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City gets belated $53,000 for old hospital site purchase

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The city of Hudson will receive a $53,579 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for use in improving the old Hudson Medical Center property - now part of Prospect Park.

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The City Council voted 5-1 at its May 4 meeting to accept the grant that will come through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

Alderperson Randy Morrissette II cast the dissenting vote because the grant restricts the city to using the old hospital site for "nature-based, outdoor recreation."

Hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing, bird watching and picnicking were given as examples of nature-based activities.

"I can't see us tying ourselves down for $53,000," Morrissette said. "I could see it for $500,000."

Later, he added, "Quite frankly, I'm just tired of having our hands tied by the DNR."

Acceptance of the grant would preclude development of sports fields, tennis courts or a swimming pool, Finance Officer Betty Caruso said in memo to council members.

But Mayor Dean Knudson said the city could swap the roughly six acres designated for nature-based activities in Prospect Park for parkland elsewhere in the city if a decision is made to develop a sports field on the old hospital site.

The new school forest on about 10 acres of city property next to Grandview Park is being used for nature-based activities, he noted.

Knudson said none of the immediate plans for the old hospital site conflict with it being designated for nature-based recreation.

Local landscape architect Mark Putman drew up a plan for the site a couple of years ago that included a swimming pool and sports fields and courts, but the plan hasn't been implemented.

Lost grant

Knudson reported the city was notified that it was eligible for a $500,000 Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grant soon after it purchased the old hospital site in 2006 for $1,050,000.

At the time, the City Council was expecting to use the grant money to help pay for the property. Jim Eulberg was then the city's public works and parks director, and Jack Breault, the mayor.

Knudson said the DNR wanted the old hospital site appraised by a firm on its list of approved appraisal firms. When that didn't happen, the city lost the grant.

The bigger grant carried the same restrictions as the grant the city was recently awarded.

City Administrator Devin Willi reapplied for a Stewardship Program grant after Knudson was elected mayor in the April 2008.

Knudson said the city wasn't awarded as much money this time because there is less in the Stewardship fund.

History

David Bourdeau of Hudson bought the old medical center property when Hudson Hospital and Hudson Physicians Clinic moved to the new Hudson Health Campus on Stageline Road in 2003.

Bordeau quickly resold the property to a Minneapolis construction company that wanted to build apartments and townhouses on the site.

Neighbors objected to the plans. The company eventually gave up and sold most of the property to the city. A couple of the parking lots became single-family home lots.

Rezoning

The council tentatively approved rezoning a seven-acre parcel in the town of Hudson from single-family residential (R-1) to multiple-family residential (RM-1).

Hudson contractor Dick Grekoff (West Lake Builders) is planning to build a 58-bed senior assisted living facility on the site, located east of the Hudson Chrysler dealership.

The city has veto-power over zoning changes on property in neighboring towns that border the city.

At an April meeting of the Plan Commission, Mayor Knudson expressed reservations about allowing the site of the proposed senior facility to be developed without it being annexed into the city.

Knudson indicated that the improvements should be added to the city's tax base since the facility would be practically surrounded by the city.

But Knudson supported the rezoning at the May 4 council meeting.

He said Grekoff had initially inquired about having the property annexed to the city, and was told that the council would oppose the annexation.

"I hate to see him trapped between two governments unable to do anything with the land," Knudson said. "If we had it all to do over again, it would be best to annex it into city."

The council adopted the first reading of an ordinance approving the rezoning. Final approval is expected to come at the council's meeting next Monday evening (May 18).

Sex offender ordinance

The council also approved the first reading of a long-discussed ordinance that restricts where people convicted of sex crimes against children can live within the city. The ordinance prohibits them from residing within 250 feet of places children are known to frequent, such as schools, daycares, parks and youth centers.

The ordinance also establishes 150-foot "control zones" around places where children are often present, and prohibits child molesters from loitering within the zones. Final approval of the ordinance is expected at Monday's council meeting.

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Randy Hanson
Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
(715) 426-1066
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