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Public hearing: Should East View be industrial? Colfax village board approves rezone to residential

COLFAX  —  The Colfax Plan Commission held a public hearing on a request for a rezone to residential for the Schindler property along Dunn Street March 19, and the Colfax Village Board approved the rezone March 23.

But during the plan commission’s public hearing on the rezone, two local residents expressed the opinion that the property — at least along the railroad tracks — would be better suited to industrial or commercial.

The Colfax Village Board purchased the acreage from Mary Schindler late last year along Dunn Street for Phase 1 of a new residential development.

The village will purchase additional lots this summer for Phase 2.

Phase 1 will have single family residential lots, and phase 2 will have more single family lots as well as lots for four-plexes.

The village board recently approved naming the residential development East View.

“The village is trying to get residential going in the community,” said Patrick Beilfuss of Cedar Corporation at the plan commission’s public hearing for a rezone from agricultural to residential.

The issue of a lack of residential lots and a stagnant village population surfaced last year during the Colfax Plan Commission’s work on updating the village’s Smart Growth comprehensive land use plan.

Since there are so few build-able lots in Colfax, “the village took the first step and purchased property,” Beilfuss said.

“The village wants to encourage some nicer, higher end homes,” he said, noting that a stormwater pond and a park are planned along the railroad tracks as a buffer for the residential development.

Plan commission members and village board members believe the acreage along Dunn Street is desirable for residential development because sewer and water is already at the street and only needs to be extended to the lots.

Industrial

Mark Ackerman, owner of E. A. Ackerman Dairy Products located across the street from the proposed development, told the plan commission that the Schindler property, at least along the railroad tracks, should be light industrial or commercial, not residential.

The property along the railroad tracks is perfect for a spur line and light industry, Ackerman said.

“Once the good jobs are here, then people will build homes,” he said, adding that the village should be encouraging residential development to the south along state Highway 40 instead of east along the railroad tracks.

No one is going to want to build a house next to the natural gas facility, Ackerman Dairy Products and the railroad tracks, Ackerman said.

“A $250,000 home in a cornfield by the tracks?” Ackerman said.

Ackerman said a few years back, the property across the street from Ackerman Dairy Products had come up for sale at an auction.

Ackerman said he had stopped bidding on the lot at $215,000, and it was then sold to a bidder from Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Even before he left the auction, the new buyer tried to sell the lot to Ackerman, but Ackerman said he was no longer interested.

“The check bounced,” Ackerman said, noting that the buyer of the property later approached him two more times about the lot.

“Get some industry. The town will grow. The jobs will come. And houses will be built,” he said.

The village board should look at the potential for growth next to the railroad tracks and put it on the market for 12 months as industrial to see if it sells, Ackerman said.

Terry Moen, a resident of Dunn Street, agreed with Ackerman that the area along the railroad tracks should be industrial.

Since the new fire station is located at the other side of the property, the area along the railroad tracks from the fire station to Dunn Street might be better as commercial or industrial, he said.

Ackerman noted that while he did not believe that residential belonged along the railroad tracks, he could envision residential fitting in well on the south side of the property.

“I wouldn’t want to live across from my (business),” he said.

Utopia

“If we had a utopia,” the Henderson property on the south side of Colfax would be residential and the Schindler property would be industrial, said Scott Gunnufson, village president and chair of the plan commission.

But Hendersons are not interested in selling their property, and the Schindlers do not want to sell their property for industrial, he said.

Dave Hovre, a member of the plan commission, said he was not necessarily in favor of putting a residential development along Dunn Street but that the decision was made for residential because of the sewer and water hookups.

Gunnufson said he had talked to several contractors and that they were waiting for four-plex lots in Phase 2.

The residential development will be in the Tax Increment Financing District, so the village will receive the tax increment for the development, he said.

The village’s comprehensive plan includes commercial and industrial along the railroad tracks closer to the fire station, Beilfuss noted.

The village purchased the property to sell for residential development, so the village will have control over how the property is developed, he said.

In this area, there is a fairly high demand for quality multi-family housing. People are hesitant to buy a house, and it takes longer to save up for a down payment. In the interim, people want a nice place to live, Beilfuss said.

The village is planning to buy Phase 2 of the development in June, Gunnufson said.

“It is a risk, but we have to do something,” he said.

Beilfuss said during a conversation with the businesses in the village’s industrial park, the business owners had said they wanted a rail spur to the west.

Unfortunately, the landowners did not want to sell, he said.

Beilfuss said he had also talked to several builders in Menomonie and Eau Claire.

One builder was interested in building a spec house. Another builder said he would build in the area along Dunn Street but not a spec house, he said.

Beilfuss said he was not worried about the lots being developed, and if the village wanted to give away the first two lots, it could be very attractive to someone wanting to build a house.

Moen noted that he lives across the street from the proposed development and that he “wants it to be nice.”

The village will be able to negotiate a developer’s agreement between the contractor and the village, Beilfuss said.

Approval

The plan commission unanimously approved motions to recommend that the village board rezone the property from agricultural to residential and also unanimously approved recommending that the village board approve the preliminary and final plat for the Phase 1.

At the Colfax Village Board’s March 23 meeting, the village board unanimously approved motions for the rezone, to approve the preliminary and final plat, and to approve the logo for the residential development.