The Madison City Council goes over the proposed apartment building at 222 Langdon.[/media-credit]

Downtown residents and Madison City Council members found themselves facing a difficult decision Tuesday night when asked to approve a proposed apartment complex adjacent to the Acacia fraternity, ultimately shooting down the proposal.

The project, in collaboration with contractor Alexander Company Inc., included an 18-unit multifamily apartment complex that would be constructed in the parking lot behind the fraternity house at 222 Langdon St.

It also included plans to remodel the existing house.

According to Acacia Foundation President James McFarland, in the last few years Acacia fraternity membership has decreased, which has led to funding shortfalls. He added the fraternity has been unable to garner enough money to support the needs for its house.

“We need a different structure to make this work,” McFarland said.

The new apartment complex was intended to help the fraternity gain revenue by renting apartments to other downtown citizens or students. The renovation of the Acacia house would have also allowed the fraternity to rent out units to acquire additional revenue.

While the proposal was passed unanimously at the Urban Planning Commission Jan. 7, it was met with a tied vote of 4-4 at the Madison Planning Commission meeting Jan. 26.

Construction of the new complex and renovations were expected to begin in August 2009, according to the planning division report. However, after Tuesday night’s decision, construction may be delayed or nonexistent altogether.

Ald. Eli Judge, District 8, a UW senior, said the decision was extremely difficult because each side presented “phenomenal” arguments.

“There’s a benefit of turning a gravel lot into something more,” Judge said. “But, in the same vein, is this the project we need for this spot?”

Former Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. President Ledell Zellers said she could not support the project because it was not the right building for the neighborhood, specifically citing the proposed design did not fit with other building designs in the area.

According to Ald. Brenda Konkel, District 2, this project has been difficult from day one. She added she could not support it due to density issues in the neighborhood and design guidelines “missing the mark.”

“I think overall, in the end, it just misses on so many different points,” Konkel said.

Ald. Tim Gruber, District 11, argued density is actually just what the neighborhood needs and applauded the design elements of the building.

“Density is desirable, as long as it is well designed,” Gruber said. “Look how far we’ve come in terms of our design. I think there’s a lot of merits to it — maybe it’s not perfect, but they’ve certainly done a very good job.”

Cedric Lawson, legislative affairs director for United Council of UW Students and UW graduate, said the neighborhood is already an extremely densely populated area and the project would have further aggravated the issue.

“It’s a delicate balance to keep,” Lawson said. “I don’t see inviting more people living in that area to be an optimal situation for our area.”

The council made a second motion to place the item on file without prejudice. This means another project can still be presented in the future for the plot of land currently located at 222 Langdon St.