Mayor raises concerns over county administrative building

City Council votes on ezoning proposal for administrative center

La Crosse City Council members got more than they expected at a meeting Tuesday night, after a rezoning proposal for the La Crosse County Administrative Center raised more questions than answers.

It’s really the first major piece of approval the county needs from the common council to move forward with a proposed plan to get a new administrative facility.

In a preliminary vote, members were in favor of the re-zoning, 13-3, but that didn’t stop others from bringing up major concerns about the entirety of the project.

“I guess I am a little surprised,” said Steve O’Malley, the La Crosse County Administrator.

At a City Council meeting Tuesday night, O’Malley wasn’t exactly sure what he walked into.

“I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I wasn’t expecting the major questions about the entire process since we are only dealing with the zoning issue,” said O’Malley.

The purpose of the meeting was to decide whether or not to grant a rezoning proposal for the administrative building.

“Currently the building is zoned for governmental use, it’s not zoned for a private entity to own for residential,” said O’Malley.

The rezoning would allow builders to put residential units on the first floor. La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said it’s not a typical move.

“I don’t know that I am necessarily opposed to that but the fact that we don’t have a zoning district that currently accommodates that request and we have to come up with a new zoning district by Dec. 1, has me concerned,” said Kabat.

But that wasn’t the only concern Kabat brought up Tuesday night.

“It’s a multi-step process for the county to have a new facility,” said Kabat.

Right now, the proposed plan is to move the administrative offices into the associated bank on 6th street and in return, the bank wants a spot on Lot C once it is re-developed.

“I really feel those things should be standing alone, but the way the county has approached this is that they are all related,” said Kabat.

Kabat believes an approval will only lead to the next step without any consideration.

“I think for the council if they say yes, they are agreeing to everything else moving forward,” said Kabat. “The second step in the process of the county purchasing the associated bank property removes a currently taxable property off of the tax roll and makes it tax exempt.”

However, O’Malley said it’s only the beginning of a very long process.

“It doesn’t commit you to anything beyond that, but it says you agree with at least that first step of the vision,” said O’Malley.

The La Crosse City Council has another meeting Thursday night where they will make a final decision about the re-zoning proposal for the administrative building.

To help answer any other questions, the Lot C Advisory Committee will hold a meeting Thursdayat 6:45 p.m. to explain the process in detail. All City Council members are invited to attend.