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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Two city commissions to offer joint hearings

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Two city commissions gathered Wednesday evening to hammer out the overlap and inefficiencies between the two groups.

Madison’s Urban Design and Landmarks Commissions deliberated what many members called a ping-pong effect – the chosen phrase used to describe proposals that are often sent back and forth between the two commissions.


“The interaction between the two commissions was really highlighted in the Edgewater process,” Executive Director of the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation Jason Tish said.

UDC is charged with hearing proposals from developers and providing recommendations to ensure public and private projects are held to a high design standard.

The Landmarks Commission designates and protects historical landmarks and oversees additions and renovations at such locations.

Overlap occurs between the two commissions when developers propose projects on designated landmarks, like the Edgewater proposal.

The Edgewater hotel is most recently the subject of Mayor Paul Soglin’s funding cuts, putting a burden on the controversial redevelopment plan.

In Dec. 2009, the City Council and Landmarks Commission denied the proposal to expand the hotel from the Hammes Company – known for developing the Kohl Center – but the project was revived by the Council in Jan. 2010.

“Edgewater was really the trigger on this,” Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, who sits on both commissions, said. “No policy was ever adopted, the Landmarks Commission just saw proposals first because their [approval] is a go or no go.”

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz questioned the process leading the two commissions to address instances where a different approach is more suitable, Rummel said.

The commissions entertained calling joint meetings for large projects requiring significant input from both the UDC and Landmarks.

“We resolved that the offer to have joint meetings will be available [to developers],” UDC Chair Richard Wagner said.

The commissions immediately decided to meet jointly on two upcoming proposals.

The first for Bethel Lutheran Church at 100 Wisconsin Ave. and the second for two properties on West Mifflin Street where the Overture Center plans to develop, according to Rummel.

The Overture is looking to buy the block. One of the buildings they plan to demolish is landmarked and the other very well could be, Rummel said.

UDC members expressed concern with the City Council’s plan to push the commission to having only one pass at proposals.

Doing so would result in many rejected proposals and may discourage projects that would otherwise improve the city, they said.

The commissions also discussed the use of vinyl siding in projects.

An email from architect and UDC member Mark Smith encouraged both commissions to reject proposals using vinyl because of its toxicity and negative environmental impact.

Members of the Landmarks Commission said the five districts they oversee put together their own grassroots efforts to write their own ordinances, two of which included vinyl as an acceptable material, while the other three did not explicitly reject it.

“In order to change that, each district would have to have their ordinances rewritten,” Landmarks secretary Amy Scanlon said.

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