December 3, 2009 11:29 AM
I am very pleased that Edgewater Hotel developer Bob Dunn has decided to let the Madison City Council have the final say on his project. Dunn has now officially appealed the decision of the Landmarks Commission not to approve his project to the Council, which will take up his appeal next Tuesday. While Landmarks was constricted in what it could consider, the debate before the full Council can bring sharper focus to more basic questions about what is most important to us as a community.
Here's how the ledger shapes up on this proposal. On the plus side we have:
• Nearly 1,000 good-paying construction jobs in an economy where the unemployment rate in some trades is 30%.
• Over $1 million a year in new tax revenues to support our schools, city services, social services and more.
• Dramatically improved views of Lake Mendota.
• New life for the historic original 1940s building.
• Significantly increased public access to the lake.
• More hotel rooms and an amenity that the UW sees as a big asset close to its campus.
On the negative side we have:
• A building that some people feel is too big for the site.
When I weigh these considerations, the conclusion is clear. With so much to offer I can live with a building that might be a little bit bigger than some would want. Do we really want to forgo all these benefits and send a strong anti-business signal to others who want to invest in our community simply because we don't like big buildings? Can we look in the eyes of hundreds of unemployed construction workers and tell them that their families should go without a paycheck because some think the building is a little too big?
I don't think so. But the Landmarks Commission was constrained by a vague and narrowly drafted ordinance that didn't give them the leeway to look at broader community interests. That is precisely the City Council's job. And when they look at this project in its totality, with all its benefits weighed against its small costs, I hope they'll join me in concluding that we should move ahead.