Reprinted with permission.
Commentary, page 9A
Thursday, June 3, 2010
It seems to me
Menomonie should slow down plan for apartment
By Tim Williamson
At the May 24 Menomonie Plan Commission meeting, I spoke about AHMC Asset Management's
planned development in downtown Menomonie. A subsequent Leader-Telegram article made it sound
like I thought this developer was some kind of "monster," which is not the case. I have the utmost
respect for them and I think they are probably a very good management team.
What I was referring to as a "monster" is the planned unit development overlay zoning of Menomonie,
referred to as a PUD. The PUD goes over the top of the existing zoning - in this case B-1 Commercial
- and throws out almost all of the rules such as setback, density, green space, parking, and height
restrictions, that would normally be followed. It throws out these rules and lets the city and the
developer determine how they want to build. I don't think it was really meant to increase the number
of units on the site in question from 46 to 129, to decrease green space of 0.41 acres based on density
to less than 0.15 acres, to have no minimum lot site requirement and to get around height restrictions.
This thing is going to be one big building: four stories tall, 129 dwelling units, 250 bedrooms, and
more than 300 parking spots, most of which will be underground. This thing resembles a new
dormitory except that, by code, they have to have some commercial space on the ground level. UW-
Stout could use this commercial space for offices.
There were 11 or 12 people who spoke against this project at the meeting. Not one person spoke in
favor of it, yet the Plan Commission, by a unanimous vote, sent it on to City Council, which meets at
7 p.m. Monday. This meeting is open to the public, and you need to attend. If the council passes it, it
is a done deal.
It is becoming clearer to me what is really going on. I hung in there five years ago when UW-Stout put
up the new Red Cedar Hall and added 300 bedrooms, because the university promised to take down
Jeter-Tainter-Callahan Hall the following year. That dorm is still up and running five years later, and
construction of the new dormlike structure coincides with the demolition of the old one, if that ever
I don't think it is a free enterprise system when the city can throw out a bunch of rules to help give
someone else an advantage and squash the small player. Student rental rates are higher in Eau Claire
because they do not cater to big developers. Eau Claire has shot down similar large projects around
UW-Eau Claire, including one by AHMC.
Reprinted with permission.
What happens in a few years if the developer decides to sell the building to UW-Stout? That estimated
$400,000 in annual property tax income is gone. UW-Stout does not pay property taxes. The tax
burden has to fall on someone, so the taxpayers have to start picking up the tab.
There appears to be a lot of pressure on the City Council to get this done. My fight is not with UW-
Stout or the developer; it is with the City Council and the mayor. They are elected by city residents to
protect us. They are supposed to represent residents and not bow down to pressure put on them by
UW-Stout, the developer and the city.
I urge the City Council to vote this down and send it back through the planning process so everyone
can have a look at it and get their questions answered and concerns known. This is a big project that
will change the landscape of our community.
Call your City Council members and give them an earful. They need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Williamson, of Menomonie, is an owner of rental properties.
The Menomonie City Council will hold a public hearing on a proposed downtown student project at 7
p.m. Monday, in the council chamber of the Dunn County Government Center, 800 Wilson Ave.