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A deal's a deal, council says

Residential developer Hans Hagen addresses the Hudson City Council Monday night. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Randy Hanson)

It doesn’t appear that there will be a housing development on the Hudson Golf Club course anytime soon.

Monday night, June 16, the City Council voted 6-0 to hold the owners to a covenant they signed when they bought the course saying they wouldn’t use it for anything but a golf course for 10 years.

Hanson Bros. Golf Holdings closed the 18-hole course at the end of the 2013 season after four years of operation. About six years remain on the agreement not to develop the course.

The City Council’s decision followed a public hearing on the request to waive the restrictive covenant and allow Hans Hagen Homes to build 220 single-family houses on the property.

Ten neighbors and/or former members of the golf club pilloried Hanson Bros. management practices during the half-hour hearing and urged the council not to waive the covenant.

Jeff Redmon, the attorney for Hanson Bros., and Hans Hagen also spoke.

“They want us to subsidize their bad management practices,” said Dave Holt, the first to speak.

He said the former members of the golf club sold it in good faith that it would continue to be a golf course.

Hanson Bros. would reap a windfall from the sale of course, Holt asserted. He said a new housing development would add students to educate and require the expansion of Carmichael Road.

Holt suggested that the city help Hanson Bros. find a buyer to operate the golf course instead.

Former club member Michael Salchert said the Hansons failed to create a welcoming atmosphere at the club.

He said most new owners don’t make a lot of changes initially when they acquire a business, but the Hansons terminated long-term employees who could have helped create goodwill.

“They made some good improvements to the property, but they failed to reach out to the members and the community,” Salchert said.

“I think this whole situation is sad. They made some promises, now they don’t want to keep them,” he added.

Ken Heiser, a member of the golf club board for 25 years, described the course as a community asset.

“They bought the place. They said they would keep it a golf course for 10 years. Make them do it. There is no reason not to,” said Heiser.

Of Hanson Bros., he said, “I have never in my life seen a retail business treat its customers so poorly. No wonder they left.”

Jon Olson, whose backyard on Laurel Avenue overlooks the golf course, said there are 12 or 13 homes along the west side of the course.

“Certainly the people adjacent to the property stand to lose financially,” he said. “Our values will go down. Will our taxes go down? I don’t know.”

Marian Webber, wife of District 4 Alderperson Jim Webber, cautioned that when the golf course is gone “it’s gone – and you’re not going to be able to replace it.”

Don Segelstrom, Don Graw, Marie Baird, Cy Yustad, Chip Applewhite and C.A. Richards also urged the council to hold Hanson Bros. to its covenant.

Redmon said he wasn’t there to defend prior management practices. He said he would share records of the golf club’s financial losses privately with City Council members if they requested it.

“They just made a decision. It’s their money. They decided to close it,” he said of the family of Chris Hanson, former owner of the Douglas-Hanson Co. at Hammond.

Hagen said he understood what was said about the golf club being a community asset. But the owners have decided to sell the property, so the question now, he said, is whether the city wants to let it sit idle or allow it to be developed for housing.

Hagen said the development would generate about $1 million a year in property taxes when it was fully built-out in about five years.

City Council members also got in their jabs at Hanson Bros.

Webber said it appeared that the Hansons had either no intention or no ability to operate a golf course.

“We can’t win on this,” Webber said, noting that one option would be to purchase the golf course and operate it as a municipal course.

“That is not a very attractive option,” he added.

“I almost take some of this personally,” said District 6 Alderperson Rich Vanselow, who was a member of the golf club board at the time of the sale.

The Hansons professed to want to operate the golf club when they bought it, Vanselow said, but later, in a letter to the editor of the Star-Observer, one of the family members admitted to buying it for the land.

“I think one of the problems your client has is that they poisoned the well. They treated people poorly,” District 3 Alderperson Tom McCormick said to Redmon.

District 2 Alderperson Mary Yacoub wanted to know why members of the Hanson family haven’t appeared at City Council meetings.

“Where are the Hanson brothers?” she asked. “It is really frustrating that they would not show up and face the music.”

In response to a question from Mayor Alan Burchill, Redmon said Hans Hagen would purchase the golf course, minus the clubhouse and two development lots on Carmichael Road, for about $3.5 million.

That’s appropriately what the Hansons are believed to have paid for the entire property.

Burchill said the clubhouse is listed for sale for $2.5 million, and that the sale of the development lots would bring the Hansons additional profit.

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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