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City rezones feed mill property, wants it developed

The Hudson City Council rezoned the old feed mill property at the corner of Commercial and First streets from light industrial (I-1) to central business district (B-3) when it met July 21.

Council members hope the action will spur property owner Michael Ahrndt of New Scandia, Minn., to clean up and develop the site.

Ahrndt attended the meeting to support his rezoning request and was grilled by council members about his plans for the property. The feed mill closed years ago and the building had already fallen into disrepair when an arsonist set it on fire a couple of years ago.

Ahrndt tore down part of the structure following the fire, but the tallest portion remains. Stacks of salvaged lumber are scattered about the site.

City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick said the city has ordered that the building be razed and removed. She added that the order "hasn't been litigated yet," indicating that Ahrndt is contesting it.

The property is across the street from Lakefront Park. The council considers it an eyesore next to the scenic St. Croix riverfront. City officials would like to expand the trendy shopping and restaurant district that is making downtown Hudson a popular place to visit.

Before rezoning the old feed mill site, council members pressed Ahrndt to reveal his plans for the property.

His responses were vague.

"I would love to clean up the property," he said at one point.

"Love or will?" Alderman Ron Troyer responded.

Ahrndt said that the fire did little damage to the building and that the remaining portion is structurally sound.

"I don't have seven-figure bank accounts to invest in it," he said.

He indicated that the rest of the building might be torn down if a developer is willing to put enough money into the property. He said there hasn't been sufficient interest, to date, because of the adjacent industrial-type properties.

Ahrndt said that in his opinion all of the light industrial property along First Street should be rezoned to central business district.

Community Development Director Dennis Darnold advised the council that rezoning the property and getting it cleaned up were separate issues.

The city's comprehensive plan calls for rezoning all the downtown industrial property to central business district, he noted.

"This is the first domino of that consideration," he added.

With that advice, the council voted unanimously to rezone the feed mill property.

Council President Scot O'Malley presided over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Jack Breault, who was vacationing.

Farmer's market rules

The City Council also approved an amendment to the Direct Sellers, Transient Merchants and Solicitors Ordinance that spells out the types of products that can be sold at the Thursday morning farmer's market at Second and Vine streets.

The new language indicates the market is for direct sellers of "produce and related items such as vegetables, fruits, dried flowers, cut flowers, plants, jams, jellies, preserves, bread, herbs, honey, maple syrup, meat and other perishable products."

The deadline for sellers to vacate the city-owned parking lot was pushed back to 12:30 p.m. to give them another half-hour to reload their tables and unsold products.

Council President O'Malley and aldermen Troyer and Dennis O'Connell had a difference of opinion about what products vendors should be permitted to sell at the market. But in the end, the vote approving the expanded list of products was unanimous.

For details of other matters discussed by the council, please see page 8A of the July 31 Hudson Star-Observer.

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.

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