Milton holding listening session on proposed Interstate industrial development

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Neil Johnson
Wednesday, February 5, 2014

MILTON—Got questions, concerns or comments about developer Bill Watson's proposal to build an Interstate interchange and transform 1,500 acres of Rock County farmland into an industrial development?

See you next week at Milton City Hall.

Milton Mayor Brett Frazier has called a Thursday, Feb. 13, public listening session for residents to ask questions and give input on Watson's proposal. He plans to build an interchange at County M and Interstate 90/39 and have the city annex land he owns along that corridor to develop an industrial park.

Frazier said the city council and city staff are holding the session to compile input and questions for the city's own “due diligence and information-gathering process” as the city mulls a potential annexation petition from Watson.

“I think it's good to hear people's thoughts, questions and concerns on what they've heard so far. That's important. We are very much at the beginning of an extensive information gathering process,” Frazier said. 

The listening session is set as the lone agenda item on a special city council meeting. The council will take no action at the meeting, Frazier said.

Watson has pitched the development proposal to town of Fulton and town of Milton officials and city of Milton officials at meetings in the last two months.

Municipal officials have seen 60 to 70 residents routinely sitting at municipal meetings to hear more about Watson's plans.

At those meetings, officials have limited or barred public comment because Watson has not yet filed detailed plans, rezoning requests or annexation petitions.

Frazier said outside of a pitch for annexation by Watson, the city has not been in the loop on specific plans for the proposal, which Watson is now calling the Evermor development.

“I don't want the impression to be that the city has some wealth of knowledge. It's a developer's project, and we don't have anything concrete to act on,” he said.

Frazier said he senses growing pressure for the public to comment and know more about the plans.

“The longer this goes on, the more people and all of us (city officials) are asking the same question—what are the details?” Frazier said. 

He and City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said staff plan to brief the public on work they've done so far to research Watson's expected annexation request.

“At that point, it's really up to citizens to lead the discussions. That's the operating model. We listen."

Frazier estimates he'll give residents about three hours to ask questions and share thoughts at the session. He said residents shouldn't expect to walk away with all their questions answered.

“What we're talking about, here, it doesn't happen every day. The questions and these processes, we've never had to deal with. The stakes have never been at this kind of scale,” Frazier said. “People's questions will be added to a list of questions we (city officials) have that we'll seek answers to,” he said.

Frazier has indicated he'd wouldn't want a development that would bring jobs paying less than $10 or even $12 an hour, especially when developers initially trumpeted the development could bring “highly skilled, family-supporting” jobs.

Frazier has said he doesn't believe mining the land for gravel, which some residents fear, would be a good fit for Milton.

“We don't need to take every offer that comes along. We can afford to be picky about how our community is developed,” Frazier said. “We want to know that it's not going to be a gravel pit. We want to know it's not going to be a type of development we would not choose."

Last updated: 12:13 pm Wednesday, February 5, 2014

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