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Hans Hagen wants to build about 200 homes on Hudson Golf Club course

Hans Hagen Homes has signed a deal to purchase most of the Hudson Golf Club, but will need a waiver from the City Council to build approximately 200 homes on the 18-hole course.

Jeff Redmon, attorney for the owners of the golf course, received a mixed reaction when he presented the request to the City Council Monday night, June 2.

Some council members expressed skepticism about Hanson Bros. Golf Holdings’ efforts to keep the course open or sell it to another operator. And there was general disappointment over the city losing its only golf course.

Nonetheless, the council agreed to hear details of the proposal at a future meeting that will include input from the public.

According to City Administrator Devin Willi, the public hearing is tentatively set for 7 p.m. Monday, June 16, at City Hall. It will precede a regular council meeting, and follow a special assessment hearing on 2014 street projects.

The Hanson family from the Hammond area purchased the golf course from the former club shareholders in 2010. The family closed the golf course at the end of the 2013, after four years of operation, citing financial losses.

As part of the purchase agreement, the Hansons signed a convenant not to do anything to interfere with the operation of a golf course on the land for 10 years.

When the former shareholders’ organization disbanded, it fell to the City Council to enforce the covenant.

In a letter to Mayor Alan Burchill and City Council members hand-delivered on May 28, Redmon requested that the council release Hanson Bros. from the covenant.

In the letter, and again in comments to the council Monday night, Redmon reviewed what he said were the Hanson family’s efforts to make the course financially viable.

“Since the purchase, Hanson Bros. has invested over $2 million to upgrade the clubhouse, maintenance facilities, fairways and greens,” Redmon wrote. “In an effort to attract more golfers, Hanson Bros. explored many options to make the golf course economically sustainable, including adding a hotel, various membership options, pricing models, events and outside professional golf course management.”

Alderperson Rich Vanselow, who was a member of the golf club board at the time of the sale, disputed Redmon’s statements, calling them “really irritating.”

“But I’m smart enough to know that we have to do what is in the best interest of the city now,” Vanselow said.

He said the city is losing an asset, something that drew people to it. Council President Randy Morrissette II was concerned about homeowners in the Golf View subdivision.

“I would be kind of mad if I bought a house on a golf course and all of a sudden it was developed,” Morrissette said.

Redmon said the golf course doesn’t have an obligation to properties to the west.

He said 22 acres on the north can’t be used for anything but a golf course or vacant land, and another five acres also has restrictions on its use under an agreement with the Gagnon family.

Alderperson Mary Yacoub asked whether the Hansons had tried to find a buyer who would continue operating the course.

Redmon said they didn’t, but that nationally many golf courses are no longer profitable and are being offered for sale for other uses.

Later, Yacoub said she would rather have residential development on the golf course than commercial development if she lived next door.

Alderperson Tom McCormick ask if Hanson Bros. would share financial records proving the operating losses.

Redmon said he would ask.

Alderperson John Hoggatt was the most receptive to allowing residential development of the golf course. He said the development would generate significantly more property tax revenue than the roughly $90,000 a year paid by Hanson Bros.

“In a nutshell, we have an opportunity presented to us,” Hoggatt said.

“It’s pretty clear that it is going to be either a housing development or (something else),” he said of the golf course later.

Hans Hagen also was at the meeting.

When asked by Yacoub if he would still be interested in developing the property in six years, Hagen said it’s difficult to say.

The current environment, with low interest rates and inventory, is good for home builders, he said. It’s difficult to say what it will be in six years.

Hagen said the city would lose millions of dollars in tax revenue by preventing development of the golf course for another six years.

Mayor Burchill and Alderperson Yacoub both had good words to say about Hagen as a developer.

“We’ve had great experience with Mr. Hagen,” said Burchill.

Yacoub, the alderperson for District 2, noted that she lives in a home built by Hagen’s company.

The Stonepine and Red Cedar Canyon subdivisions in the city were developed by Hagen.

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