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Dog Track Appraised at $16.8 Million; Rezoning Remains Uncertain

The Hudson School District has chance to spend $8.25 million to purchase property valued at $16.8 million. Voters will decide on April 3, but Plan Commission is still to decide on zoning.

At its regular monthly meeting on Feb. 14 at River Crest Elementary School, the Hudson School District Board of Education received an appraisal showing the St. Croix Meadows dog track property is far more valuable than the district's $8.25 million purchase price. Voters will decide on the land purchase in an April 3 referendum.

Jeff White and Paul Daley of Eau Claire-based Valuation Specialists delivered the appraisal report showing that the property is worth about $16.8 million — $7.1 million in land value and $9.7 million in site improvements that include the existing building and infrastructure.

The appraisal was based current market conditions and as if the property was rezoned for public use and used as a school site.

St. Croix County assessed the property at less than $5.6 million in September 2011, and it is currently zoned for commercial use.

The current property owner — Croixland Properties — has a purchase agreement with the district that is contigent upon the district securing financing through an April 3 referendum and upon the rezoning of the property.

On Jan. 23, the Hudson Common Council scheduled a public hearing on the issue for April 9 and referred the request to Plan Commission. Community Development Director Denny Darnold said that the Plan Commision has until just March 10 to deny the rezoning request or send the matter to the Common Council unless Croixland agrees to extend the 60-day timeframe.

On Monday, the city's Plan Commission heard comments from representatives of Croixland Properties, Hudson School District administrators and two St. Croix County supervisors. In addition, Darnold gave a presentation about the value of property, particularly as a commercial area, and layed out the potential tax revenue loss the city would suffer if the land was rezoned for public use.

The commission voted to seek an extension from Croixland Properties on the March 10 deadline in hopes of taking the issue up after the April 3 referendum, but before the April 9 council hearing. 

"I feel that the Plan Commission should not be put in a position to publicly endorse or deny approval of something like this until the voters have spoken," said commission member Fred Yoerg. "To make us come to a decision to say we are either for or against prior to any public vote puts us in the awkward position of saying that we're endorsing something publicly."

Cheryl McCarten February 15, 2012 at 05:37 PM
I have to agree with commission member Fred Yoerg's comment, "I feel that the Plan Commission should not be put in a position to publicly endorse or deny approval of something like this until the voters have spoken." Since we are the actual taxpayers (vs. representing commision), why would the public allow the cart to be put before the horse?
Dan Bushman February 15, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Cheryl, I appreciate how you made that point. Just as long as people realize that if the voters speak that it is to be school property, the planning commission really has a fate accompli on their hands. Once the school owns it because the voters want it that way, would the city really say that the school district must develop it as commercial property or not at all? Think about it. Fred also deserves credit for saying/adding "or deny". I do hope everyone recognizes that the commission position is neutral. The planning commission is being cautious about the appearance of an endorsement. And so be it. As a 23-year resident of Hudson, I've heard far too much for far too long about the tax revenue "potential" of that dang property. I swear was supposed to be able to retire just from the property tax savings I was going to get from the track's massively lucrative and prosperous success filling the public coffers.
All right February 15, 2012 at 09:39 PM
The news about this site just keeps getting better and better. I know who I'm going to have appraise my house when I go to sell it... I'm 44 years old and have lived in Hudson my entire life. I've watched this town turn into a city, and for the most part it's been a nice transition. Obviously we need a new HS, but is this really the right time? I don't buy a car because the dealer has a great sale price; I buy something when I can afford it and feel comfortable financially. My guess is most citizens on Hudson try to live within their means too, and just because you think you have a sure deal on the dog track property doens't mean you need to move on it now. Guess what, when and IF the economy picks up the dog track will still be there, and if not, something else will be available. This is the reason I'm voting no, it's called common sense and living within your means. People are suffering economically like we haven't seen in years, and I myself have never witnessed in 44 years.
BRG February 16, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Financially, the time will never be right for many. But the NEED is immediate and the negative effects of not moving forward on something the community and the district need are already showing. The current facilities are too small as it is, and we all know the growth in the area isn't going to stop. With that in mind, the time is clearly now. And from a financial standpoint, this seems to be the most favorable opportunity. If it doesn't pass, what next? The current agreement would no longer be in place. Say the property does eventually get sold and developed commercially. That doesn't mean that whatever goes in is going to be utilized. Look at the empty commercial/retail space adjacent to the Aldi grocery store. It doesn't seem as though businesses/retailers are lining up to occupy the space already available in that part of town. And what's to guarantee something better will come along in the near future for the district? If it doesn't, are we then back to the dog track site only to be put in a position to have to make another offer more in the favor of the current owner?
Frazzle February 17, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Yeah cause they are an unbiased group with nothing to gain. What crap!
All right February 17, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Financially speaking, when you're spending others money it's always the right time. See American Gov't for an example of that. That is why our country is in such dire straits right now. When SO MANY people are losing their jobs and getting foreclosed on; see HSO for many examples, it's not the right time. We need to do what is best for the majority of Hudson citizens, not just the one's that support this referendum. And if the citizens agree with you then it will pass. If it doesn't pass the school board needs to 'zip' it on this until the economy picks up. I can tell you first hand the majority citizens of Hudson (that have been here their entire life) do not trust the school board. See Cty Rd UU property for a prime example of our money being wasted.
Frazzle February 17, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Just because the referendum passes doesn't mean the land will get rezoned. The school board went about this backwards. They should have gone to the City first to see if they would rezone then go to referendum. But they think they can do what they want. History has proven that.
Eagle February 17, 2012 at 09:14 PM
The city needs to look at what the city residents vote in the referendum. If the city residents vote no, and the other areas vote yes and it passes, then the property should NOT be rezoned as the city residents voted NO. Being a city resident I encourage a NO vote. The city needs its commercial property.
Calvin February 17, 2012 at 10:55 PM
So what we have is a commercial property that has a tax assessed value of $5.6 million, a market value of 3 times that at $16.8 million, and a contracted purchase price of $8.25 million. I'm certainly not a real estate expert, but does anyone else think these numbers just don't "add up"?
Frazzle February 17, 2012 at 10:57 PM
I agree Eagle. But to take it one step farther. The City needs to look at what is the best thing for the taxpayer no matter how the city residents vote. If they vote to pass it and that location is not the best location in the Cities eyes then they should consider that in their vote. There are other locations for a school. Locations that won't hurt the existing tax base.
Lars Glockzin February 20, 2012 at 11:16 PM
I was at the meeting and was surprised to see that there hasn't been a study performed on the UU/Soccer Plat of land. Therefore I decided to performed a study on the property. Please note that I have experience in developing schools. I have incorporated a 1 story facility with an expanded capacity of 3,000 pupils,4 baseball fields 6 football fields with tracks, 4 basketball courts 2 swimming arenas, 2 large auditoriums, along with every possible feature that you could think of, 950 parking stalls and still have over 55% of green space. So the basis that this property cannot handle a school is false. Please comment and I can show you the drawing and or numbers to back all this up. The "dog rack" is not conducive to a school. I just wish that the school's attitude that it is "we against them" would not be so severe. Logic should dictate decisions of this magnitude. They have other options.
Micheal Foley February 21, 2012 at 07:16 AM
Hoffman presented an evaluation of that property in January 2011. They said, "it is our opinion that this site is a very poor site for the development of a secondary school.” Here's the Patch post about that school board meeting: http://patch.com/A-dm96
Calvin February 21, 2012 at 02:13 PM
The school districts inability to adequately explain their changed position on the UU property is why so many in the community are questioning the Dog Track purchase. If it was such a poor site for a school, why was it purchased in the first place? Why was a second analysis performed with such a different outcome? Also to note is a March 2011 article in the HSO: www.hudsonstarobserver.com/event/article/id/42219/ where Superintendent Eggebraaten was questioned about the dog track as a potential school site right after the property was put on the market. In this article she explains that the structure (grandstand) on the site would "not be suitable for a school." She said “only the façade and stairwells could be salvaged.” Now they are telling us that they are going to save us millions by reusing 90,000 square feet of that building. Again what has changed?
Dan Bushman February 21, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Most importantly, what you may or may not have seen on the plat map is that the UU property is not on Hudson city sewer and water. The "logic" of buying the property years ago was that by the time it was needed that the city would have annexed out to that property. because that didn't happen, a sewerage treatment plant with a large school capacity would need to be on the site with appropriate setbacks. In addition, the elevations on the site take a lot of the acreage away and the natural drainage patterns run right to where the treatment plant would be. There were a lot of assumptions back when the bulk of the UU property was bought in 2001 that are in hindsight wrong. But that doesn't change the 2012 reality that it's not a workable option. If you want some more information and to see why the dog track is a workable and very practical option, go to www.voteyeshudson.com. I don't see the studies on the dog track making any of the big "leaps of faith" assumptions that the purchase of the UU site included.
Calvin February 21, 2012 at 02:46 PM
I believe there was a referendum several years back that included a school on the UU property. Unfortunately, that failed to pass. If it was suitable back then why not now? Yes, perhaps it was a smaller school, and a mega HS (2500 students) won't work on the UU property, but if the district hasn't even determined what kind of school we need yet why rule UU out and spend $8.25 million on another piece of property? We need a full building plan in place before we go spending more money. Also, didn't the city extend sewer/water to build River Crest? Why is everyone saying it is impossible to do this for the UU property? I also feel that there is a "leap of faith" assumption for the Dog Track property in that it needs to be rezoned from commercial use to public use. This is a huge debate within the community. I am for a new school, there just needs to be a building plan in place before we spend $8 million more on land alone. Yes, it may only cost us a "dinner out" as your "vote yes" group implies, but the current referendum is not giving us a workable school, just a piece of land.
Frazzle February 21, 2012 at 02:59 PM
A dinner out. It will cost a lot more than that after the school is built. And City residents will be double dipped on as they will lose a huge tax generating property in the dog tracks. The school board has to deal with the fact tat the City did not grow to their predictions. HA! Now that I write that it makes me think that their projections of future school growth may also be off and all of this is for nothing. After all they are predicting 10 years out. Who knows what will happen 10 years out. I am sure 10 years ago we were not counting on a recession. Listen. The first feasibility study took into account a waste water treatment plant so they were fully armed with that information. We can forget about the UU land if you want but the School Board has given zero good reasons why they can't support the purchase of the land buy the governement center. And let me save everyone the time.the roads can be widened. The dog track infrastructure is not perfect either so both sites need work there. And 4 schools in the same area, big deal!! We are all big kids we can handle it. If the school goes out in the dog track area you tell me what kid will be walking or biking to school? The eco footprint will grow 10 fold because there will be more cars and buses going out there. Schools need to stay within the community so kids can actually do these days what we did in our days and WALK to school.
Lars Glockzin February 21, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I know Hoffman and they would bid on my projects. It is a large diverse company, I also write studies. The only issue I see being argued about the land, is the sewer and water. It is a non issue. Extending sewer and water is, and will be by far the best solution for the future. If you want to argue that a sanitary system is required, it does not need to be in the center of the property. These reports are not entirely accurate. The higher population density will be to the east, so the extension of the sewer and water will provide the best opportunity for today and the future growth of Hudson. It would open up lands for commercial, industrial, single & multi family, parks, and as many schools you want. The traffic congestion is always resolved with controlled intersections. The site can be leveled in a week. Remember that the "dog Track" is the last remaining 30% of tax generating commercial property left, which would be changed to a tax exempt status forever. Thank you for your time. Lars Glockzin - Architect
Dan Bushman February 21, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Just as a point of fact: There has never been a referendum to build anything on the UU site.
Dan Bushman February 21, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Also, I suggest you contact the City of Hudson and ask them about extending the sewer and water to the UU property. They have indicated to the district that will not happen.
Calvin February 21, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Mr. Bushman, Although I did not live in Hudson at the time, I believe there was a referendum around 2003 for approximately $25 million to build an 8-9 building on the UU property. I been told that this failed referendum is what lead to the creation of the Facilities Planning Task Force. I know 2 individuals that served on that committee (and after reading your HSO letter to the editor I understand you did too). Perhaps you could use your contacts at the school district and let us know if this is indeed a fact. It's been very hard to find any information on this prior referendum.
Dan Bushman February 21, 2012 at 09:27 PM
I will look into that. I don't recall that one. And if I'm wrong, I will humbly stand corrected. There was a referendum in 2003 to clean up and remodel Willow River School and add some space onto the high school, and that passed.
Dan Bushman February 21, 2012 at 10:57 PM
And I will stand corrected. Yes, that is true about the 2003 referendum. And I do want to find out more. Fair enough?
Cheryl McCarten February 21, 2012 at 11:34 PM
I've been wondering the same things, Calvin. A lot has changed since 2003. The MS has been (somewhat) expanded and River Crest was built since then, but I can't find much information about the UU property, either. I'm following this just to see where it goes and am interested in more information from Lars Glockzin's comments above. In the meantime, I just can't get behind purchasing the dog track land just because it's there.

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