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Alder David Ahrens

Alder David Ahrens

Home Address:
4014 Major Ave.


Phone: 608-334-1156
district15@cityofmadison.com
Common Council Office:
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Room 417
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
WI Relay Service

Neighborhood and City Plans......Spring (AKA road repair) season

March 2, 2015 11:21 AM

Neighborhood Plans and/or City Plans:

For over a decade, the city has encouraged neighborhood associations to develop "neighborhood plans." The plans describe the strengths and weaknesses of each neighborhood and how they would like to see the area develop (or not) in the next decade or so. This includes everything from zoning changes to allow more commercial development, building heights, parks, etc. Writing these plans takes months and often years of residents' and staff time. When they are completed they must be approved by most city committees and the City Council.

There is also a City Comprehensive Plan that includes most of the neighborhood plans and a bigger view of how the pieces (hopefully) fit together. These plans are done every decade and involves citizen committees, staff committing thousands of hours to the process and of course, lots of consultants.

However, "the best laid plans" are often in conflict with other plans. Recently, there were two examples of this recurring problem that are worth examining and getting your response.

First, is the issue of installing sidewalks on Turner Ave. The street is slated for reconstruction and the city policy has been to install sidewalks when a street is rebuilt (including water, sewer mains, etc.).  Turner is on a bus line so there are more pedestrians than on other similar streets. The neighborhood immediately south of Turner on Tompkins Dr will also be reconstructed and they have decided in favor of sidewalks.

The arguments for and against installing sidewalks are well-known: For sidewalks: increases ability to walk (pedestrian friendly), increases home values, safer for children to walk to school and play, etc. Against sidewalks: Costs $1,000+ to homeowners, winter maintenance, on some blocks substantial tree losses and a change in neighborhood "character."

(Note that if the sidewalks are not constructed during this street project then the City will not construct them when a different group of residents live there who might support the project. So delaying construction a few years is not an option.)

Because most of the residents of Turner Ave oppose sidewalk construction should their view override city policy or the decision of their immediate neighbors who have opted to build them?  How big should a decision-making group be? If a three-block area can decide against/for sidewalks can one block? Can one household?

Second, last week the Council was asked to approve a 164-room ten-story hotel at the site of Pahl Tire on E.Wash  and Webster- right off the Square. (The hotel is being built without city financing of any kind.) The conflict here is that the neighborhood plan says that buildings along Webster St should be no taller than six stories. The builder said that if their hotel size is reduced or "stepped back" to six stories along Webster, it would not be profitable and presumably would not be built.

The Council had approved the neighborhood plan and then the Plan Commission approved the hotel as submitted. This is a big, valuable project that was praised for its innovative design. Should the neighborhood plan be ignored in this instance? If the plan is ignored because the project is "big" why have the plans? (Recently, the plan for Willy St was ignored when the Council approved a six-story building to be built next to Red Caboose Day Care Center.)

This is an on-going conflict between "city and neighborhood interests" and decision-making power. I have supported the neighborhood view pretty consistently, in part because of the Council's action of endorsing the plans. I have asked the Council, "If we are not going to follow the plan then let's stop having residents and staff go through the trouble of writing them." And if we have no plans, then what?

If roadwork is coming up, it means it will soon be spring.....

Rebuilding the Cottage Grove Rd. Bridge over Hwy 51 begins in April. Expect lane closings and slowdowns.
The northbound lane of Hwy 51 will be rebuilt starting in July. The project will go from the Beltline to Milwaukee St and will take three months to complete. Most of the work is slated to take place after 7 PM but will still really slow things down. The highway will still have the same number of lanes but will drive-able. (For some reason, State DOT is waiting two years to do the southbound lanes which I think are worse than the northbound lanes.)

Capital City Path Reconstruction and Bridge Replacement:

This project will reconstruct the path from Marquette to Dennett St and include the replacement of the bridge behind Olbrich Gardens.

The project is scheduled to begin in June and close the path for most of the summer.

A Public Information Meeting is scheduled for:
Wednesday, March 11, 2015 from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa Street, Madison

City staff will present information about the project and seek input on the design.  Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend.

Final plans and specifications for this project are currently being prepared by City Engineering staff. 

Those unable to attend can obtain additional information from the project engineer Tony Fernandez email Afernandez@cityofmadison.com
For more information, visit the project page at
Capital City Path Reconstruction and Bridge Replacement





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