Western Technical College has been given permission by the La Crosse Common Council to tear down a house near its campus for green space, and likely more parking later on, despite concerns issued by some officials.
On a 7-3 vote, the city council approved a conditional-use permit on Thursday, that will allow Western to tear down what’s believed to be a single family home located at 310 8th St. N. that the college recently purchased.
The house has been vacant since the end of May, when the last tenants moved out, but has not been condemned.
The current proposal calls for leaving the lot as green space, but Western’s three-year facilities plan calls for eventually turning green space on Eighth Street into parking that could provide up to 50 spaces.
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Western officials have stated the current plans for the lot in question only include green space.
Some council members have expressed concerns about the house being demolished while the city also faces a vanishing housing stock. But others have said a development agreement made between the college and city in 2019 meant the permit had to be granted.
The city council met in closed session on Thursday for about half an hour to discuss the permit, citing that it was necessary because of litigation that a decision may or may not bring about.
The council then passed the permit with little discussion.
Council member Chris Kahlow continued with her streak of opposing Western’s demolishing of homes, joining council members Jennifer Trost and Mark Neumann as the no votes.
“I would just, again, like to voice my disappointment in Western Technical College wanting to continue to purchase and demolish housing for parking/green space,” Kahlow said on Thursday.
The 10-year agreement between Western and the city of La Crosse both established a boundary for the college’s campus, as well as limited the city’s power to intervene in developments within that boundary.
It specifically states that the city “agrees to issue conditional-use permits to Western for the demolition of the buildings and structures located on the Conditional-Use Properties,” as long as the proper procedures were followed.
Mayor Mitch Reynolds declined to comment on whether the city was concerned denying the permit would bring on possible legal ramifications.
He said, “I think that the process that we went through was the right process based on that agreement.”
The house on Eighth Street will now join the fate of the others that once surrounded it. It was the last remaining home on its side of the block after others have been demolished in recent years.
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“I would just, again, like to voice my disappointment in Western Technical College wanting to continue to purchase and demolish housing for parking/green space.”
Chris Kahlow, city council member