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The city of La Crescent planning commission on Tuesday approved a preliminary plat for the Horse Track Meadows development planned off County Road 6.

The meeting gave another opportunity to residents who live on County Road 6 to vent their concerns about the project, which is expected to lead to the annexation of 47 properties along the route to the development.

Located on the old racetrack property, the development has been named Horse Track Meadows by the company behind the project.

The commissioners recommended approval of the preliminary plat for the project by a 6-0 vote and the proposal now moves to the city council for a vote.

The preliminary plat lays out the boundaries for the site, which is being developed by Mike Sexauer, the CEO of Badger Corrugating of La Crosse.

Sexauer was present at Tuesday’s meeting and gave a brief overview of the plan, which he said is expected to include about 75 lots.

The preliminary plat also includes plans for a 48-unit apartment complex that Sexauer said would be an “upscale” development, likely with underground parking and elevators. The apartment would be surrounded by trees on three sides and is anticipated to be 2.5 stories high, according to Sexauer.

Construction of housing for the first phase of the project is expected to start in the spring of 2019 and is anticipated to include 45 lots.

The city is working on connecting city water and sewer to the site, which was annexed into the city before Sexauer’s development company agreed to buy it.

The city is giving the 47 property owners on the section of County Road 6 that leads to the development a 10-year window to voluntarily petition for annexation. If they choose not to annex, they face forcible annexation at the end of that period. City officials have said they can use state law to annex the properties.

By accepting annexation, the property owners must connect to city water and sewer at an estimated cost of $27,000 each. The price will rise if they wait to be annexed, city officials have warned.

“This is a lot of unfair, undue financial burden being placed on us,” said Jeff Miller, who lives on County Road 6, at Tuesday’s planning commission meeting.

Linda Larson led the planning commission in the absence of chairman Don Smith and told audience members that the commission did not have a role in the annexation process.

City engineer Tim Hruska said that bids for the city sewer and water project are expected to be opened in August. The bids will finalize the cost of the assessments affected residents will have to pay to connect to city services.

A number of residents also said at Tuesday’s meeting that they were concerned about the increase in traffic the new development could create.

Hruska said Houston County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski would deal with the traffic question and look at any solutions he deems necessary. The planning commission will review the county’s findings ahead of action on the final plat, which is expected in July.

La Crescent Area Event Center

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the planning commission approved a preliminary and then a final plat for the La Crescent Area Event Center, hotel and Veterans Park.

Commission member Dave Hanifl said it was highly unusual to approve a preliminary plat and then go straight to voting on a final plat at the same meeting. Hruska said part of the reason was that contractors are anxious to start work on the project. The final plat now goes to the city council for approval.

The plat defines the property boundaries for the project and showed that the total site would have over 200 parking spaces, including an existing parking lot that’s expected to be renovated as part of the project.

The site includes the existing American Legion Post 595 building, which is being torn down.

The plat approved by the commission differs from a previous plan by eliminating any access to Park Street, which residents had opposed. Jeff Henthorne, one of those residents, thanked the city for addressing that concern and others, including his hope that as many trees at the site be preserved as possible.

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Coulee Courier and Houston County News editor

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