Coulee Council on Addictions’ plans for a new building moved forward Monday after a pair of decisions by the La Crosse Plan Commission.

Executive Director Cheryl Hancock of the Coulee Council on Addictions

Hancock

The commission approved the nonprofit’s rezoning request in a 5-3 vote and waived the on-site parking requirement 7-1 after a lengthy discussion.

If the decisions are approved by the La Crosse Common Council next week, it would pave the way for the 13,000-square-foot Coulee Recovery Center building, which would replace Coulee Council’s 6,000-square-foot facility at the corner of West Avenue and Jackson Street. The facility would serve those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, hosting sober social events as well as sober support group meetings and other Coulee Council programs.

The council vote would require a super-majority as the project has proven contentious, with people in the Washburn neighborhood objecting to the public use in an area zoned residential, as well as raising concerns about increased traffic, limited parking and possible stormwater runoff.

The parking waiver approved Monday would allow the new facility to have 31 spots in its parking lot, 15 fewer than the 46 that would be required by city ordinance. Coulee Council executive director Cheryl Hancock said the waiver would allow the group to stay on the Ferry Street side of the alley, leaving the Hillview Urban Agricultural Center’s vermicompost facility and garden unaffected.

“We’ve been more than willing to work with them on that,” Hancock said.

Under Coulee Council’s plan, the parking spaces would be made up by Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare, which owns the Coulee Recovery Center property. Mayo would allow Coulee Recover Center patrons to park in the lot on the corner of Ferry and 10th Streets. The spots would be used in the evening and on weekends and be posted as Coulee Council parking.

City engineer Randy Turtenwald, who was the sole commission member to vote against the waiver, questioned whether the spaces across the street would truly be available.

“The ordinance requires you to have them all the time, not just after hours,” he said.

Hancock said the spots wouldn’t be needed during the day, saying staff members counted about 20 cars maximum in its current lot during the day, even when holding noon meetings.

The rezoning request returned to the plan commission after Hancock a delay at September’s Common Council meeting to allow its lawyers and those of Mayo to review the payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the city.

“We have met with the city attorney and we are expecting a revised PILOT agreement this week so that we can sign off on it,” Hancock said. “Our hope is that we can sign off on it by the end of this week. It was pretty agreeable as far as some of the language changes we were looking for.”

Residents of the Washburn neighborhood argued against both measures, saying that the facility would increase traffic, particularly in the evening hours and weekends, and the area already suffers from a parking shortage.

“I’m home most of the day, so I see all during the day what happens when a visitor can’t find a parking space when they’re coming visiting,” said Joyce Felshiem. “I’m concerned about the parking being less, during the day especially.”

Felsheim, who has lived in the area for 27 years, said the parking issue has been a problem in that neighborhood as Mayo Clinic staff, patients and visitors park on the street.

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Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

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