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Whalan to annex land for subdivision

Fri, Sep 8th, 2006
Posted in Government

WHALAN - On Tuesday, September 5, the Whalan City Council voted to enter into an annexation agreement with Holt Township to bring up to 95 acres of land in Section 9 into the city. The annexation is subject to the city of Whalan revising its zoning ordinance, which is presently administered by Fillmore County.

Secluded Land Company of DeSoto, Wisconsin, has an option to buy the land, which is known locally as Whalan Mountain, and develop a fourteen unit subdivision. The land is bordered by the Root River and Highway 16; Gribben Creek also runs through the property. Each lot will be 2.5 acres or larger, taking up approximately 35 acres of land, with shared wells and sewage. The balance of land will be kept in green space and be owned collectively by the resident's association, which will also be responsible for roads. No infrastructure will be provided to the development by the city of Whalan, which does not have a community water or sewage treatment system. The developer has not asked for any special tax abatement from the city.

Developer Corey Lange and the project engineer, Geoff Griffin of Chatfield attended the meeting to answer questions from the public.

Griffin told the council that there were three reasons why annexation would be beneficial to the developers:

• allow the developer to increase the number of parcels;

• allow for development on AB soils; and,

• allow for more than one subdivision per section.

The Fillmore County Zoning Ordinance limits subdivision development to 12 units, prohibits more than 40% of a subdivision to be on Ag land, and limits one subdivision per section of land (640 acres). The city of Whalan will have to revise its zoning ordinance accordingly.

Whalan property owner Mike McGrath questioned why annexation was necessary when everything that the developer wants to do can be done through a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which allows for clustering of homes on smaller lots.

"There's two ways to skin the same cat," Griffin responded, implying that he could go through the city of Whalan or Fillmore County to get the project done. "But the city of Whalan has the right to extend its property to include this development. We decided to deal with them now rather than later."

McGrath also questioned why an annexation agreement was necessary when the city of Whalan has the right to annex by ordinance.

City Attorney Terry Chiglo said that it was to maintain good relations with Holt Township.

Chiglo presented a menu of options to the city council for action, including a moratorium on development while the town studied what to do. He also said that the city could do nothing and allow the developers to work with the county.

"But, if you're changing your zoning [favoring annexation], do it before annexation," Chiglo advised the council.

After voting unanimously to approve annexation, the council created a special committee to look into zoning changes. The group's first meeting is scheduled for September 14 at 7:00 p.m.; they have 60 days to do their work.

The meeting was so poorly conducted it was hard to determine if all the council members were voting for the same thing.

City Council member David Rahn voiced the sentiment that he favored annexation with a PUD, but he ended up seconding the motion for annexation with changes to zoning. At one point in time, two motions were on the table, with Mayor Rory Berkevam having trouble sorting out what to do.

No council member spoke up in favor of annexation during the meeting nor spoke about the benefits the city would get from the subdivision. Council member Robert Engen, whose family is selling the parcel of land, recused himself from the proceedings.

Attorney Chiglo said he expected the annexation process to take approximately 90 days.

Corey Lange, whose development company has projects in Newburg and Amherst Townships, said he hopes to be able to begin road work in late March 2007.

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