Red Tape or Useful Regulations?

November 8, 2011 3:47 PM

According to a recent Capital Times article Grass Roots: Red tape could sink plan to use Don Miller site for homeless day shelter, the City of Madison is requiring Porchlight Inc. to jump through hoops to set up a temporary homeless day shelter at the vacant Don Miller site on East Washington Avenue.

Reporter Pat Schneider's use of the words 'jump through hoops' calls for the rejection of decades of zoning ordinances enacted by the City of Madison. Those aren't ordinances that are developed overnight. These ordinances ensure that the activities proposed in a development, and the placement, scale and design of new or remodeled buildings and other site improvements that are part of the development, are consistent with the land use and design recommendations for the neighborhood or district where the project is located. Zoning regulations and design standards are created by ordinances which also establish procedures for administering the regulations, including the process for project review and approval by City Commissions and the Common Council. Zoning ordinances are the reason that we don't have parking lots on Langdon Street or the Capitol Square; it isn't the place for them regardless of the convenience they might provide for visitors and shoppers.

The need to submit detailed material with a development application, and the review process itself, are sometimes characterized as unnecessary red tape, particularly by unprepared applicants. Both, however, are essential to ensuring that those reviewing a proposed project have the information needed to make an informed decision, and that the review process is transparent and provides opportunities for community input.

The City is working with Porchlight to determine if it is possible to set up the day shelter. However, to dismantle carefully crafted regulations to do so is shortsighted.

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