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Council gives nod for Prickly Pear

Downtown business eyes mid-December opening for wine, cheese, books

The opening of the Prickly Pear took another step forward at the Medford City Council Committee of the Whole meeting on November 27. Co-owner of the Prickly Pear, John Gasek was in attendence to speak to the council as the issuance of a Class C Wine License was on the agenda. Gasek explained the wine bar will be “a casual restaurant with wine, cheese and books.” Gasek further explained that there will be two levels, stating that, “the main floor will be where the bar is and the basement will be a lounge area.” On top of that, “during the spring/summer months there will be a patio in the back.” Council member Laura Holmes asked if there was an opening date set. Gasek responded, “We are shooting for mid December.” The council did approve the Class C Wine License for the Prickly Pear, LLC.

In other license business, the board also discussed and approved the issuance of a Class B Beer/Liquor license to Mi Jovenazo number Four LLC. This license is for the building that was formerly the Brass Rail. City Clerk Ashley Lemke was asked by Holmes, if this was a new license. Lemke responded, “the building was sold with the contingency that they receive the liquor license.” There was some confusion initially on what was happening to the El Jovenaso license, but Lemke did clarify that the El Jovenaso restaurant will remain open at their current location. Mi Jovenazo number Four LLC is a separate entity and will have its own license. The council did approve the beer/liquor license.

See CITY on page 3 Yard Signs

The sign ordinance in the city of Medford has been a topic of discussion of the council in recent months. City coordinator Joe Harris explained that at the plan commission meeting on November 6, it recommended to move forward with a zoning change for the sign ordinance. The proposed change would require contractor signs to be removed within two weeks after onsite work is completed. Temporary signs used for business openings, grand openings, etc. would need to be removed one day after the event is over. Information signs that are of interest to the general community regarding scheduled public events, public activities, public resources or public services would be limited to twenty locations within the city limits. The signs shall not exceed ten square feet. The change does require a public hearing which will be held next Monday, December 4 at 5:00 p.m. Mayor Mike Wellner said, “Bob (Christensen) got information from other cities and we are trying to make it easy on people.” If the plan commission approves and recommends the zoning change it will be presented to the council during the December 5 meeting.

Comprehensive Plan

Harris discussed updating the city’s comprehensive plan. Harris along with Lemke explained that the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Association (WEDA) has created new loans that are available to private citizens. WEDA created three low interest loan programs to assist developers to create more affordable housing. One of the loans that stood out is the “Vacancy to- Vitality” loan program, which is for vacant former big box store buildings to be converted to senior housing. For all three of the loans, a developer can apply for a loan for up to 25% of the project cost at 1% interest. In order for anyone in the City of Medford to qualify for the loans, the city needs to update the zoning code and the city must review their comprehensive plan every five years. Lemke stated, “We have met with a couple of companies to update the plan.” The council did approve the planning committee to interview consulting firms to update the plan. There will be a recommendation made on which consulting firm to use at the next Committee of the Whole meeting. The consulting firm will assist in updating the zoning code, so that it is compliant with WEDA’s requirements as well as update the city comprehensive plan.

Other Council Business

The council also approved the employee benefits plan document. Lemke explained to council members that they need to update the document each year to stay compliant with ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) standards. The only changes are typically the rate changes for health insurance as those change each year.

Wellner let the council know that the nomination papers for the spring 2024 election open on December 1st. Wellner informed the board that he will be running for reelection. Wellner stated, “We have made a lot of progress in the past couple of years.” Wellner also mentioned that there are four council spots on the ballot as well.