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Supervisor says neighbors' input is only one piece of study

Input offered -- mostly by neighbors -- at a recent meeting on potential uses for county-owned land in Hudson won't be put on St. Croix County's Web site until consultants gather ideas from other interest groups.

About 60 people attended the Feb. 28 meeting hosted by Barsness Consulting Group, which has been hired to develop a process that may lead to the sale of excess land around the Government Center.

Participants at that meeting used colored dots to indicate their preferences for future uses of four pieces of the property. These were their opinions:

  • Northwest quadrant: The favored use was for open space with either paved or unpaved paths. The least preferred use was residential.
  • Northeast quadrant: Participants favored using this part for Government Center expansion. The least preferred use was multi-family housing.
  • Southwest quadrant: The most popular use was expansion of the YMCA building. Most neighbors objected to using this section for senior or affordable housing.
  • Southeast quadrant: The vast majority suggested placing public buildings here. Most objected to multi-family housing or private offices.

    The consultants had proposed posting a full multi-page summary of participant preferences and comments on the county's Web site along with a PowerPoint presentation offered by one group of neighbors.

    "We don't know what the product is, or even close to it," responded Finance Committee member Daryl Standafer, who objected to posting one piece of data before the consultant's work is done.

    "If we start to post this stuff, it starts to get traction in and of itself," he said.

    "What do we distort when we have a forum for citizens who live within a quarter of a mile?" wondered County Board Chairman Buck Malick. He also objected to posting "temporary, initial" data on the county's Web site.

    Malick suggested Barsness Consulting develop an easy way for residents of other areas of the county to give their input.

    Withholding public information like this is a form of censorship, complained Supervisor Richard "Buzz" Marzolf.

    Barsness representative Cathy Bennett suggested the information could be posted, but with a strong disclaimer identifying the composition of the group at Feb. 28 meeting and explaining that the summary is only of the opinions of those at that meeting.

    Standafer disagreed. Posting this information gives the impression that this is the direction the County Board intends to go, he said.

    He suggested making copies of the summary available to those who want them rather than posting "the little pieces, the first few brush strokes of what we're gathering."

    The committee voted to post summaries of this meeting and two subsequent meetings plus other public input on the county Web site at the same time, once the research phase of the study is completed.

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