-of-menomonee-falls-paid-radisson-hotel-employees-s15tj89-160466655.html
Joseph July 12, 2012 at 11:58 AM
I would do it, but my voice doesn't count to them as I'm Town of Lisbon. Last time I did, myself and a Sussex resident spoke against banning law abiding citizens from carrying in the public buildings. The board (both village and library) though it would be "safer" and people wouldn't "freak out." The openly admitted they cannot protect us. That really opens your eyes when they have no interest in protecting its residents.
Arnold Jung July 12, 2012 at 12:36 PM
@ Luke Sussex cannot annex your land if you live in the subdivisions West of Sussex due to the boarder agreement that the two communities have. Sussex does not need nor want your taxes because they do not need them. It is evident from recent articles posted here on patch that the fiscal health and value to the Sussex taxpayers far surpasses other local municiplities in SE Wisconsin. From what I hear Sussex finances are running solidly in the black. If you look at the recent filings from the failed incorporation battle it is evident that the village does not want to have Lisbon as a partner. Lisbon finances are a fiscal disaster and the continuing dilusions that we are a low tax solidly run community is a farce and Sussex is obviously looking to distance themselves from when that comes to light and the walls come crashing down.
Richard Head July 12, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Sounds like the farmer is SOL. He should have thought about this before selling the land in 2002. I would love to see the farm stay. We are losing all our open space and country living.
Joan July 12, 2012 at 01:18 PM
I am hoping that Pete Meissner can buy back his farm land. I'm not sure why he sold it in the first place. Sussex already has several Industrial parks that have a lot of vacancy. The unemployment rate is climbing again, homes are in foreclosure, and net incomes have fallen. With all the Industrial Parks in the surrounding communities, again with lots of vacanies, I fail to see the need for another development.
Greg July 12, 2012 at 01:45 PM
I would suggest Sussex look to other communities in the area for new requirements for development. I believe Delefield requires the developer have the infrastructure and landscaping costs in hand before the let their last development proceed. I also believe (Brookfield) required the developer have a "firm" bank financing commitment before they would approve a new project. We should not be against new development but, given the current economic climate, financial success should not be assumed, examined more closely and, act accordingly.
Bill K. July 12, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Pete Meissner is stating that they are going to downsize their farm and continue leaving the community what a shame. The Meissner family received millions of dollars from the developers Belinski when they sold their farm originally and they took a vast majority of the money and left the community. The money not only left the community it left the state. I think it is sad that Pete is standing in front of his quarter million dollar John Deere tractor threatening to leave the community if he does not get his way. I am not against Pete actively pursuing this deal to bring wealth to his family it is the American way to grab opportunities when they come. However when this additional revenue is realized those dollars will also leave the community. The Meissner family used to be a large contributor at all levels to the community and the county but now they are mostly silent. So much for being an active business in the community. Thanks for everything your family has done in the past Pete, your family helped to make this community what it is. The village by creating a commercial park is merely trying to expand its economic presence just as your family worked to do within the local and county governments years past to make this community even greater.
Justme July 12, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Can we at least wait until the current empty business spaces in Sussex are occupied BEFORE we take this (wreckless) risk? We're at a serious tipping point now with no light in sight at the end of the tunnel and the LAST thing we should do is gamble with our hard-earned money. We're running out of it. Local govts/cities/villages are currently going bankrupt now. Some have already filed for it. (Compton, CA, Scranton, PA) How long will it be before we hit the wall as a country?
Adam July 12, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Just leave the nice manicured farm land the way it is!! People like the rural feel of Sussex. I mean who thought, hey see those nice farm fields there? Let's rip them up and put in a bunch of buildings that will sit empty forever! This whole thing is just ridiculous. Don't we as citizens of Sussex want people to see the openness on the west side of Sussex and say what a nice village it is? It's a beautiful view from the top of ausblik why ruin that with more empty buildings? I encourage everyone who reads the patch to show up to the village meeting on the 25th and speak out against this development project! We don't new it in Sussex. Leave the farm the way it is
Karen July 12, 2012 at 04:52 PM
I agree, I feel bad about losing farms. However, they sold that land and continued using it as there own, so what did they expect when that "one day" now becomes today and now they have to cut back?? I don't want the "industrial development". I agree Joan, hopefully, but unlikely...(comment referring to Meissner buying his land back.)
mike July 12, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Bill what are you doing for the community . I don't think you know whats going on. MLG can't even get the money to buy the land why should sussex buy it for them.
mike July 12, 2012 at 05:03 PM
And by the way what does the cost of his tractor have to do with him buyying back the land . He's not going to sell the land but farm it. If you farm that many acres you dont do it with a garden tractor.
mike July 12, 2012 at 05:06 PM
What does the cost of the tractor have to do with anything. When you farm that many acres you dont do it with a garden tractor. And he's not going to buy the farm back to sell but to keep it to farm.
Adam July 12, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Bill, Pete will have no choice but to downsize, when the Meissner family decided to sell the farm it was the best thing to do a the time they expanded their farm out in Iowa they had no idea that belinski was gonna have so much trouble financially and yes the farm was offered back to the Meissners and yes they offered money to buy it back but Johnson bank gave them a run around in it. Then MLG stepped in and now we have the current situation. So in all fairness to Pete and the meissners they weren't the ones that got this all goin it was MLG, Johnson bank, and the village. So if the meissners do get the land back they will keep as farm land As long as the family is running it. So please get your facts straight before you comment. That goes for you as well Richard head!
Richard Head July 12, 2012 at 06:04 PM
They sold the land. Too bad so sad. I would like to see a dance club or maybe a housing project with some dance clubs. Put in some skate boarding areas for the kids to enjoy, a kwick trip, mini golf. Lot's of good idea's there.
Pete July 12, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I don't understand, if this is such a great idea why won't a bank back MLG? The last I heard is that the Village is not solvent they are operating in the red by upwards of $20,000,000. They plan on spending $100K to improve Madeline Park and $11 million on the Village Park and now $4.6 million on farm land so someones buddy at MLG doesn't have to take any risk. This stinks worse than week old fish. Stop the insanity. Stop spending more we dont have. If you need to spend money help the guy develop the cannery site or help him sell it to someone who has the finances to develop it.
Sussex Resident July 12, 2012 at 07:59 PM
I will not be missing the smell! That is for sure!
Sussex Resident July 12, 2012 at 08:05 PM
The most revealing comment by Meissner is "it's not fair". Since when do businesses work on the fair principle? It was evident by the results of the Walker recall effort that quality of life issues no longer factor into societal decisions, let alone "fairness". The people of WI spoke loud and clear that advancing business and corporate welfare far outweighs quality of life and fairness.
Sussex Resident July 12, 2012 at 08:23 PM
It always stinks and smells bad to the side on the short end.
Tony July 12, 2012 at 08:58 PM
If this is such a good idea let MLG fully support it. Memomonee Falls recently wasted 17 million dollars of tax payer money to get into the hotel business, money they will never get back. Remember to vote out Greg Goetz and Tim Dietrich in the next election cycle, they signed the walker recall causing WI to lose millions.
sloowhand July 12, 2012 at 11:34 PM
$100k on Madeline park? Where did you come up with that?
Justme July 13, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Amen, Pete.
Arnold Jung July 13, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Pete it is blatantly obvious that you do not have a full understanding of what is going on in the village and are only working off newspaper headlines for your facts. From conversations I have had directly with a Sussex board member relating to some of your comments my understanding is that the corporate park is part of their plan to develop a highly unusable parcel of land to advance the economic footprint of the village, increase the draw to the community and activate other stagnant developable property on 164 without using tax money. Your statement that Sussex is not solvent is completely erroneous. I have been told the village is currently funding their liabilities at almost 100%. The $20,000,000 you mention is sustainable normal infrastructure debt that is purposely borrowed multiple years to spread the usage burden across future and current property owners. Spending $100,000 on Madeline Park where did you get that figure? There is currently nothing going on in that park just talk. $11,000,000 to improve the village park? they just approved a plan that has no money approved to do anything. The Sussex cannery property is happening and it will require tax money in some form. Pete are you going to object to tax money to develop the East end of Sussex also? I support the board looking to improve the community while other municipalities including you hide in the basement because you think the sky is falling.
Sussex Resident July 13, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Amen Arnold! Another factor to consider is the huge smell of decaying manure generated by the farm and in particular, that parcel of land. I live near the farm and have had to close windows and reschedule family gatherings due to the rank smell. It is time the entire community embraces the fact that this is a residential area and not a rural area anymore.
Adam July 13, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Sussex resident, why did you buy a house near a farm if you hate the smell? That seems really stupid to complain about. the farm has been in Sussex under the Meissner name since 1935 so if you don't like the smell, move.
Adam July 13, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Tony, not only did they sign it, one of them signed It twice


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