ST. JOSEPH, Wisc. - It’s a day people in the small town of St. Joseph, Wisconsin knew was coming.
“I lived in Stillwater for 25 years. I always knew someday it would happen,” Rick Streine said.
Streine is moving into his rural St. Joseph home which is just across the river from Stillwater.
“It is definitely going to change a bit here. How much and what exactly, I’m not sure yet.”
Why is it likely to change? The new bridge spanning the St. Croix River.
“When they passed it through Congress we knew it was going to start.”
That was about five years ago when Tom Spaniol remembers the bridge connecting Wisconsin and Minnesota would likely be a sure thing. Fast forward to Aug. 2, 2017, the bridge opened for business.
Spaniol is the town chairman of St. Joseph which has a population of about 3,800.
“We started slowly in the beginning. How are we going to handle this? Where do we start? What do we need to do? What is this going to take to handle it?” Spaniol said.
Over the course of two years, the town held several public meetings and listening sessions about how the expansion would best fit with the homes in the area. The town developed a 400-page plan on how expansion might best suit St. Joseph.
“For example, bike trails that’s in this plan. We never had to do that before. Also lake management plans and wastewater management,” Spaniol added.
According to Spaniol, new home construction is up 60 percent this year.
“We don’t want big development here. We want structured slow growth. We also want clean water which was a big part of our planning,” Spaniol said.
“It’s also up to the private land owners if they want to sell.” Spaniol anticipates some may choose to sell while others hold out. “This is the beginning of some activity but it’s not some explosion. We’re not getting 50 calls a day we are getting a couple a week.”