Wisconsin Park Owner Resolves City Dispute
Pettibone Campground Resort is pulling its RV sales business off Barron Island in La Crosse, Wis., six months into a new and hard-fought lease with the city of La Crosse.
The Campbell Town Board agreed Tuesday (Dec. 14) to rezone three Bainbridge Street properties for the Pretasky family’s Advanced Recreation RV sales and service operations, which would give the family-owned business 4 1/2 acres just off Interstate 90, the La Crosse Tribune reported.
“It just allows us to grow our business, which is tough to do right now,” owner and operator Mark Pretasky said. He added 21 electric campground sites on the waterfront this fall.
The sales lot also is used as parking for the campground’s banquet hall, Pretasky said, and the new location is ideal for out-of-town customers.
The planned Campbell sales lot would include a small showroom, multiple service bays and storage — elements La Crosse officials considered undesirable for the Barron Island locale. The RV sales and repair operations for years were at the center of heated lease negotiations between Pettibone and the city of La Crosse before they finally reached an agreement in June.
City officials pressed the owners to reduce the volume of RVs for sale and display, contending it violated the spirit of public parkland and a 1901 land covenant that the land remain for public use.
“It was taking over the whole thing. You didn’t know there was a campground down there, practically,” council member Dick Swantz said during lease negotiations with the campground.
Some claim the business has discouraged developers who might have been interested in the nearby former Holiday Inn site, often citing Progressive Designs developer Nick Ladopoulos, who said he’d made the removal of the RV sales lot a condition of his now-defunct development agreement with the city.
“We wanted to do a class A project, and the RV lot would have interfered with (condo) sales,” he said. “The property can’t support too many uses, and the RV is an incompatible use.”
The city cracked down in a new five-year lease that incrementally reduces the number of RVs the Pretaskys could sell in its front lot to 10 by 2016.
In return for those and rent provisions, city officials agreed not to pursue $1.6 million they said was owed in back rent.
It’s entitled instead to 3% of the campground’s gross revenues for the first three years of the five-year agreement and then 5% in 2013 and 2014.
Moving the RV sales would considerably cut into the city’s anticipated revenue stream.