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Randy's Ramblings: More development is on Hudson's horizon

It will be interesting to see what Hudson looks like 10 years from now.

In particular, I’m wondering what will develop on the 141 acres now occupied by the Hudson Golf Club — and if the long-vacant, 130-acre St. Croix Meadows dog track property will finally be redeveloped.

Then there’s the question of the Carmichael Road corridor north of I-94. Will it be part of the city? Will there be a big-box store development east of Target? Will Edna Atwood’s corn and soybean field at Vine and Carmichael be growing houses instead?

And where will the new secondary school will be located? Or, if you’re a cynic, will there be one?

What impact will the new St. Croix River bridge south of Houlton have on the community and schools? Will the school district see another enrollment spurt? How quickly will residential subdivisions and businesses sprout in the town of St. Joseph?

In the more immediate future, what businesses will move into the new buildings planned for the Hudson Center (the former state tourist information property) along Crest View Drive? Is a Texas-style barbecue ribs and steak house coming to town? How will the rest of the 16-acre property develop?

That’s a lot of questions. It reminds me of the old admonition to use them sparingly as headlines. I’m supposed to be in the business of providing answers.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any inside information about what’s in store for Hudson. But I can hazard a few guesses based on city meetings I’ve attended and conversations with officials.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Hudson Golf Club sits vacant for some time — maybe the entire six years remaining on the agreement that the golf course not be developed for another use.

Members of the Plan Commission gave Jeff Redmon a pretty cold shoulder when the lawyer for Hanson Bros. Golf Holdings LLC approached them two weeks ago about redeveloping the 18-hole golf course.

Alderperson Mary Yacoub, the City Council’s representative on the commission, said following the meeting that she was angry about the Hansons’ decision to close the course for good at the end of October.

(This Hanson, by the way, is no relation to the Golf Club Hansons.)

I’d say disappointment over the closure was a common sentiment among the commissioners. While the commission is generally friendly to development proposals, the Hanson Brothers representative wasn’t offered any encouragement.

An email that Jon Hanson of Hanson Bros. sent last week to City Council members added fuel to the fire. You can read the details in a story in this week’s Star-Observer, but in summary, I’m sure most council members will find it objectionable.

Hanson paints a picture of a deeply divided city that is unable to come together to build a needed high school and is allowing its infrastructure to fall into disrepair.

“The folks in Hudson need to do some soul searching and solve the issues of the moment,” Hanson writes in closing. “Common sense, leadership, intelligence — are there any of these still alive in Hudson?”

The City Council is the body that can waive the restriction on redevelopment that was part of the 2010 purchase agreement between Hanson Bros. and the former Golf Club shareholders.

There already were some hard feelings on the part of council members over the golf course closing. Then came the email that Alderperson Yacoub characterized as “insulting.”

I can’t imagine that anyone on the council will be in a hurry to approve a development proposal from Hanson Bros.

Also, the Plan Commission will be the first to consider any proposal and give a recommendation on it to the council. At the commission’s last meeting, it was hinted that residential and commercial development of the golf course could require expanding the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

My second guess is that there’s trouble ahead for the idea to put a new secondary school on 110 acres on County Road UU that the school district owns.

When it came before the City Council last month, some alderpersons seemed reluctant to make the policy and ordinance changes needed to extend water and sewer service outside of the city boundaries.

And while City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick said the city could legally choose to extend the utilities, Development Director Dennis Darnold cautioned that there would be a number of hurdles to cross.

Once again, the question of the city’s wastewater treatment plant capacity was raised.

Alderperson John Hoggatt said he had heard that there would be technical obstacles to overcome in extending water and sewer lines to the property about a mile outside of the city limits. It might be cost-prohibitive, he suggested.

Even school district Financial Services Director Tim Erickson didn’t seem overly enthusiastic about the property. He said the school board hasn’t decided on a site for a proposed school, but is still exploring the UU site.

Meanwhile, business interest in the site the school board initially selected for a new school appears to be picking up.

Darnold told me he’s had conversations in the past three to six months with “more than two” prospective buyers of the vacant St. Croix Meadows dog track.

School district voters approved purchasing the dog track for a school site in April 2012, but the following September the City Council refused to rezone it for school use.

The majority of the council said the property is too valuable as a development property to be used for a school. Council members were concerned about foregoing potential tax revenue by converting the land to public use.

Read the Star-Observer weekly to see how these stories develop.

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