La Crosse council splits in 8-4 vote to approve rezoning for City Brewery parking lot

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The La Crosse Common Council approved City Brewing Co.’s rezoning request so it can raze several vacant houses to increase employee parking, although the 8-4 vote reflected a continuing dispute over affordable housing vs. parking.
The properties approved for rezoning from multiple dwelling, light industrial and local business to heavy industrial are on Jackson, Fourth and Third streets near City Brewing. The company bought six vacant rental homes and several vacant lots, with plans to tear the houses down and convert a total of 10 lots to parking.
During debate Thursday evening, council member Jennifer Trost lamented the loss of tax base from eliminating the houses, also saying that a fenced parking lot is not the best use and wondering whether better alternatives are available to 80 parking spaces to accommodate cars making single-passenger trips to and from work.
Winning the day for King Gambrinus were proponents’ insistence that the city should accommodate City Brewing as it plans a $30 million expansion and add about 200 jobs to its 700-worker payroll.
What’s more, council member Scott Neumeister said, an attractively landscaped parking lot would be an improvement over the rundown vacant houses.
Neumeister acknowledged, “We need to do a much better job on affordable housing,” but that city efforts are improving and affordable housing is planned for nearby.
“This company has put millions of dollars — I mean, millions of dollars — into its business,” while the houses are “eyesores,” he said.
Approving the rezoning and another resolution — to allow the razing and parking lot project, which also passed 8-4 — would allow the brewery to add jobs and provide tax revenue, he said.
“I think we need to be good to them (City Brewing) as they are to us,” Neumeister said.
The company also will lose some parking as it proceeds with its multimillion-dollar expansion, he said.
In a similar rezoning request and debate, the council approved an ordinance to change zoning from light industrial to heavy industrial and allow a self-storage building at 607 Copeland Ave., where a house is to be torn down.
Council members disagreed on whether self-storage is the best use, considering the aesthetics, although some pointed out that similar uses exist in the area.