Any buyer for Wausau facility likely means demolition
News circulating that there’s a potential interested buyer in the Wausau Paper facility in Brainerd brings both good and bad news.
It’s true — a few companies have expressed interest in acquiring the land and assets, but “all indications have been that there is no potential purchaser that would return the plant to paper production,” said Sheila Haverkamp, executive director of the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation.
Instead, the facility will likely be sold and demolished, whether it be a partial or full take-down, said Gary Scheeler, Wausau Task Force member and Brainerd City Council member.
Wausau Paper closed its doors last April, citing the tough economy as a contributing factor. Liberty Diversified International expressed a serious interest in re-opening production at the site, but backed out in October.
Since that point, there have been mixed reports on how close the company is to having a potential buyer for its Brainerd location.
Brainerd City Planner Mark Ostgarden said there is an interested buyer, but he would not go farther into who it might be or how serious the potential buyer is.
Haverkamp said that “it is our understanding that no definitive agreement has been reached” between Wausau and a potential buyer for the site.
A phone call to Wausau officials by the Dispatch was not immediately returned.
The biggest hold-up in finding a solid buyer for the site is the four-month moratorium that was placed on issuing building permits in industrial zones, Scheeler said.
The moratorium was issued in December by the Brainerd City Council, putting a temporary halt to demolition and decommissioning industrial buildings. It ends April 1.
“Until that (language) is defined, most are not jumping at the moment,” Scheeler said.
Many companies, he said, are likely waiting until the moratorium is over before making decisions about interest in the site. There have been four companies since Liberty backed out that have expressed interest, but then backed out, Scheeler said. All have been an interest in demolition, he added.
In December, the topic of the moratorium was sent to the Brainerd Planning Commission to form permit language in the ordinance and to establish a course of action to deal with situations of large demolition within the city.
City leaders were concerned that demolition could limit the future of the site in building and extending utilities, as well as a general concern over potential noise, vibrations, truck traffic, heavy dust and disposal of hazardous waste.
The planning commission’s proposed language change will be before the council for a vote at its next regular meeting.