City Council President Shiva Bidar-Sielaff weighed in on the committee’s discussion on zoning and the cut funding to the Overture Center.[/media-credit]

Madison’s City Council approved the new downtown zoning code and addressed a proposed cut in funding to the Overture Center in a meeting Tuesday.

The Plan Commission has worked the last five years to rewrite the old zoning code, which dates back to 1966, according to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4. Verveer said the old code has long been outdated.

The new code will go into effect Jan. 2 of next year and will apply to much of the University of Wisconsin’s property. Verveer said city staff worked closely with university officials and listened to UW’s desires and concerns. He said the university was supportive of the actions taken regarding the new zoning code.

One major change in the zoning code, which will affect some UW students, is the city will now allow buildings to be constructed with up to six stories in the Mifflin Street neighborhood. He said this is part of the larger Downtown Plan, which will impact the downtown area over the next 20 years.

Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway, District 12, said the new code is an improvement over the previous code, but it could have been better, particularly on the issue of sustainability. She said City Council could have made more improvements in areas such as shoreline protection.

“We’re not zoning for what we want; we’re zoning for what we have,” Rhodes-Conway said. “There are people who think that is the right way to do things, but I am not one of them. I am particularly disappointed.”

She said there were missed opportunities in the zoning code, especially because there are examples of codes that contain aspects of sustainability in other cities.

Mayor Paul Soglin said the zoning code is a living document, which means it can be continually updated and amended.

City Council members also heard from people who may be affected by the city’s proposed 2013 operating budget.

Many people spoke on behalf of the Overture Center, which is predicted to lose around $1 million in city funding for the 2013 fiscal year.

Ted DeDee, the Overture Center’s president and CEO, said the center has used every dollar it received in an efficient manner to provide programs for children and adults. He said the institution will not be able to maintain these programs and reach such a broad amount of people if the proposed budget cuts pass.

DeDee said the city benefits from the increased downtown property values caused by the Overture Center, and it also helps bolster the economy in many other ways.

Tom Basting, chair of the board of directors of the Overture Center, said the city made an agreement with the Overture Center, which required the center to meet certain goals, such as annual performance requirements. The city’s side of the deal was to commit to a $2 million grant in annual funding to the Overture Center, he said.

Basting said the Overture Center has kept its part of the agreement and questioned why the city was not meeting its part of the agreement.

“The Overture served [more than] 220,000 kids and young people last year,” Basting said. “Is it worth five bucks a kid to support them? I think it is.”

The Board of Estimates will make amendments to the proposed city budget when it meets Nov. 22.