Winona must be cautious about large land developments


(8/5/2020)

From: James Puz

 

It appears the Cedar Brook Cooperative development proposal on County Road 17 across from Signatures and Bridges Golf Course could become as contentious as the Jason Phillips Cobblestone project of several years ago. Let’s hope not.

Cedar Brook’s plan is for 28-36 units. While the City Council has recently approved the plan by a 6-1 vote for a four story structure (including garage), much has to be done before the cooperative becomes a reality. And as to what four stories might look like in Pleasant Valley (given the rural setting), view Main Square downtown (flat roof) and the apartments across from Winona Health (pitched roof).

And it must be remembered that prior to the compromise annexation that allowed Cobblestone’s arrival in Pleasant Valley, the city was willing to go to great lengths to have its way. At one meeting I attended, I heard a city representative state quite clearly that Winona would pay Mr. Phillips’ legal fees if it came to that. I was stunned as I’m sure others in attendance were. But nobody challenged Winona’s declaration; a potential conflict of interest didn’t seem to phase Winona nor the township board. In the end, though, a compromise was reached. However, the number of homes completed thus far is far from the total number originally planned. For all of Winona’s efforts and outlay of infrastructure expenditures for Cobblestone, it seems the city “was took” big time.

Keep in mind, too, that Menards and Walmart are here basically under false pretenses.

When Winonans voted approval as to what the land in question was to be used for, it was for light-industrial because of the number of potentially good paying jobs that would come with such an investment. But the sand used to make the land useful wasn’t even dry when it was announced that Menards was heading to Winona ... and right to that newly reclaimed section of Winona. And you know it takes a bit of time to work out details for such a large project.

I inquired about Menards and was told by a city official that Winonans had really voted for light industrial/commercial use of the property. This I seriously doubted and asked John Edstrom, owner of the Winona Post, his view on the subject. He agreed that the vote was, indeed, for light industrial only. A search for any old ballots proved futile.

And as to Walmart’s arrival, it was revealed that the Open Meeting Law had been violated several times by various city officials when those officials met as individuals with Walmart representatives to discuss the company’s desire to build one of its Superstores here.

As one can see, Winona’s track record when dealing with large land developments in the past has been somewhat “mysterious.” Therefore, any talks regarding Cedar Brook must be thorough and must leave the local residents completely comfortable with the decision-making process if Cedar Brook becomes a reality. And one wonders, too, as to what Wilson Township gets out of the deal since it reached a compromise with Winona to avoid any hostile take-over attempts by the city.

 

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