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Over 100 people have joined county land talks

Consultants reported last week that they have talked with over 110 people as they seek input on potential uses for extra land around the St. Croix County Government Center.

"Lots of suggestions have been made," said Dennis Welsch of Barsness Consulting Services as he addressed the County Board March 20. The company hosted a business round table and met with the St. Croix County Economic Development Corporation's land use committee, representatives of government and non-profit groups and residents of the neighborhood.

Welsch said a common theme through the meetings was that purchasers should pay market value for any land sold.

Uses endorsed included expansion of the Government Center, a police or fire station, a library, expansion of the YMCA and preserving land for green space. Welsch said the majority of people attending a couple of the sessions don't want to see more residential development.

Nearly all the input at the largest meeting was from Hudson neighbors, said Supervisor Ron Raymond, town of Hudson. He was concerned that there hasn't been a forum convenient for residents of other areas of the county.

After years of serving on parks and land use committees, he has seen "well organized, well orchestrated kind of efforts" from groups that have a personal interest in projects, said Raymond.

"I think that we as officials have to stand back from that," he said, urging the consultants to broaden the sources of input.

Raymond said those involved in the meeting were being asked to provide input, not make a decision that belongs to the County Board.

The land belongs to the whole county, but information isn't getting to people who live beyond Hudson or Roberts, agreed Supervisor Julie Speer, Wilson.

The board needs to look for the best long term use of the land but has to keep the neighbors in mind because they're the ones who'll be affected by it everyday, said Supervisor Roger Rebholz, Hudson.

He also pointed out that the decisions will have long-term implications.

"We're not looking at it for today," said Rebholz. "We're looking at it for 50 years from now."

Welsch said the next step is for the Finance Committee to develop a recommendation for the County Board. He offered to report back to the board in April or May.