Tuesday’s meeting of the Madison City Council saw the approval of a zoning ordinance that could place the Edgewater Hotel redevelopment proposal another step closer to completion amid numerous recent delays in the review process.
The recent council meeting was expected to determine the fate of the project after it was referred in December of last year. Numerous concerns by committees and members of the public, combined with changes to the project’s design last week, have now pushed the decision to a council meeting in April.
The ordinance amendments approved Tuesday pertain to the zoning of Madison’s lakefront properties. The ordinance, sponsored by Ald. Mark Clear, District 19, and amended by Ald. Lauren Cnare, District 3, allows the lakefront setback — the distance from the lake — to be determined by existing setbacks on the property.
The ordinance change also now makes it so the process used to determine the setbacks only applies to residential properties.
“This ordinance is kind of like the lapping of the water, it comes and it goes, it covers things and it uncovers things,” Cnare said with regard to concerns by members of the council and public who felt the ordinance could cause rampant commercial development on the lakeshore.
According to Zoning Administrator Matt Tucker, there are 12 commercial properties currently on the lakeshore, amounting for a total of four-tenths of a mile of the 35 total miles of lakeshore in Madison.
Tucker said he did not recall zoning officials having to address a situation regarding non-residential properties on lakefront property in the last 10 years.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, put forth a motion to refer the decision on the zoning changes so that the Plan Commission and Committee on the Environment could reexamine the ordinance, citing the fact that approval for the Edgewater project has been considerably pushed back.
Verveer said he felt the changes could potentially weaken the city’s standards of lakefront protection. By having city officials reexamine the ordinance, which he added was an improvement from the previous ordinance, the city could rest easy knowing the changes were well thought out and checked.
The vote to refer the amendments to the other review bodies failed by a vote of 8-12.
Prior to the discussions by council members and city staff, members of the public were able to voice their concerns about the ordinance changes, the vast majority of which were against perceived special treatment for Edgewater developer Hammes Co. and a foot in the door for future commercial development.
“This is worse than spot zoning, this is spot legislation,” Madison resident John Martens said.
Martens added that developers in this position look to maximize their gains by seeking out loopholes. The current changes would allow just that as the changes seemed to have been “crafted in haste,” he said.
Registrants not wishing to speak on the matter were noted as 38 in support of the changes and one against.