UPDATE: Viroqua City Council approves plan for 22 acre development on city’s north side

VIROQUA, Wis. – The Viroqua City Council voted unanimously to approve a “master plan” for a 22-acre development at it’s regular meeting on Tuesday night. The plan was the eleventh version of the plan developed by consultant Kurt Muchow of Vierbicher & Associates for the property known locally as the “Hanson property” that is located in the heart of the city’s north side business district.

Muchow said he worked with the Viroqua Development Association to incorporate feedback from the community to keep some of the existing farm buildings, and include more family housing the was not multi-family units. The plan does not include single family homes but it does include a number of duplexes and rowhouses that could be owner occupied. Muchow said owner occupied duplexes are incredibly popular right now, but what is built on the parcels within the development will ultimately be up to developers that buy the parcels. Muchow said if the plan is implemented as drawn up there are about 98 housing units included and that would equate to about $16 million in tax base.

Discussion on Hanson property master plan starts at about the 43:30 mark

City Administrator Nate Torres said the development will be included in a tax incremental finance district (TIF). Using a TIF district the city can use all the tax revenue from the property to pay for upfront improvements like engineering, site prep, utilities, streets, lighting and sidewalks. TIFs are typically structured for 10-20 years and once those infrastructure improvements are paid off the tax revenue go back to normal tax collection entities like the county and schools.

Torres emphasized the idea behind the project would be to develop the property in phases to create cash flow within the TIF that can help pay for future phases. Torres said ideally they would like to develop the commercial sites along State Highway 14 first since there is already easy access to existing utilities in that area. The idea would be to use that revenue from those commercial sites to help pay for the infrastructure (utilities, streets, grading) to develop the residential areas. Torres said those residential parcels can also be sold in chunks as the project moves forward depending on how many developers are involved and how much of the property they are interested in.

The VDA will meet on Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Viroqua City Hall in the lower level to discuss next steps for the development, like marketing plans to attract developers and how to structure a development agreement.

Previous story 12-12-23

VIROQUA, Wis. – Development plans are starting to take shape for a 22 acre parcel known to most locals as the “Hanson property” in the heart of Viroqua’s commercial district on the city’s north side. The Viroqua Development Association (VDA) purchased the property for $650,000 earlier this year, and since then has been working with consultant Kurt Muchow of Vierbicher and Associates to do preliminary engineering and planning for the property. You can read about that purchase in our previous story here.

The VDA is technically part of city government. They operate somewhat independently with their own board and budget, but their projects are ultimately approved by the Viroqua City Council. They manage properties like the business park and other properties they are trying to develop, like those along Nelson Parkway. Here is the description of the VDA from the city website.

The plans for the property have evolved as the VDA discussed options throughout the summer and moving into the fall. Initial plans called for three commercial lots along State Hwy14 just north of Culver’s, all about a similar size as the Culver’s lot, and all with separate entrances. The advantage of that plan would have been that there are existing utilities available along the highway making it possible to sell those lots to raise revenue quickly that could then be used to help develop the remaining property behind those lots. The latest plan still includes commercial lots along the state highway but only includes an entrance for one of those lots.

The development will need a new street that would run through the property from Highway 14 on the east side of the property to Chicago Avenue on the west side of the property. That street would meet Highway 14 at the entrance to Walmart and create a new intersection with a four way stoplight. That plan would need DOT approval and would be costly with a preliminary estimate for the intersection at about $800,000.

The VDA also originally planned to sell the existing buildings on the site, two homes, a dairy barn and a machine shed, for either removal or salvage. Having gone through an open bidding process only one of the buildings, the machine shed, has been sold and removed.

As the VDA moved forward and received input from citizens the plan shifted toward keeping at least one of the existing buildings, the dairy barn, that would be incorporated into the development. The layout presented by Muchow on Nov. 2 allows for four commercial site along Highway 14 but they would have only one access point along the highway. Muchow said the hope is that a developer would use the existing dairy barn and silo to create a “farmstead type of commercial site” that could include retail, food, or possibly an indoor/outdoor music venue. Muchow said a green-space was added directly adjacent to that farmstead type commercial lot. The layout also allows for three commercial buildings surrounding the barn with open spaces allowing for outdoor markets or other uses conducive to foot traffic that would tie together with the neighborhood park across the street.

Proposed layout for Hanson property development – Culver’s restaurant pictured in the bottom right corner

Behind those commercial lots along Highway 14, the rest of the development would be devoted to housing. In his presentation to the VDA Muchow showed this layout that shows a mixture of duplexes, townhomes and rowhouses. But Muchow stressed that the layout was just “lines on a page” at this point, and the layout can be changed to accommodate developers to some degree. Mochow’s previous layout had over 200 housing units but this layout has a lower density with about 98 units. Final number of units will depend on what developers decide to build.

Interior streets could also be moved to some degree but the main streets will not move much if this general concept is approved because utilities will need to follow main streets. Muchow said the layout allows for the flexibility to sell individual parcels to developers or combine parcels if needed.

Northeast corner of the development

A retention pond is pictured in the southwest corner of the property that will handle the substantial runoff. The amount of runoff needing to be handled has been a concern since runoff from the 13 acre parcel to the north also drains across the property, and needs to be accounted for. The retention pond is designed to handle that runoff and is also a feature of the development.

Alternative plan presented

Gregory Splinter is a former member of the Viroqua City Council but he is also a Architect and Urban Designer. Splinter presented an alternative layout for the development. Splinter called his plan a “community led project” and a “resilient, livable neighborhood”. The plan had three possible layouts but all were based on streets that were set a 45 degree angle to create more visual interest from the highway and focused in a central square. Splinters plans also called for preserving the existing dairy barn, but not give a specific use.

The basic layout would focus on apartments and townhomes, with retail spaces around the central square that also could include residences on the upper levels.

Another layout incorporated some single family homes and commercial spaces. Splinter also said amenities like a splash pad/skating rink, pickle ball courts, outdoor performance spaces and community gardens.

A third layout included even more single family homes with total residential units at about 192.

Splinter also presented an alternative method to finance the development. Rather than selling chunks of property to developers who in turn would develop the pieces, he proposed a “community led financial leadership” model that would depend on community investment of about 35-40 investors.

The plan presented by Muchow has been approved by the city plan commission and will go to the Viroqua city council on Tuesday, December 12. It will also be discussed at the next meeting of the Viroqua Development Association on Thursday, December 14 at 1 p.m.

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