New RICHMOND -- Wisconsin Central Limited, a subsidiary of Canadian National Railroad , is considering property at 105th Street and Highway 64 to construct a large rail terminal for the loading and unloading of finished automobiles for transport into the Twin Cities by truck.

The 76-acre farm owned by the estate of Robert and Leona Asp has a purchase offer which will expire Feb. 1, 2020. The Town Board learned of it in May.

The proposed terminal facility would require 34 acres to be blacktopped to create 2,328 vehicle parking slots to distribute an estimated 120,000 vehicles annually.

The proposed terminal facility would require 34 of the 76 acres to be blacktopped to create 2328 vehicle parking slots to distribute an estimated 120,000 vehicles annually. Graphic submitted
The proposed terminal facility would require 34 of the 76 acres to be blacktopped to create 2328 vehicle parking slots to distribute an estimated 120,000 vehicles annually. Graphic submitted

That distribution would require an estimated 40-50 semi trailers daily. The facility would be lighted and operate 24 hours a day. WCL described an accompanying structure as non-permanent, more along the lines of a mobile home.

WCL/CN estimates the facility would create 12 to 14 jobs. It was unclear if those would be new jobs dedicated to this facility or jobs transferred from another location.

Railroads do not pay local property taxes. They pay property taxes to Wisconsin. That tax revenue moves to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation general fund and is then distributed via various support programs throughout the state.

Zoning changes for property in the town of Richmond begin with an application to the office of Land Use, Planning and Zoning at St. Croix County. The property in question is currently zoned rural residential. The proposed terminal would require rezoning to an industrial status.

It is possible the project would require review by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as well.

Ellen Denzer, director of Community Development for St. Croix County, clarified the zoning procedure.

"There is no application at this time. The property is not presently zoned appropriately for industrial use. In order to be rezoned, there would need to be amendments to the town's comprehensive plan, then the county's comprehensive plan and then a rezoning. The town would have the authority to "maintain status quo" and disapprove any changes to the zoning recommended by the county,"hge said.

The proposed terminal is not compatible with the comprehensive plans of the towns, city of New Richmond or St. Croix County.

The project timetable is unclear. Railroad officials indicated they are still “obtaining customer guarantees.” It is also unclear whether WCL/CN is considering other locations or whether any other offers are outstanding.

At the July 9 meeting with railroad officials, Richmond Town Chair Gary Knutson and his fellow supervisors plus a number of residents voiced their concerns about the project including its negative impact on the property values of adjacent parcels, wear and tear on roads and safety concerns resulting from the volume of truck traffic, the impact of noise and light pollution, questions about what happens to the facility if it is abandoned, potential for an increased police presence to prevent theft, and the negative visual appeal of such a large industrial site at the gateway to New Richmond

Noah Wiedenfeld is the New Richmond planning director.

“Our biggest concern is the inconsistency with our comprehensive plan which really guides that area either for a medium density residential or multi use corridor. To have that kind of industrial use, especially in that location, abutting city property, from the city’s perspective that’s really not a desired use when you’re entering the community from Highway 64.," he said. "We view that as a key gateway corridor to our community. A large industrial use with 40 acres of paved parking lots with rail activity, noise and lights is not necessarily the first sight you want to see when you enter The City Beautiful.”

WCL/CN has asked for a second meeting with the Town Board to be scheduled in late August or early September.

Details of that meeting will be posted as they become available at townofrichmond.com.

Questions can also be addressed to Chair Gary Knutson at 715-690-4661.