Cabela's Still Hinges On Developers
Negotiations With State

October 26, 2007
| By Pete Daly |
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WALKER — The developer of the proposed Orchard Park project, which is supposed to include a Cabela's store, is still negotiating with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. on the critical issue of tax increment financing.

"We're very hopeful the state comes through; we think they recognize the value of the project," said Zachary J. Bossenbroek last week. He is an attorney representing the developer, Walker Orchard Land Partners LLC, managed by James F. Bossenbroek.

Zachary Bossenbroek also said the development company is close to reaching an agreement with the state, possibly this week. He declined to discuss the matter further.

Walker officials have confirmed that at issue is whether or not the state education tax that would be "captured" on the developed property will be included in the tax increment financing the developer is counting on. A city official said that portion of the tax capture could mean "millions" of additional dollars in bonds to finance the development.

The land planned for development is a state-declared brownfield zone, contaminated with agricultural chemicals. As a brownfield, it may qualify for tax increment financing, in which some of the higher tax revenues collected in the future on the improved land will be used to issue bonds to cover development costs. The developer would then repay the state-issued bonds over 30 years.

The city of Walker has made clear to Walker Orchard Land Partners that it cannot afford to pay for the required streets, sewers, sidewalks and other public infrastructure. Bossenbroek has also made clear that TIF financing is essential for the project to go ahead.

Wyoming is involved because that city entered into a P.A. 425 agreement with Walker, in effect sponsoring Walker's eligibility for brownfield tax increment financing.

A call last week to WyomingCity Hall was returned by Megan Sall, assistant to City Manager Curtis Holt. Sall said "we are just kind of waiting" to hear what the MEDC's decision is.

Bridget Beckman, a spokesperson for the MEDC, said in an e-mail note on Oct. 24 that "MEDC staff are in negotiations with the developer — have had productive conversations over the last few months on their proposal and request for state assistance — and have been working on options."

Walker Mayor Rob VerHeulen said city employees are still working with the developer on plans for the development, as negotiations continue between the state of Michigan and the developer about the financing.

VerHeulen said he would not necessarily agree that there has been a delay in getting an answer from the state in regard to the financing question, but he said he suspects state government officials have been "preoccupied" with other matters over the last couple of months.

On July 20, Michael Callahan, senior vice president of retail operations at Cabela's in the outdoor products store chain’s Nebraska headquarters, sent a letter to VerHeulen assuring the city of Walker that "Cabela's has been working diligently with the Bossenbroek Group to find a way to structure a deal that works for everyone." He also noted that "the timeline suggests that final approvals can be provided by the end of September. We could potentially be under construction early next spring. …"

Callahan was asked via voicemail on Oct. 12 if the still-unresolved "final approvals" will affect Cabela's plans to build a store in Walker. On Oct. 16, John Castillo, a spokesman for Cabela's, said, "While we continue to explore hundreds of sites nationwide, it would be premature of Cabela's to comment on any potential store in the Walker area if and until all details are finalized either way."     

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