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Board denies relocation of historic chapel

At a public hearing at the May 6 Star Prairie Village Board meeting, the board voted to deny relocation of St. John’s Episcopal Church from its current location at Bundy Hall Youth Camp in Menomonie to the River Island Park grounds in Star Prairie.

Theron Isensee of Esher Enterprises, who put forth the proposal, answered a host of residents’ questions during the hearing.

“The DNR said there is no special permit required and that the floodplain falls within the village’s jurisdiction. It’s up to the Star Prairie community,” Isensee said.

Village Board President Greg Gibson said it was primarily an issue of whether the residents, whose properties back up to the park, would object to the church obscuring their view of the river.

One of those residents, Todd Naylor, objected to the proposal for exactly that reason.

“The reason I bought that property is because no one would be behind me. I wouldn’t give that up (the view) for anything,” Naylor said.

Isensee noted that he had met with representatives of various utilities earlier that afternoon and was informed that the proposed location just north of the footbridge would not conflict with access to any of the existing utility locations.

Gibson questioned whether that was accurate with regard to the main water line running through the park.

“If we have trouble, something freezes up, and we have to dig up that main water line, you just can’t dig 10 feet, it keeps caving in, you need 25-30-feet clearance. There are just so many utilities down there.” Gibson said.

Other residents questioned the location in light of the high water level in the Apple River this year and the possibility of future flooding.

New board trustee Chad Peterson read from a letter he had received from Michael Rodney, DNR water engineer for St. Croix County, saying, “that before the building could be considered they would have to complete an issue analysis to determine any flooding impacts. Following that analysis, it would become the village’s decision.”

Resident and local historian Jon Ronning raised several points in favor of placing the church within River Island Park including the aesthetics of that specific site.

“I think the argument for having it down by the river is the aesthetics of that site. Secondly, having that chapel there would be a suitable addition for people who wanted to be married in the park, for musical events, reunions and all kinds of other activities. In that respect, the chapel becomes almost self-supporting. We could stick it behind the right field fence but I just don’t see that as being the best opportunity for the village to showcase this building and the value of its history to this community. Frankly, I’m just surprised that this community does not embrace this part of our history. This is the first church built in this whole area. It seems, I think, that we are willing to push this opportunity aside,” Ronning said.

“I don’t think that the board is pushing it aside. We all agree that there are a lot of issues that go along with placing the church here (in River Island Park). I think we are all for it coming back to the village, but we have to find the perfect location for it,” Peterson said.

This Old Store owner Jerry Ledo asked whether there was a plan in place to pay for operation and maintenance of the build and ultimately to transition the building from Esher’s ownership to the village.

“We have not proposed a date to turn the church over to the village. That’s something that can be addressed once the building is here. We plan to maintain the building, take care of the electricity and the water. We are willing to bear all costs indefinitely until we decide to turn it over to the village and the village can demonstrate that they can afford to maintain the building. Like I have said from the beginning, we are not asking for any money at all,” Isensee said.

Isensee said the building must be moved somewhere by this July and that if a satisfactory location could not be found within Star Prairie, the chapel would be relocated elsewhere.

The discussion ended with suggestions to explore alternate locations around the village including Saratoga Park and Dan Loftgren’s property with the red barn on the edge of town.

Other business:

• The board agreed to pay invoices from Countryside Plumbing and Heating for residents Reed and Krista Shipley ($1,166) and Ann Dostal ($829) as the result of a frozen water main this past winter.

• The board accepted a bid for $93,069.12 from Pember Companies, Inc. for the County Road M road construction project.

• The board approved the Installment Assessment Notice for the County Road M Improvement Project #202-13-014. The special assessment will be collected in 10 installments at a 2 percent annual interest rate. To pay the assessment in full, the clerk must be notified within 30 days of the notice and payment must be received by Oct. 30.

• The board appointed Chad Peterson to be the village’s fire district representative.

• The board agreed to withdraw from the Highway 64 Communities Stormwater and Wastewater Coalition.

• Trustees Chad Peterson, Chris Boardman and Gary Peterson agreed to represent the village in ongoing negotiations regarding the New Richmond Fire and Rescue District Contract Agreement.

• The board tabled Bethany Lutheran Church’s appeal for financial relief for invoices related to fixing frozen water lines and a defective sidewalk until the June board meeting.