The Madison City Council failed to reach a consensus Monday about whether or not to allow the Acacia fraternity to add an apartment building to their property, with the vote ending in a tie.
In collaboration with contractor Alexander Company Inc., Acacia proposed adding a 16-unit apartment complex to their fraternity house at 222 Langdon St.
The renovation would be built on an adjacent parking lot.
Debate at the Monday City Council meeting concerned the proposal’s adherence to downtown design guidelines that would ensure the construction fits with the character of the neighborhood.
Ald. Brenda Konkel, District 2, said Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. voiced concern about the project meeting downtown design guidelines, also expressing concern about overpopulating the downtown.
“Do students all need to be crammed into one little area, and how livable is their space going to be in the future?” Konkel asked.
Attendees also discussed student density in the new units and the appropriate use of open space.
Ledell Zellers, former president of CNI, said she was also concerned about apartment density.
“The design appears to be focused on attempting to cram in as many units as possible,” Zellers said.
She added the building would remove “viewscapes” along Lake Mendota, blocking the scenery in the area.
According to Zellers, the construction of an additional apartment building would hinder the character of the neighborhood.
However, Bill White, representative for the Alexander Company, said there is a difference between the development standards for the project and the design guidelines. “The issue of whether there’s ‘viewscapes’ that need to be protected is not something that we find in the code,” White said.
Konkel said she wondered if the revised project actually corrected the flaws the council pointed out in the initial proposal.
She added voting to approve the motion simply because it is “close enough” would undermine the goals of the design guidelines.
Ald. Tim Gruber, District 11, said the Alexander Company could not change the proposal without rewriting it.
“Given the present design, I think they’ve done about as much as they can,” Gruber said. “The only alternative would be to go back to the drawing board and build a new building.”
Konkel said the tie-vote fairly represented the pros and cons discussed by council members.
She added she was pleased the council considered student tenants because the focus in prior meetings concentrated only on increasing density downtown without regard to students and open spaces.
Konkel said she was hopeful students would have some opinions about Acacia’s renovation, but the last City Council meeting was scheduled near finals week and saw a low turnout.
The motion to approve Acacia’s renovation will once again go before the Common Council as early as Feb. 3. The final date has yet to be determined.
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, this article incorrectly stated the Madison City Council was discussing a proposed apartment building on the property at 222 Langdon St. It was actually discussed by the Madison Plan Commission, a committee of the city council, and will be discussed by the council as a whole on Feb. 5. We regret the error.