American Legion building to make way for La Crescent event center

The American Legion Building at 509 N. Chestnut Ave. in La Crescent will soon be the location of the La Crescent Area Event Center.

Alex Graaff, Houston County News

Residents of Park Street in La Crescent voiced their opposition to parking lot designs that use Park Street as an entrance for a proposed event center at Monday’s City Council meeting. They also objected to changes that would be made to Veterans Park.

City Engineer Tim Hruska presented two parking lot alternatives to the Council that would handle storm water runoff; one using a pond and one a biofiltration system, but both options relied on Park Street for egress.

The 53-room nationally franchised hotel will cost more than $5.5 million with the event center running more than $3 million. In conjunction with the project, the city will construct 177 public parking stalls at a cost of $600,000. The city will pay up to $175,000 with the remainder of parking construction assessed to the hotel/event center complex.

Jeff Henthorne and seven other Park Street residents told the Council that any plan using Park Street was a bad idea.

“We have big time concerns about the street and the grandiose parking connected to the street,” Henthorne said.

The group’s objections included potential declining property values, increased taxes, high noise and environmental issues like drainage. Henthorne also said that event traffic along with motorists leaving a local tavern and using the route to avoid the Kwik Trip corner would, “turn a quiet street into a freeway.” “That road ain’t gonna cut it,” he said.

Lisa Fiegen pointed out potential safety issues that could result at Veterans Park. “The playground area would be tucked up against a bluff without observation,” she said. Fiegen said that residents can monitor situations at the playground, but under the proposed changes to the park, children could not be watched.

Several other residents appreciated the beauty and versatility of Vets park in its current state.

The group made a point of sharing a line from an old song with the Council, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

The group offered alternatives. One resident suggested exits should be on the highway, not Park Street. Dick Wieser suggested that parking lot exits should be on Walnut Place, but adding that cost might be a factor.

Attempting to allay fears, Mayor Mike Poellinger told the group, “Right now, we’re in a concept stage, the time frame for this project is about a year away. We still have no final plans for the event center or hotel.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that Park Street is something we don’t want to move forward with.”

Council member Dale Williams turned to Hruska, “Take off the expansion of Park Street — do away with it. This is an opportunity for us, let’s do it right,” he said.

Poellinger asked for a motion, tasking Hruska with a new engineering agreement that featured two revised alternatives. The motion carried unanimously.

In other business

The Council continued review of the 2018 budget which will be discussed again at the first meeting in November. The 2018 tax levy reflects a 6.5 percent increase, down slightly from the 2017 increase of 6.7 percent. The budget calls for $147,200 in new funding to support the library.

Council member Williams also encouraged the Train Committee to move forward on finding a solution to a whistle issue. “I heard him laying on that horn at 2:30 a.m., 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.,” he said. “There’s got to be some resolution to this.”

Hutchinson reported that recently a train blocked an intersection near the dump for 40 minutes.

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