The Hudson School District's plan to purchase the St. Croix Meadows dog track property for a future secondary school site passed with voters district-wide in Tuesday's referendum, but it still needs at least four more yes votes to become reality.
That final vote will take place among members of the City of Hudson's Common Council when it takes up the issue of whether to rezone the 131-acre property from commercial use to public use. But, there are a few steps, including a public hearing on Monday and a Plan Commission recommendation on Thursday, before the matter will come to the council for that vote.
WHAT'S AT ISSUE
A site for a secondary school to solve district space issues
The school district's space issues were well-documented throughout the election season, and well before.
Hudson Middle School is currently well over capacity and is using two classrooms at neighboring Hudson Prairie Elementary School. Some teachers don't have their own classrooms and use carts to move their materials to different classrooms throughout the day. Enrollment projections show that the school will become even more crowded in coming years.
Hudson High School is currently close to its capacity and the lack of adequate space is already beginning to have a negative impact on the school's ability to offer certain science, art and music courses. Enrollment projections show that the number of students will surpass the school's capacity within a few years and continue to rise.
Not only did the district's referendum get 56 percent of the vote district-wide, but more than 58 percent of voters in the City of Hudson voted yes. District 2, where the property is, 63.1 percent voted in favor of the district's property purchase.
Loss of commercially zoned property and tax revenue
At the Feb. 13 Plan Commission meeting, Hudson's Community Development Director Denny Darnold presented an analysis of tax revenue that would be given up if the property were zoned for public use.
In 2011, the vacant property was taxed $93,696.04, more than $22,000 of which ended up in the city's coffers. If the land is rezoned for use as a public school, those numbers would be zero.
Though the track has been vacant for several years, the city had conversations with potential buyers last year when the owners first started working with a listing agent to sell the property.
If the property were to be developed commercially, Darnold concluded the potential lost property tax revenue would be an estimated $151,587 to $318,847 for the City of Hudson alone. The school district itself would forego an estimated $244,877 to $515,071.
That revenue would be difficult for the city to recoup, because the 131-acre property makes up about one-third of the city's available commercial land.
HOW THE DECISION WILL BE MADE
Public Hearing on Monday, April 9
The next step in that process happens at 6:45 p.m. on Monday, April 9, at a special public hearing that will be held just before the next city council meeting. At that hearing, Barbara Van Loenen, president of the Hudson School District Board of Education, will make a presentation and members of the community will have a chance to deliver their own remarks and comments to the council. The council will make no decisions on the matter on April 9 and will await a recommendation from the city's Plan Commission.
Plan Commission Meeting on Thursday, April 12
The Plan Commission first heard from the school district, and from the current property owner, Croixland Properties, at a meeting on Feb. 13, 2012. At that meeting the commission decided not to take a stand on the matter before voters had their say on the referendum. Now that the referendum has passed, the commission will take up the issue again at its April 12 meeting, and likely will vote to make a recommendation to either approve or deny the rezoning request. The commission's recommendation is non-binding and the Common Council will have the final say.
Common Council Meeting likely April 23 or later
The earliest the Common Council could take up the rezoning issue without scheduling a special meeting would be at its annual organization meeting on April 17. But that meeting is usually reserved for welcoming new members, issuing the oath of office, and votes on the council presidency and the mayor's slate of committee appointments. It's much more likely to be on the agenda at the council's April 23 meeting, or a later meeting. It will take a majority of the members of council (four) at that meeting to approve the rezoning. Mayor Alan Burchill will cast the deciding vote in the event of a 3-3 tie.
Randy Morrissette II
715-386-4765 (ext. 120), Mayor@ci.hudson.wi.us