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Commission recommends annexing former I-94 interchange

On a 4-2 vote, the Hudson Plan Commission recommended last week that the city annex 12.3 acres of former highway right of way on the south side of Interstate 94 at Old Hwy. 35.

The owners' new plan for the property is to subdivide it into 16 commercial lots that would be sold to yet-to-be-named businesses.

In February, the Hudson City Council unanimously rejected DaMe Properties' proposal to have the land brought into the city for development as a hospitality complex. The proposed development was to include a water park, hotel, conference center, restaurants and retail shops.

DaMe Properties partner James Meffert and commercial real estate broker Jim Zeller said Thursday night that they didn't know who the occupants of the newly proposed development would be.

As with the earlier proposal, the 12.3 acres now in the town of Hudson would be part of a larger development approximately 32 acres in size. DaMe Properties owns a 21-acre parcel immediately west of the site that already is in the city.

Meffert said the former state highway right of way could be marketed as sites for hotels, restaurants and dental and chiropractic offices.

Meffert and partner Dan Bauer were the top bidders for the vacant freeway interchange when the state Department of Transportation put it up for sale a year ago. They paid $756,000 for the land. The city also submitted a bid for the property, offering $156,825.

Zeller, a broker with Greystone Real Estate Group, said at last Thursday's Plan Commission meeting that he would seek an "anchor" business for the development in order to attract other businesses. He named Bass Pro Shops, an outdoors store headquartered in Springfield, Mo., as a possible anchor. He also indicated that a water park hasn't been ruled out as the main attraction for the development.

"I don't know what is going to be on that site. Whoever shows up," Zeller said.

He argued that commercial development is the best use of the property and that real estate tax revenue generated by it would benefit the city.

Plan Commission member Tim Caruso agreed. Caruso, also president of the Hudson Public Utility Commission, said commercial development of the site wouldn't threaten the purity of the city's drinking water like private wells and septic systems on the land might. The property currently is zoned as a single-family residential district by the town of Hudson.

Caruso also said that a commercial development would use less water than a new residential neighborhood, and wouldn't add to the enrollment of local public schools at the expense of taxpayers.

Plan Commission members Bob Bieraugel and Carah Koch, who voted against annexation, expressed concerns about bringing the property into the city without knowing what businesses might occupy it.

Bieraugel said he isn't opposed to commercial development of the property though.

"If you come to us with a first-class commercial development, we would support it," he said.

Koch asked how much additional traffic the development would generate. She was told that it was difficult to estimate the increase without knowing what businesses will be there.

Community Development Director Dennis Darnold said Stageline Road has ample capacity to accommodate more traffic, however. He noted that a commercial development was originally planned for the 80 acres that The Lighthouse at Hudson Pier residential development now occupies. (Land previously owned by DaMe Properties.)

Because residences generate less traffic than businesses, Stageline Road could accommodate 9,000 more vehicles a day, Darnold estimated.

Koch also said she was opposed to annexing property for a development as large as the one being proposed by DaMe Properties until the city's 1993 comprehensive plan is updated. Citizen responses to survey questions and their comments at public hearings before the plan is the redrafted would indicate to the council whether there is support for further expansion of the city, she said.

Commissioner Don Mailloux discounted the value of an updated city plan. "The new one is just going to be like the old," he said, implying that it would soon be outdated.

Darnold said the city intends to begin work on the new comprehensive plan in January of 2005 and have it completed by Jan. 1, 2007.

A motion by Caruso to recommend that the City Council annex DaMe Properties' 12.3 acres passed on a voice vote. It appeared that Caruso, Mailloux, Donald Gilbert and Fred Yoerg voted in favor of it.

Hudson Mayor Jack Breault chairs the Plan Commission.

Following the vote, Zeller argued that DaMe Properties was entitled to have the land rezoned for commercial use because the state had condemned 23 acres of its land - zoned commercial - for the new Hwy. 35.

The statement irritated Mayor Breault, who told Zeller in so many words that he had already gotten what he asked for and should leave well-enough alone.

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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