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A modest proposal by Paul Scott on how to resolve the Menards project to (almost) everyone's satisfaction

Posted: Tue, Oct 2, 2018 2:48 PM

(Comment by's Paul Scott):

There's a simple reason Menards representatives have asked to have their rezoning request tabled while they work on coming up with a different proposal.  Menards staffers could count noses--there was no way six members of the Decorah City Council were going to vote to overturn the Planning & Zoning Commission's rejection of the proposal by Menards.

So tabling the application is a smart move by Menards.  They're hoping that a revised site plan will be approved 4-3 by the Decorah Planning & Zoning Commission, rather than rejected 4-3.

If that happens, then Menards needs only four votes from the seven city council members to get the approval it needs (assuming the Board of Adjustment also grants a variance).  That's a lot easier than getting six votes.

But getting four "yes" votes from the Planning & Zoning Commission and four "yes" votes from the Decorah City Council is not guaranteed and the odds might still be against Menards.

So Menards officials might be ready to listen to a proposal which would change their reluctance to build its store on 27 acres of land across from the Decorah Airport.  What would that take?  Here's my answer: "Money."

Monday night also saw the Decorah City Council take its first steps towards approving a multi-family housing project across from the Decorah Airport.  Developers of that project could be given a financial incentive of $2,080,000 in lower property taxes.  This is not a misprint!  I think it's safe to say that people from Mc Gregor and Lawler won't drive to Decorah to see a multi-family housing project.  They will drive to Decorah for a Menards, however.

So my simple proposal is to cut back the amount of "tax abatement" to the apartment complex and give whatever sum of money that would be to Menards instead.  Maybe the apartment developer has to "suffer" with getting only $1 million in tax breaks so that Menards can get the other $1 million.  The developer won't like that, of course, but what project is more important to Decorah's future?  What project does more to attract people from out of town while at the same time not increasing the chances of yet another major flood?   Paying Menards to move up the hill makes a lot of people happy--not me, because I think it's deeply unfair to decide who gets money and who has to pay their full share of property taxes--but if that's what it takes to resolve our debate over Menards, let's see if they'll listen to any offers.