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Neighbors tell developer to ‘go back to MN’

 

Proposed country club road course met with fury

By Sarah Nigbor

TOWN OF RIVER FALLS – Members of the newly formed Kinnick Development Group were surprised by the number of res idents who showed up to what they thought would be an informal informational meeting with a few people about a proposed automotive country club / road course. About 70 people packed the Unitarian Universalist Church Wednesday, July 20 as the developers and real estate agent faced the angry crowd.

Meeting emcee Don Leake told developer Neal Krzyzaniak the number in attendance and on Zoom wasn’t surprising, considering the number of people in the township and city who would be affected by the proposal. According to Krzyzaniak, he wants to build a 500+ acre entertainment facility on land currently owned by the Moody and Bohn families east of Highway 65, and north and south of Highway 29 in the town of River Falls (adjacent to the city). He’s also looking for more land to buy and said he’s been working with the Moody’s for eight to 10 months on the multi-faceted project with entertainment components geared around automobile enthusiasts.

“This is not a racetrack,” Krzyzaniak said. “This is a country club that has a 5-mile road course. This is not a place for NASCAR events.”

There are 10-12 such facilities around the country, including at Joliet, Ill. and Monticello, N.Y. In a 2017 piece, The New York Times described automotive country clubs as facilities for affluent people to store, drive and race their cars.

See COUNTRY CLUB, Page 9

A group of concerned citizens packed the Unitarian Universalist Society Wednesday, July 20 to hear about development plans for what is known as the “Moody Pines” in the town of River Falls. Real estate agent Dave Robson speaks to the crowd. Photo by Sarah Nigbor Country club

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“Between the Moody’s and Bohn’s, we have over 500 acres,” Krzyzaniak said. “We have as much land as we need for the project to happen. It has not gone through any city approvals at this point.”

He went on to say that he’s held multiple meetings with Pierce County, the Department of Natural Resources and the City of River Falls to discuss all of the “sensitive issues.”

His team includes Dave Robson with Telus Real Estate, two other partners on the financial end, plus Shirley Zachman, who was present.

“We believe we have the financing for this project to happen,” Krzyzaniak said.

When his proposed automotive country club (Wolfcreek Autobahn) in Rice County, Minn., failed to get off the ground (he claims COVID killed the project), he instructed Robson to find a large parcel of land for a new venture. Robson zeroed in on River Falls.

The Wolfcreek Autobahn project, according to the Northfield News, was to include a 5.6-mile auto track with no speed limit operating 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. with 10 to 30 cars at a time, an event center, a cart track, a 196,350-square-foot skid pad for drivers to do doughnuts and burn rubber, a large RV park, 300 residences and more than 65,000 square feet of auto-related commercial buildings.

In September 2019, Rice County (Minn.) had received roughly 300 environmental complaints filed by 75 people about the proposed Wolfcreek project, according to the Lonsdale Area News-Review. The project died when a portion of the 466 acres of land for the project became unavailable, that newspaper states. A group of residents staunchly opposed to the project started a group, blog and Facebook page called “Stop the Race Track.” Krzyzaniak’s LinkedIn profile lists him as CEO of Kinnick Development Group, principal of NIK Management, Inc., Wolf Creek Motor Sports LLC, Bridgeland Development, Inc., Bridgewood Development, Inc., and Kustoms by Krzyzaniak, Inc.

“It’s very important for everybody to understand that this is not a racetrack,” Krzyzaniak repeated.

Kinnick Development Group wants to build a 5-mile private road course with club house, an outside entertainment area for car shows, swap meets and live entertainment; a facility to teach safe driving skills with on-staff instructors, 600 garage-style condo villas, a 100-unit RV park, a smaller training driving track, multiple restaurants, a store, a rooftop bar, corporate offices, a chapel, steam room, pool and more.

“It’s not designed yet, but we’re open to ideas and thoughts from the community,” Krzyzaniak said. “This is a community project. It’s not something that is going to be closed off to the community. There’s going to be a number of events throughout the year that the community will be invited to. We will be open year-round.”

The private club would be for car enthusiasts, said Krzyzaniak, who compared it to a golf course country club, to the disbelief of attendees.

“Car enthusiasts can be someone who has a 2022 Ferrari or a 1940s Ford Model T collector,” he said.

He said the facility will be secured with 8-foot fencing and a gated entrance with a number of armed security guards.

“People will have garages with villas and some will have some very, very expensive toys in their garages and they must be secured,” Krzyzaniak said.

He also wants to build a professional car track on the Bohns’ property, located north of Highway 29, where drivers can train, along with a 100-unit RV park with full hookups. Many NASCAR drivers got their start on such tracks, he said.

“People drive their children from different car track to different car track and want a nice facility that they can camp in,” he said. “We’ll also have up to 600 garage-style condos for rent or for sale.

“I’m sure many of you are saying, who would want one of these or who would want one of these? There are thousands in the Cities and across Wisconsin. We will have three or four different floor plans. You can rent by the week too.”

He remarked on the land’s beauty, which borders the South Fork of the Kinnick innic River.

“We have plenty of land to build some incredible walking trails,” Krzyzaniak said. “We are very, very sensitive to the Kinni River. We do not affect the Kinni River. We are figuring out what we can do to restore it and the banks that have washed away.”

He wants the facility to be open to club members April 1 to Nov. 1, 8 a.m. to dusk. The rest of the year, he plans to host other events, such as hay rides, ice skating, a winter light show “second to none in the entire country,” police and fire training, snowmobiling, ATVs and more. People can come view the cars and watch them on the course.

Membership packages at the Joliet, Ill. club, which advertises “high speed track driving in your car,” range from a country club membership, which costs $45,000 (initiation fee) and $5,900 in annual dues to a social membership, which costs $4,800 per year in dues. The club offers race training, driver’s safety training, and timed races.

Krzyzaniak, when asked why River Falls, said: “It’s pretty simple really. This is an incredibly beautiful community.”

He then promised to bring “hundreds and thousands of good-paying year-round jobs,” to which people started laughing. “Those people will pay taxes. The city is pro-grow. It’s very telling how they jumped in to help Tattersall. This is an extension of what Tattersall has started. Pro-growth means jobs and income for the city.

“The point is a project like this is a win for the city and local businesses. And for the local landowners because we are paying top dollar.”

He then asked if others were interested in selling their land to him, to which he heard a resounding “no” echo through the room. He was unfazed.

“We’re not here to say that you have to sell. We don’t need your property. We don’t know if the city is going to approve this. But we have a lot of good favor on our side in the city, county and DNR.”

At this point, Robson jumped in to say the development would bring a significant tax base to the community and reduce taxes for others who are already here.

Angry town and city residents lined up at the mic to ask questions.

Town Plan Commissioner Mary Foster said the city hasn’t received an annexation request yet, which Krzyzaniak confirmed. He did say he’s met with the city three times on the proposal.

Foster questioned the DNR’s stance on how the massive development would auect the wetlands and wild life living there. No clear answer was given.

Leake asked about the decibel level of the cars on the course. Krzyzaniak said the noise level would be the same as the noise generated from a regular highway, under 100 decibels. One man scoued at that, and said there’s no way luxury cars racing each other on a course will be the same as cars driving down a country road.

“If they (the Bohns and Moodys) knew what they were selling for, then I’m afraid they sold their souls. And I’m disappointed,” the man said.

Robson confirmed the Bohns’ and Moodys’ land is “purchased or on option. It’s under contract.” The sale hasn’t closed yet, but they are under contract to sell it by a certain date for a certain amount. They declined to give the price tag for the land.

River Falls Town Board Supervisor Siri Smith spoke first on behalf of farmer Gene Morrow, whose land is adjacent to the proposed road course.

“He has been approached to sell his land and he said, ‘I am not in favor of this project and I will not be selling my land,'” Smith said.

ENGINEERING

Photo by Sarah Nigbor

Smith’s family farm is a scant 100 yards away from the proposed development site. It has been in her fam- ily for five generations, 125 years.

“We are not in favor of this project in any way. My family has gone the whole gamut. We are on the fifth generation farming that,” she said. “We have this beautiful rural area that brings you folks in. ‘Gosh, we could come in and leave our mark on this beautiful area.’ You might think why this beautiful area is here.

“I grew up on a farm and we know about noise.”

The facility in Joliet is near a rail yard and commercial district, not adjacent to DNR preservation land and a Class A trout stream, farm, UWRF and RFHS, she ad monished.

“You’re all from Minne – sota,” Smith said to a large round of applause. “Take your project back and put it next to your own homes.”

Another resident, who lives near Meyer Middle School, worried about the quality-of-life disruption from racing car noise.

“I don’t want to hear this noise. I spend a lot of time in my yard barbecuing. I live here for the peace and quiet,” he said. “I don’t want to see it altered because there are car enthusiasts among us. It eased my mind when you said it’s not a NASCAR track, but how come young drivers are being trained here? Obnoxious sort of zoom, zoom, zoom continual noise. You haven’t really put my mind at ease. I’m just not convinced that this is going to be a quiet thing.”

Another woman asked

River Falls, Wisconsin

why the township hasn’t been contacted, since the land falls with the extraterritorial zone (ETZ). According to UW-Extension, ETZs give cities a 3-mile extension of zoning control outside city limits if the proper cooperative steps with the adjoining township are followed. This allows a city to exercise land use control over new development that otherwise might not be compatible with the city’s future growth.

Krzyzaniak said a town board member told him that if the city is in favor of annexation, they would also be in favor.

“That is a lie,” Smith said, who is on the town board. Foster piped up that he may have spoken to Zoning Administrator Jerome Rodewold, but no town board members were approached.

As the questions flew fast and furious about racing car noise, disruption of rural life, jobs and zoning, Krzyzaniak said he would answer all questions on Aug. 22. No city agendas (as of July 25) show this proposal as a topic.

River Falls City Admin- istrator Scot Simpson said Krzyzaniak has reached to the city about the proposal, but that the project is in the concept stage. Stau met with the group to discuss feasibility and the concept, but no applications have yet been submitted. City stau recommended Krzyzaniak seek input from the community on the proposal. “ Stau indicated that there would be supporters and opponents of the concept and significant attention would need to be paid to environmental impacts to the waterway and to noise likely creat-

SHEET

ed by the concept,” Simpson said. “Before the City considers projects of this magnitude, the development team would need to submit formal plans and a request for annexation. That process would consist of public meetings, analysis of annexation request, and then full site plan review.”

“We were here tonight to talk to the surrounding landowners to see if they want to sell,” he said.

One woman asked him to talk about his “successful experience” in combined commercial and residential development of this scale and asked if he has any tax judgments against him. He said this is the first project of this scale he’s worked on and that he has no tax judgments.

After he made a remark about people wearing masks at the meeting (which were optional), resident Martin Kretzmann addressed him at the mic. “If this your first impression to the neighbors, stop laughing at people,” Kretzmann said. “First impression, heck no. No one is begging for this to be developed at all.”

Resident Indira Van Handel was in tears when she asked if Krzyzaniak would want such an operation built next to him. She said she moved from Milwaukee to get away from this type of chaos. Her children value the peace they’ve found on their rural property.

“We’re giving you the opportunity to sell your property, if you don’t want it,” Krzyzaniak said.

The Journal will continue to follow this story as it develops.

This map shows the proposed automotive country club that Kinnick Development Group wants to build, which would include 600 garage-style villas, sounds walls, country club, private streets, skid pad and more. Highway 65, running north/south, is seen at the bottom of the map, while Highway 29, which runs east/west, is on the left side. The RV park would be north of Highway 29. Map courtesy of Kinnick Development Group

(From left): Real estate agent Dave Robson, Shirley Zachman and developer Neal Krzyzaniak were met with disdain and incredulity at the proposed plans for an automotive country club.

July 26, 2022