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EDITORIAL: Rezoning denied - what's next for school, city?

Now that the city of Hudson has denied the School District of Hudson a rezoning request on the St. Croix Meadows dog track property, both agencies face some hard work in the months and years ahead.

First the school district has to go about the business of finding a new site for a potential secondary school. That will not be an easy task. There is just not a flat, 65-plus-acre buildable parcel of land in the city -- very few even close to the city. Anything outside the city, of course, will raise the issues of utilities, like sewer and water.

There are people who are happy with the city's decision because they believe there is no need for a new school. Maybe the UU property can be made useable, maybe expansion of existing buildings is the answer. If they are right, however, those decisions should be based on an up and down vote of the citizens -- not determined by a third party, in this case the City council.

We see no evidence of enrollment declining in Hudson. In the past couple of decades, Hudson High School has grown from one of the smallest schools in the Big Rivers Conference to one of the largest. In fact, it may be the largest. Last year Hudson's enrollment trailed Eau Claire Memorial by just a few students. If trends continue, Hudson will be the largest this year.

The problem facing the Hudson School District, however, is that every delay means more students in the current space. The district may have to look at some immediate, short-term solutions if a new land deal is not imminent.

The city will have its own problems in the months ahead. They are already under heavy criticism for denying the rezoning of the track after citizens handily approved the purchase in a referendum last April. What the city faces is a "perception" problem. We understand the city's reluctance to rezone the property and take it off the tax rolls, but that message should have been sent long before a referendum was scheduled,

With just under 60 percent of the citizenry voting in favor of selling the track to the school, rest assured that those voters will keep a close eye on the progress of developing the track into high tax-paying commercial development. What if the track sits empty for two years? Five years? Ten years? City fathers will have some explaining to do. It would be in the best interest of the council to help find a buyer for the dog track as soon as possible -- turn those "potential tax dollars" into real money!

However, with all the fallout from the recent rezoning decision -- hard feelings and strong opinions -- last week's activity is now "yesterday's news." It is time for both the school district and city of Hudson to move forward and make the necessary decisions that will be in the best interest of the citizens. For both sides, however, the clock is ticking.