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Randy's Ramblings: City plan - Speak now or forever hold your peace

Citizens of Hudson, if you care about the future of your city, you'll want to pay attention to what the Plan Commission is up to.

For the past few months, the commission - with the assistance of planners from the firm of Short Elliott Hendrikson - has been working on an update to the city's comprehensive plan.

The plan was first adopted in 1967 and has been revised once since then - in 1993.

A comprehensive plan is a community's road map for where it wants to go in the next 20 years.

The current 178-page document includes a master land use plan, as well as goals and policies for land use, housing, transportation, water and sewer utilities, economic development, recreation and environmental protection.

Redrafting the plan was a hot topic in a couple of election contests earlier this decade between former Mayor Jack Breault and challenger James Mayer.

Ironically, the plan hasn't been in the news as much lately as it was during those heated campaign battles.

I'll take most of the blame for that. City government is my beat.

Here's my start on the road to redemption.

I attended the Plan Commission's March 12 meeting and heard a lot of fascinating stuff.

SEH planner Mike Darrow talked about five areas outside of the city boundaries that are of interest to the city.

The map Darrow presented had them labeled as "opportunity" areas - a term that made Mayor Dean Knudson, chair of the Plan Commission, uncomfortable.

Knudson, for good reason, was concerned that neighbors in the towns of Hudson and Troy would get the idea that the city viewed them as annexation targets.

The implication was that the mayor, at least, isn't looking to expand the city's territory.

Dennis Darnold, the city's community development director, cautioned against ruling out all future annexations, however. He said some facilities or businesses that the city wants might need city services - and cited an expanded hospital and clinic as an example.

Darrow said the areas are places where intergovernmental cooperation is needed for good development.

The key areas named were:

• 88 acres on the south side of County UU in the town of Hudson owned by the Hudson School District. The city should work with the district to determine what services would be needed at the site if a school is built there, Darrow said in his PowerPoint presentation. He said policies also are needed to prevent "large lot fragmentation" of areas east of the city.

• The Union Pacific Railroad crossing at County U and Hwy. 12. The city should work with Wisconsin, Minnesota and federal agencies on a needs analysis for high-speed commuter rail service to the area, Darrow suggested. He also recommended planning for "transit-oriented development" near the rail crossing.

Through a quick search of the Internet, I learned that the aim of transit-oriented development is to create "compact, walkable communities centered around high-quality train systems."

• Interstate 94 Exit 4. The city should develop a master corridor plan for the area and study the expansion of city services to it, Darrow recommended. He suggested that the area be a "gateway center to Hudson," with a technical school or a "high-tech, eco-office" complex.

• The town of Troy area south of River Crest Elementary School. The city should develop "premature" subdivision standards for the area and work with the town to annex it, the SEH planner suggested.

• The area surrounding the Hwy. 35 and Coulee Trail intersection in the town of Troy. Again, Darrow recommended that the city begin planning to annex the area.

Town officials' and residents' reactions to the proposals could be entertaining. Some haven't taken kindly to past annexations. And neither have some city residents, for that matter.

During the later years of Mayor Breault's tenure, his and the City Council's unwritten policy was that no more land would be annexed for residential development.

SEH planner Dave Simmons followed Darrow with a thought-provoking analysis of the city's public works, sewer, water, park, library, ambulance, fire department and police facilities.

One of Simmons' suggestions was for the city to consider a more centralized location for its public works garages, currently located on scenic, high-value property overlooking Lake Mallalieu and the St. Croix River.

Much of SEH's and the Plan Commission's work to date on a revised comprehensive plan is posted on the city's Web site, Click on "City of Hudson Comprehensive Plan - SEH" under the "Industrial and Commercial Development" heading. You'll find a lot of facts and recommendations to think about, many in a 33-page report on the city's transportation system.

The Plan Commission will host an open house at City Hall, 505 Third St., from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23, to allow the public to comment on its work so far on a revised comprehensive plan.

The City Council will take up the proposal when the commission has finished its work.

Now is the time to speak up if you've ideas about how the city should or shouldn't develop. The die will be cast after the City Council adopts the revised plan later this year.

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