The vacant lot, owned by the city and formerly home of the Chetek Cafe, will be sold to Russ Chester with a bid of $27,790. Chester owns the properties to the north, right, of the lot.

The former location of the Chetek Cafe has been sold by the city to Russ Chester, owner of several properties, including Skyway Repair on Second Street. Chester’s bid of $27,790 was accepted by the Chetek Common Council at a special meeting on Monday, June 22.

A competing bid of $20,000 was from Jason Fostvedt and his son, Nathan Fostvedt. They had a plan to immediately build a commercial building for a craft spirits store, with a ground-floor apartment in the back.

The city purchased the property in 2018 for $170,000. This allowed Chetek Cafe owners Norbert and Patty Wojke to purchase the Bob’s Grill building and move their business. The city tore down the old building in January 2019. Demolition and asbestos abatement cost a total of $47,150.

Fostvedts’ and Chester’s bids were taken in a sealed-bid process. The city’s plan commission voted on Thursday, June 18, to recommend Fostvedt’s bid be accepted by the council.

The council discussed each bid on June 22. Council member Earl Grover, Ward 2, said he wanted to hear from Chester, who was present at the council meeting but not at the plan commission meeting.

Chetek Mayor Jeff Martin noted the commission likely voted for Fostvedts because they were at that meeting and had a plan.

Chester apologized and said he thought approval was based on the highest bid, not what bid and plan was most advantageous.

Therefore, on Monday, he presented a plan for a commercial rental building. He would seek out businesses to rent it and planned to build in two to three years. The building would be set back 4 feet from Second Street to allow for better visibility from Stout Street. The lot would also have ample parking and room to pile snow in the winter.

Chester owns Skyway Repair and the building (rented out to Great Pines Plaza) that is directly north of the vacant lot. Part of Great Pines Plaza’s building extended 5 feet onto the city’s property.

Council members briefly discussed this problem and how it could be solved. Selling to Chester would make the problem moot. Jason Fostvedt said he would be willing to sell that part of the property back to Chester and pay for those costs.

Fostvedt also noted he had a build-ready plan. The sooner improvements were made, the more tax money would be generated.

At the current mill rate of about 0.0072, Chester’s plan would generate about $200 in tax revenue. Fostvedts’ bid, if a $150,000 building was constructed, for example, taxes would generate about $1,200 for the city.

Council member Terry Hight, Ward 3, said it was a tough decision, as both were respected businesspeople and had good plans. For him, it came down to the highest bid.

Council member Mark Edwards, Ward 4, said many didn’t like how much the property had cost the city. He was in favor of taking the higher bid for that reason.

Council member Scott Bachowski, Ward 1, said why have a plan commission if the recommendations are not taken, he asked.

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