The vote on a new home for Coulee Council for Addictions was delayed Thursday, and a proposal for the construction of rental properties on 21st Street moved forward after a pair of decisions by the La Crosse Common Council.

The council also voted to shorten alternate-side parking, having it run from Nov. 15 to March 15, rather than Nov. 1 to April 1.

Coulee Council executive director Cheryl Hancock requested a 30-day referral on the question of whether to rezone 923, 927, 929, 935 and 939 Ferry St. to make way for a 13,000-square-foot Coulee Recovery Center building to house the nonprofit’s programs. The delay, which passed the council on a 9-3 vote, is to allow the Coulee Council and the property’s owner, Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare, the chance to review a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the city. The PILOT is calculated based on the current property tax value of the parcels and is paid each year.

“We appreciate the council’s patience and understanding, allowing us to have this time, and we understand the concern, because it has been a very stressful thing for a number of people,” Hancock said.

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Executive Director Cheryl Hancock of the Coulee Council on Addictions

Hancock

While Coulee Council is a nonprofit and exempt from paying property taxes, early on in the discussion to transfer the property from the multiple dwelling district to the public and semi-public district, Hancock said, Coulee Council had offered to provide a PILOT to the city.

“We recognize that 50 percent (of properties) in the city are (tax) exempt and that puts a burden on the taxpayer,” Hancock said.

However, the Coulee Council board was surprised to receive the request to sign the agreement, which Hancock received late Wednesday afternoon, prior to Thursday’s Common Council meeting.

“It’s a 10-page legal document, and our biggest concern is that we haven’t had the chance to review it and the property owner hasn’t had the chance to review it,” Hancock said.

Council member Patrick Brever objected to another delay after an error in posting the legal notice of public hearing delayed the discussion last month.

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Patrick Brever mug

Brever

“I don’t think we can keep this neighborhood in limbo for another month,” Brever said. “I don’t think any opinions will change for another month.”

Council member Jaqueline Marcou also objected, saying the council had an obligation to vote Thursday.

The proposal for the building, which would replace Coulee Council’s 6,000-square-foot facility at the corner of West Avenue and Jackson Street, has proven contentious as people in the Washburn neighborhood object to a facility designed to serve people recovering from alcohol and drug addictions on a block slated for residential development in the city’s plans. Neighbors have raised questions over whether the new facility will impede the work done by the city and La Crosse Promise to revitalize the Washburn neighborhood.

Proponents of the project say it will serve a growing need in the area to assist people voluntarily seeking sobriety.

Hancock doesn’t expect the delay to affect the project’s timeline, which calls for them to move to the new building late next spring, provided the city approves the rezoning and design. Coulee Council has also requested a waiver to lower the number of parking spaces required in response to neighbors’ request to keep Hillview Urban Agricultural Center’s vermicompost facility and garden, located across the alley from the proposed parking lot.

“That waiver has to go through the October cycle as well, so really they would go through October cycle together, so it really doesn’t affect our timeline,” Hancock said. “We had already adjusted our plans for the late October start and this will be in line with that.”

21st Street development

A proposal to rezone 225-227 and 231 21st St. from single-family residential to traditional neighborhood development passed with an 8-3 vote, allowing David and Elaine Olson to move forward with the development of rental properties in the Grandview Emerson neighborhood.

Council members Barb Janssen, Scott Neumeister and Gary Padesky spoke in favor of the Olsons’ proposal, with Janssen saying the Olsons deserve a chance to present something that fits in with the neighborhood.

“It’s something we’ll be able to keep an eye on as it’s going forward,” Padesky added.

Alternate-side parking

The council also approved a measure to shorten alternate-side parking over the objection of La Crosse Police Chief Ron Tischer.

Padesky introduced the change, which he says will provide relief from parking tickets during times of little snowfall; however, Tischer was concerned that the change would cost the city $35,000.

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FILE -- Ron Tischer

Tischer

Last winter the city brought in $35,000 during the four weeks proposed to be cut.

“With the debt we incurred with the new parking ramp, the equipment and salaries, we can’t afford to lose $35,000,” Tischer said.

The measure passed on a 10-2 vote, with council members Phillip Ostrem and Douglas Happel voting no.

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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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