Despite concerns Baraboo is selling the land too cheap, a plan to build a winery on a vacant South Walnut Street parcel earned nods from two city committees Tuesday.
The Plan Commission voted 6-1 to sell 10 acres of land near Baraboo Country Club for $60,000 to Matt Boegner and Kristin Harrington-Boegner for construction of Balanced Rock Winery. The couple also has the option to buy another 13 adjacent acres later. The Common Council’s Finance Committee approved the same plan 3-0. The full council will vote on it in December.
Matt Boegner said the facility would house a full-service winery and conference center catering to weddings. The couple wants to “bring something the city is lacking,” he said. “There’s demand that’s not being met.”
Council member Scott Sloan said during the Finance Committee meeting that the proposal creates commerce in the tourism, agriculture and manufacturing sectors. “I think it fits in very well with what we’re trying to be in Baraboo,” Sloan said.
Others voiced objections. Resident Jon Hillmer told the Plan Commission he opposed seeing the site, currently zoned for homes, used for manufacturing.
Commissioner Roy Franzen said he also would like to see homes built on the rolling hills next to the golf course. He also criticized the sale price, casting the lone vote against the winery plan. “I can’t imagine that property isn’t worth more than $6,000 an acre,” Franzen said.
Commissioner Patrick Liston expressed reservations about the price, but noted the land has been sitting vacant — and off the tax rolls — for many years. City Administrator Ed Geick said the last offer on the property was made in 2007. A developer planning a residential subdivision backed out when the housing market crashed the next year.
In an analysis conducted earlier this year, one real estate agent estimated the 23-acre property’s value at $400,000. Another said it’s worth $6,000 to $12,000 per acre. Before the crash, the city received $8,000 an acre for property near the winery site.
“Ten years ago was a completely different time,” City Engineer Tom Pinion said.
During the Finance Committee meeting, council member Joel Petty noted that the sale would generate revenue and put the property back on the tax rolls. Plus, the city won’t incur costs for extending utilities. “I can live with a couple grand less per acre,” Petty said. “I like the general concept. I like the idea of getting the land back on the tax roll.”
Boegner said he hopes to plant grapevines in April, begin construction in September and open in March 2019.
Friede & Associates of Reedsburg will design the facility.
The sale still needs council approval, and several contingencies must be worked out. These include the city rezoning land for commercial use, the Boegners lining up financing and the winery getting licensed. The sale price for the adjacent 13 acres hasn’t yet been determined.
Boegner and Kristin Harrington-Boegner are winemakers with extensive hospitality management experience. Under their plan, Balanced Rock Winery would sell a variety of wines and host many types of events.
“They put together a very solid business plan,” Pinion said. “There’s an opportunity to generate some revenue and generate some business.”