August 4, 2008

City Wants to Extend Building Moratorium

By Samantha Marcus, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Aug. 4--La Crosse officials are looking to extend for another six months a quasi-moratorium on commercial building along the Great River Road.

The existing moratorium, set to sunset Aug. 15, was put in place while the city's planning department drafts commercial design standards. The council adopted the moratorium in May more as an agent for additional oversight than an actual suspension on development.

But planning officials said they need more time to compile the new standards, and the Planning Commission is expected to weigh in on the extension this evening.

Leaders from the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce and La Crosse Area Builders Association had opposed the primary 90-day moratorium, which fell at the height of construction season.

Keith Carson, speaking on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, predicted the 90-day break would surely grow to 180 days, a year or longer.

The planning department doesn't anticipate that same level of resistance this time around because the builders association is contributing to the design standards, said Tim Kabat, planning and economic development administrator.

The moratorium was conceived as citywide, but eventually was pared down to properties within one block of the Great River Road, or Hwy. 35.

The stretch of La Crosse was targeted -- in part -- because of O'Reilly Auto Parts' plans to raze the former Hardee's restaurant on Mormon Coulee Road for a metal-type structure.

Planning Director Larry Kirch had said the city didn't have the standards in place to leverage better building design.

The Plan Commission is expected to review the auto parts application at today's meeting.

The board already endorsed two building plans for Walgreens and Honda Motorwerks to build along the road, but were able to request alternative lighting, signage and landscaping from the developers.

"I think we have improved the build environment with the changes and suggestions the plan commission made," Kabat said.

Samantha Marcus can be reached at (608) 791-8220 or [email protected]


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