SOLDIERS GROVE - There were plenty of new developments discussed at the Soldiers Grove Village Board meeting last Thursday.
It began with a request from Ryan and Krystal Campbell to purchase the village-owned lot in the Solar Town development that adjoins the former Strang building. The Campbells, who own the gas station and convenience store across Highway 61 from the lot, intend to put storage units on the lot if the village sells it to them.
The Campbells have previously purchased the adjacent former Strang building.
Local businessman Guy Nelson, the owner of the Country Gardens Restaurant and Motel in Solar Town, spoke in favor of the Campbells’ request. He pointed out that the storage unit proposal would at least put something on the lot and make it productive.
Soldiers Grove Village President Steve George questioned whether putting storage units there would be the best use of the vacant lot.
“I don’t know if we want storage units right in the middle of town,” George said.
Village trustee Paul Nicholson asked if there were lots available in the industrial park for construction of storage units.
Nelson said it would be a better location for the storage units than the land adjacent to the Campbells’ convenience store.
Village trustee Shayne Chapman also thought the village-owned lot would not be a good place for the storage units and was more inclined to accept them in the industrial park.
In answer to a question from the board, Ryan said he intended to build a structure that was 30-feet wide and 100-feet long.
George was concerned that any building on the lot be made to “look nice.”
Nicholson asked if Ryan intended to go off the existing building and Ryan indicated he was not opposed to doing the project that way. After some discussion, George and Nicholson asked to have the request tabled until they could look at some plans for the structure.
George said seeing some plans would give everybody an idea of what they were considering.
George acknowledged that there was an empty lot sitting there and Ryan’s proposal would put it to use.
Campbell said the building could have vinyl siding to dress up its appearance.
“It’s hard sitting in here to picture it,” George said.
Campbell agreed to get an application to go before the village plan commission to get a recommendation on a conditional use permit for the project. The matter will come back before the board for consideration.
The next item on the agenda was an even more ambitious project involving the old Swiss Valley building located across the highway between Campbell’s and Burkum Milling. Guy Nelson, owner of the building, told the board that he and the potential buyers came to the meeting to give the village “a heads up” on plans for the building.
Nelson explained that he came to offer the building to Rich Sitarksi and Mike Mueller following a discussion they had with him about another property. Mueller and Sitarski are looking for a site to open a meat locker that would provide custom butchering services to the public, as well as provide butchering to a fledgling pastured pork co-op the men are attempting to start in the area.
Nelson showed the men the property and it has had a preliminary inspection by state officials.
Sitarski raises elk on property on Little Haney Road. He has relocated to the area from Illinois.
The lack of meat processing in the area had led the men to consider opening one of their own. In addition to Mueller and Sitarski, the butcher that will be involved in the operation was also on hand for the meeting.
Nelson noted that Kickapoo Locker in Gays Mills had closed and the Eastman Locker was going to close in June. The group had looked at sites in Mt. Sterling and along the Mississippi River, as well as Readstown.
Because the building in Soldiers Grove is almost twice the size the group had envisioned, they are now considering using half the building as a retail space selling meat and other products to the public. Nelson noted the site has great exposure to traffic on Highway 61.
The retail space could also serve as an outlet for the pastured pork that will be produced by the Driftless Back-to-the-Land Co-op, which is about to get underway.
Nelson also noted the building has good sewer and water connections and the locker plant could increase the volume of both utilities for the village. Sitarski told the board one of the main reasons the group had come to the meeting was to see what the reaction would be. He asked if there was any opposition to the proposal.
Village president Steve George indicated that he could see no opposition to the plans and that no one was actually close to the building.
Chapman said that locker plants in the local area were often located in the middle of town.
Soldiers Grove Village Clerk Tammy Kepler said the next step was to get an application to go before the plan commission. The commission will make a recommendation on the request for a conditional use permit and the matter will come back to the board for final action.
Nelson questioned whether the project could qualify for some loan funding from the Community Development Corporation for development of the retail space.
Village trustee Vicki Campbell who oversees the CDC for the village said the group would need to produce financial statements and a business plan to be considered for a loan.
The CDC loans are the prime rate plus a half percent and generally are made for three-year terms. There is typically a $20,000 limit.
In other business, the Soldiers Grove Village Board:
• heard a fire department report and told Chief Ben Clason to get bids for necessary work at the fire station
• learned that the fire department would like the village to consider moving toward billing residents and business for fire services provided—the matter would have to be put on a referendum
• scheduled the village’s spring clean up for April 21
• approved sending village employee Ben Lathrop to a class for cross connection inspections of commercial buildings
• approved work on a recently acquired plow truck estimated at $5,000 with the understanding the village would do some of the work included in the estimate