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Plan to build mini-storage in rural area stirs emotions

A request for rezoning to allow the construction of a mini-storage facility in the Town of Oak Grove turned controversial Tuesday as a Pierce County Board member challenged the plan.

Both the Oak Grove Town Board and the county's Land Management Committee had endorsed Morris Holst's request to rezone 10.76 acres in Oak Grove from General Rural Flexible to Light Industrial.

"This is out in the middle of nowhere," protested Supervisor Rich Purdy, who lives in the Town of River Falls. He said placing storage units in a rural area equidistant from River Falls, Ellsworth and Prescott would require long trips from potential users.

"This is a kind of helter-skelter type of zoning," said Purdy. He objected to "cutting up" a rural area with commercial sites.

Purdy, who grew up in the Santa Clara Valley region of California, said that area of fertile farm land was the world's biggest producer of apricots, walnuts and prunes before it was developed and annexed. It's now known as "Silicon Valley."

"They have paved essentially the whole valley. It's not a place I want to live," said Purdy, adding he doesn't want to see similar "haphazard" development in Pierce County.

The Oak Grove property is at the intersection of Hwy. 10 and CTH E, and the town's plan is to allow light industrial developments along this major highway, responded County Board Chairman Paul Barkla, who also chairs the Land Management Committee.

"They aren't there now," said Purdy. "It's all agriculture land."

"There are a lot of houses in that area. There are a lot of subdivisions. There are a lot of people that need storage," said Holst.

He said the land has been in the Conservation Reserve Program and hasn't been farmed for years.

"Would you rather see a house on it?" Holst asked. He said he went through all the required steps to request and get approval for the rezoning.

"I've known that property for years," said Supervisor Dan Reis, whose district includes part of the Town of Oak Grove. "It's not prime agriculture land, never has been, never will be."

Reis said land in that area is too expensive to farm.

He added, "There are getting to be more and more homes. They need amenities."

Supervisor Jerry Kosin, who is also Oak Grove Town Chairman, said there are already 17 or 18 housing additions and a couple of apartment buildings in that area.

With the high volume of traffic on Hwy. 10, this is an ideal place for light industry, agreed Supervisor Don Nellessen, Town of Gilman.

The motion to rezone passed, with Purdy, Supervisor Jim Camery and Supervisor Ben Plunkett voting no. Supervisor Jeff Holst, Town of Diamond Bluff, abstained.