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Clintonville School Board member upset with rezoning

Rexford Longfellow building. File Photo

Lundt wants redo on bidding

By Bert Lehman

Clintonville School Board member Glen Drew Lundt expressed his displeasure to the board about the current rezoning situation regarding the Rexford Longfellow building complex.

He went so far as to request the bid process to sell the building start over.

Lundt’s comments were made on Jan. 22 when the board was updated on the rezoning process.

As part of the purchase agreement New London Investment LLC has with the school district, the property needs to be rezoned as industrial for the sale of the property to be completed.

Clintonville School Board President Ben Huber said at the Jan. 17 Clintonville Plan Commission meeting, it was realized that what the purchaser of the property wanted to do with the building didn’t require it to be rezoned to industrial, but instead to a mixed-use designation.

He said the city of Clintonville has adopted a small portion of zoning requirements that the state of Wisconsin has, but needs to plan another Plan Commission meeting to adopt more state zoning requirements for the city. Once those are adopted, then another Plan Commission meeting would need to be scheduled to consider rezoning the Rexford Longfellow property to a mixed-use zoning designation.

“The city has been working with us to try to get this, to allow light manufacturing in the business district,” Huber said. “There were several people at the zoning meeting that were concerned that it was going to be zoned industrial and they were scared of what might happen. Once they heard what was actually happening, they, I think the fears were significantly eased.”

Clintonville District Administrator Troy Kuhn told the board that he met with Huber and Clintonville City Administrator Caz Muske on Jan. 19 to “solidify” a lot of the information regarding the rezoning request.

Lundt responds

Lundt said he was told by several residents that members of the Clintonville School Board were at the Jan. 17 Plan Commission meeting, representing the school board and trying to clarify what the school board’s intentions were.

“I wasn’t there. I didn’t know that multiple people from this board were going to be there, and I find that very, very poor judgement if any of it is true,” Lundt said.

School board member Laurie Vollrath told the board that she is a member of the Plan Commission, so that is why she was present at the meeting.

Huber reminded the board that at the school board meeting prior to the Plan Commission meeting, the board had discussed who would attend the Plan Commission meeting. Huber said, as the president of the school board, he represented the board.

School board member Kris Strauman was also present at the Plan Commission meeting.

“That wasn’t portrayed to the public then, because they said the three of you were trying to explain why the board made the decision,” Lundt said.

Vollrath told the board she didn’t mention anything pertaining to that at the Plan Commission meeting. Huber said he was the primary spokesperson for the school board.

“All I’m saying is what people came to me with, and they were not happy, and neither am I,” Lundt said. “We’re supposed to be a unified front.”

Strauman told Lundt that she wasn’t sure where he got his information, but she only said “two words” at the meeting.

“That’s two words too many,” Lundt responded.

Strauman told Lundt she attended the Plan Commission meeting as a taxpayer and had some concerns. She said she asked the person representing the company looking to purchase the property, how many employees the business would have working at the property.

“That’s all I said,” Strauman said.

Lundt said he also has an issue with a mixed-use zoning designation because the purchase proposal the school district received from New London Investment stated an industrial zoning designation was requested.

“Now if he’s going to change what he wants to do, it says child daycare services, we’re OK with that?” Lundt asked. “I think this has gotten way off the rails and we need to go back to the beginning and have a clear proposal, because, I mean, this is going to be more months of meetings that, we have expenses that we are incurring every month we have that building. And I think we’ve gotten way, way far from where our first decision was. And I would like to go back to the beginning and start over because I don’t feel that any of this was agreed upon.”

Huber said that the board agreed to accept negotiations with the business, and one of the negotiations was to go through the rezoning process, and the board voted unanimously to approve that.

“I would think that we, as a board, should continue to go through the rezoning process,” Huber said. “The rezoning process is taking way longer than any of us expected or hoped for.”

Lundt countered that the “whole proposal has changed” since then.

“There was nothing about a mixed business,” Lundt said.

Vollrath said she didn’t think the board was selling the property based on what the business was going to do with it.

Huber said the board was just supposed to help the business rezone the property.

“How they use the property is the buyer’s discretion,” Huber said.

“But board members brought up what it was going to be used for as a reason to vote or not vote on certain things,” Lundt countered. “So, we weren’t selling it for what it was going to be used for?”

Vollrath told Lundt she didn’t know what he meant.

Lundt said he couldn’t be more specific than that. Presumably because those discussions took place in closed session.

School board member Mark Zachow told the board that the high bid the school board accepted was $150,000 more than the only other bid the district received for the property.

“It’s a considerable amount of money that we can’t look the other way at,” Zachow said. “You saw the budget tonight, correct? Plus, at least $20,000 is going to go on the tax roll, that St. Martins won’t pay (if its bid was accepted). The city needs that. What’s in the best interest for the city? What’s in the best interest of the district. It’s pretty obvious.”

Huber said it was not on the agenda to vote on rescinding the acceptance of the purchase bid from New London Investment, adding that he wouldn’t recommend that the board rescind the acceptance even if it was on the agenda.

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