We Can Do This
February 24, 2010 10:04 AM
Last week the Edgewater Hotel developer Bob Dunn made a major concession to critics of his proposal to invest $93 million in our city. It got excellent reviews from the Urban Design Commission, and it bodes well for ultimate approval. Unfortunately, he was thanked with a legal move by an opponent to throw up yet another road block to his project.
Dunn, at tremendous cost and effort, found a way to move the building back fifteen feet further away from Wisconsin Avenue, one of the last major remaining issues for those who still oppose the project even after he has already moved it further from the lake and lowered the building by three floors. That move got very positive reviews from the UDC, but the very next day, two adjacent landowners pulled out a little-used state law that allows them to force a supermajority vote to approve the zoning change once it gets to the City Council.
Still, let's take a moment to take stock of where we are. When we do, we can see that the project is actually gaining some momentum.
• Back in November an attempt to remove tax incremental finance support for the project from my budget was soundly defeated.
• In December, in the only real vote that the City Council has had on the project so far, the Council voted 12-5 to overturn a decision of the Landmarks Commission. A supermajority of 14 votes was needed, but given the difficulty of the vote for alders, this was really a strong vote of support for the project.
• Last week, the Board of Estimates overwhelmingly approved changes to the old street vacations on Wisconsin Avenue to remove unnecessary hurdles to the project.
• Dunn's move to set back the building further from the street seems like it should gain approval for the project from the Urban Design Commission.
• And, the Plan Commission recommended and the Council approved last night a change in lake set-back requirements for commercial properties that should be done anyway, but which are important to the Edgewater as well.
This has all been too difficult and the process has been way too long. We need to reform our processes. In fact, Isthmus ran a brilliant piece by a widely read Madison blogger on this very topic in this week's paper. You can read it at http://www.thedailypage.com/isthmus/article.php?article=28233.
We need to use the Edgewater story as a catalyst to make our system more transparent, more accountable and more positive for those who want to invest in our city and create jobs. But that's for later this year. For now, if we can just get the Edgewater before the Council for an up or down vote on the merits of the project - if we can just let democracy work - then I am convinced that it will pass even the extraordinarily high hurdles that have been placed in front of it.