City moving forward with plans to demolish house near Highland Park

By Matt Bunke, Community Editor

The city of Watertown is making plans to demolish the home it recently purchased at 804 Hutchinson Road after the city council declined to change the city’s comprehensive plan and allow the site to be used for retail development.

Out of fairness to the owner of the estate, Tom Motzko, the city council opted instead to purchase the land in late May for $115,000 after its decision regarding the comprehensive plan essentially killed a deal Motzko had reached to sell the land to Subway owner Steve Erhard. Erhard wanted to construct a retail building on the site that would provide a new home to his restaurant and retail space for several other businesses as well.

However, the city council voted 3-2 not to make an amendment to the comprehensive plan that would have allowed the retail proposal to proceed. Instead, the city purchased the land for a possible expansion to Highland Park.

The city took control of the property on June 25, but before the city can move forward with any sort of plan to make use of the land, the current structure needs to be demolished. The demolition services will be provided for free by local contractor Mike Neisen.

Before removing the primary structure, an asbestos test will need to be completed to determine environmental risk, per Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requirements. The city council authorized the city to hire a contractor it has used in the past to perform the inspections. Once the building is demolished, the city plans to reseed the area impacted by the site cleanup.

Prior to its demolition, the building is expected to be used for training by the Watertown Fire Department, which has expressed interest in using the site. The city council has approved the request, with fire department training exercises – including training burns and demolition exercises – likely to take place during the last two weeks in July.