Posts Tagged ‘Zoning’

Edgewater: Mayor Pave v. Historic Neighborhoods

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Edgewater: Ugly beyond belief. Not just architecturally. Not just in scale & proportion. Not just in the way the developer bullied the neighborhood. Now we have a very ugly legal precedent brewing.

Indeed, the mayor is prodding the council to actually break the law. (More of his histrionics here.)

Fortunately, we have antidotes for such sociopathy in the form of civic-minded community leadership, well grounded in the ways of research, analysis and good will….

For starters, check out a clear-eyed view of Madison’s historic preservation laws brought to you by Brenda Konkel; details here & here.

Another former alder had this warning for current alders with regard to bully-proofing themselves.

Jay Rath at Isthmus has done a yeoman’s job of chronicling the Edgewater saga. He puts Madison’s historic preservation efforts in, well, historic context this week.

Civic leader Ledell Zellers lays out the moral case for historic preservation laws and the implications of breaking them (i.e., bulldozers coming soon to a neighborhood near you!):

Historic Districts in Peril—Speak up to help save Madison’s heritage districts.

The Hammes Co. has appealed the decision of the Landmarks Commission to reject the Edgewater proposal.  The proposal was rejected on the basis of it not complying with either the requirements of the Mansion Hill preservation ordinance or the provisions allowing for a variance from the ordinance.  The basis of rejection was that the proposed tower, because of its huge size (see attached), is not visually compatible with the small scale buildings with which it is “visually related”, nor with the historic district scale of buildings.

If this decision is overturned by City Council, it would essentially gut the provisions of the landmarks ordinance and open up all Madison historic districts for inappropriate development.

Your voice is needed if you care about Madison’s historic districts.   What can you do?

·         Email all alders NOW at to let them know you value our historic districts and you do not want an out of scale building to be built which the Landmarks Commission rejected as inappropriate; and

·         Come to the City Council meeting and testify on Tuesday December 8 at 6:30 pm in room 201 of the City County Building.

·         If you cannot stay to testify on Tuesday, please come and register in opposition to this out of scale, inappropriate project in our oldest heritage landmark district.

What are some of the issues?

·         The Landmarks Commission in following their charge under the Landmarks Ordinance rejected the proposed Edgewater tower as too large for the Mansion Hill Historic district.  The proposed tower is HUGE.  The total gross floor area and gross volume of ALL four buildings combined in the “visually related area” (an area defined by ordinance) is 60% that of the proposed tower.  On an individual basis the proposed tower is 3 to 16 times larger than each of the other buildings.  It was this massive tower that the Landmarks Commissioners found violates the ordinance which was established in 1976 to protect Mansion Hill.

·         Some people are arguing that building this building would create jobs.  Get the size right for the district and go ahead with the project.  But don’t build the wrong building in the wrong place simply to make work.  The jobs will last for a short period.  The historic district will be damaged forever.  This mistake will loom over our lake forever.

·         Commissions have a basis of knowledge on which they base decisions.  The Landmarks Commission considered this issue and discussed it in detail for 7 hours.  These are experts, informed citizens and one alder the mayor has appointed to look at details of the historic district ordinances and how they apply in specific situations.  To disregard, devalue and dismiss such judgments undercuts the committee process which has been long established and long respected in Madison.

·         The appeal ordinance requires that in order to overturn the Landmarks Commission the Council must find “that, owing to special conditions pertaining to the specific piece of property, failure to grant the Certificate of Appropriateness will preclude any and all reasonable use of the property and/or will cause serious hardship for the owner, provided that any self-created hardship shall not be a basis for reversal or modification of the Landmark Commission’s decision.” (Emphasis added.)  The Hammes Company does not yet own the land.  Other provisions of the appeal ordinance also appear not to be met.  Simply because a tower of the size desired by the developer cannot be built it does not preclude any and all reasonable use of the property.  Current owners are responsible for the deteriorated state of the 1940s Edgewater.

·         The precedent which would be created should this proposal be approved will result in a wall of towers hugging Lake Mendota.

Please act to save the Mansion Hill Historic district…to save all Madison historic districts.

Ledell Zellers

510 N Carroll Street

Madison, WI  53703

Appropriate scale? Proportionality? Me thinks not.

Appropriate scale? Proportionality? Me thinks not.

My take on the whole thing? Ledell for Mayor 2011!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Victory for Black Earth Creek!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Black Earth Creek, an example of a restored trout stream par excellence, has been spared a massive assault. Western Dane County will stay a little more rural for a bit longer. Bicyclists, nature lovers, fisherman — indeed anyone who breathes — should be thankful to a hard working group of people who made this happen.

Stefi Harris and the Western Dane County Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment are to be commended for a fight well fought…and won!

Capital Area Regional Planning Commission members: Thank you. Thank you for your good judgment, and backbone.

Way to go gang!

Here’s the word from the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources (apologies for losing the letter’s original formatting):

101 S. Webster St.

Box 7921

Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7921

Telephone 608-266-2621

FAX 608-267-3579

TTY Access via relay – 711

Jim Doyle, Governor

Matthew J. Frank, Secretary

November 23, 2009

Carl A. Sinderbrand

Axley Brynelson, LLP

P.O. Box 1767

Madison, WI 53703

Subject: Village of Mazomanie Request Regarding Amendment to Dane County Water Quality Plan

Dear Mr. Sinderbrand:

Your letter to Thomas Gilbert, Bureau of Watershed Management, dated August 21, 2009, has been referred to me. That letter, submitted on behalf of the Village of Mazomanie (Village), requests the Department of Natural Resources (Department) to review the June 11, 2009, decision of the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) to not approve an amendment to the Dane County areawide water quality management plan (plan). The Department declines to reconsider that decision.

There is no statutory or administrative rule procedure that directs the Department to review regional planning agency decisions to deny amendments to areawide water quality management plans. Section NR 121.07, Wis. Admin. Code, establishes the procedures for approval of plans and plan amendments for designated areas of the state (such as Dane County). Section NR 121.07(1) (a), Wis. Admin. Code, provides that the Department shall review and approve or disapprove each plan for designated areas. Section NR 121.07(3), Wis. Admin. Code, provides that the Department may approve a planning agency’s amendments to a plan for a designated area. There is no provision in s. NR 121.07, however, that directs the Department to review and approve or disapprove a planning agency’s decision to deny a proposed amendment to a plan for a designated area.

In addition to this lack of procedural direction, there is a significant practical reason for the Department not to reconsider denials of amendments in designated areas. Dane County is a designated area for areawide water quality management planning, under s. NR 121.06, Wis. Admin. Code. The Department contracts with CARPC to conduct water quality management planning work in Dane County. In my March 18, 2009 letter to Jeffrey Miller, chair of CARPC, I made it clear that,

“We strongly believe that CARPC plays a necessary and critical role in shaping the future of Dane County. We are relying on CARPC to provide land use and water quality resource information and analysis, and a strong direction for local planning efforts.”

Further, I went on to state that,

“In reconsidering the Mazomanie amendment request, the Commission should focus on water quality impacts as the primary basis for a decision, and should consider the guidance and direction in this letter.”

CARPC has taken the focus suggested in our letter and the Department defers to their judgement in this case. As stated, the Department has procedures to review plans and approved amendments to plans and does review those decisions by planning agencies for designated areas. By approving or disapproving plans and plan amendments previously approved by regional planning agencies, and by re-evaluating the approval status of plans at least every 5 years, the Department fulfills its responsibility to protect, maintain and improve the quality and management of the waters of the state in designated areas. Since denials of amendments to plans in designated areas do nothing to change plans previously approved by the Department, they would result in no change to water quality, such that the Department has little or no reason to reconsider them. In fact, to do so would take resources away from other priority work of the Department at a time when those resources are in very short supply.

The Department has not historically been involved in reviewing denials of amendments to plans, unless the planning agency has failed to provide a water quality basis for the denial. If CARPC or another regional planning agency denies an amendment without stating a clear water quality basis for its denial, the Department has requested that the regional planning agency reconsider its decision. The Department did so in this case, by letter to CARPC, dated March 18, 2009. Specifically, I noted,

“Pursuant to state statutes and administrative codes (chapter NR 121), decisions regarding amendments must be based on water quality impacts and the cost-effectiveness of sewerage systems.”

However, once the regional planning agency states a water quality basis for not approving an amendment to a plan (as CARPC has done in this case), as long as the decision is consistent with the approved plan and was done in accordance with approved planning procedures, including a sufficient public participation process, the Department will not reconsider that decision, for the reasons stated in this letter.

The Department encourages the Village to work with CARPC to address the water quality concerns raised by CARPC when it decided not to accept the proposed amendment to the plan.


Todd Ambs, Administrator

Division of Water


Jeffrey Miller, Chair, CARPC

Kamran Mesbah, Deputy Director, CARPC

Scott Stokes, President; Village of Mazomanie

Sue Dietzen, Clerk; Village of Mazomanie

Ron Adler, Chair; Town of Mazomanie

Maria Van Cleve, Clerk; Town of Mazomanie

John St. Peter, Edgarton, St. Peter, Petak & Rosenfeldt

Timothy Fenner, Axley Brynelson

Andy Morton – WDNR – SCR

Tom Gilbert – WDNR – WT/3

Robin Nyffeler- LS/8

Judy Ohm-LS/8

Update: Robbie Webber informs me that there is another group which needs to be thanked for their hard work:

Just an FYI that there is another group working very hard on the CARPC
issues, and they worked extra hard on the Mazo decision, in
cooperation with Arnold and Steffi Harris.

Capital Region Advocacy Network for Environmental Sustainability
(CRANES) has been meeting twice a month for over a year – more or less
since the new RPC was formed – to build a network/alliance of
environmental groups and individuals that are willing to speak up to
preserve the environment in Dane County (and beyond, but we are
working on Dane County first.) Many of the names will be familiar to

Here’s a blog from Brenda back in March about our efforts to fight the
Mazo plan. It includes a letter that was sent out by the group urging
people to show up at the original CARPC hearing.

Indeed! Many thanks for all that great work!

Glacial Heritage Area

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is planning a new “Glacial Heritage Area.” Earlier this summer they had a survey in which they invited comments from the public. Unfortunately, I didn’t post this until too late; the comment period is closed. Apologies, apologies, apologies. However, I did submit comment. I really like their thinking about this. The questions were, shall we say, a bit leading. But I liked where they were leading us. The following are my narrative responses to some of their questions:


Item 5 (Conservation Parks):

NO ATVs!!!!!!!!! Also, it is really irksome for those of us who, for environmental reasons, do not own a car, but who periodically rent one and so thus must pay the daily rate at parks. I think you should have a special annual pass for non-car owners that can be transferred to rental cars.

Item 8 (Linking Trails).

The horseback riders always end up on the bike trail, pitting and tearing up the surface (see the “400 Trail” right now for an example.). I think horse trails should be very separate from the bike trails.

Also, the Glacial Drumlin trail really should be paved. It links communities. It isn’t *just* a rec trail. There are billions in stimulus funds available for exactly this sort of upgrade. As it stands right now, the trail is only usable for about 2.5 mos out of the year because it is either snow/ice covered or muddy or a series of sandtraps the rest of the year. And I’ve heard that the reason it is kept this way is snowmobiles. That is a bogus. You should talk to your counterparts over in MN who have done studies showing that there is no difference in snow coverage over the course of the winter between gravel and asphalt.

Also, there should be some parts of the trail reserved for XC skiing in the winter, especially segments that can make for interesting overnight connections (i.e., places with lodging).

DNR survey said: “11. The GHA project also proposes to create buffers of working farmlands and scattered conservation lands adjacent to many of the wildlife areas. These buffers, known as Rural Landscape Protection Areas (RLPA), would complement efforts to protect farmlands in the area. In total, the GHA project proposes to establish 3,000 acres of protected lands within the 25,000 acres encompassed within the RLPA.

Item 11 is something I’ve been dreaming of for a long time. Excellent idea. So much of Wisconsin’s beauty is in it’s rural landscape. We all know we aren’t in the High Sierras; so enjoying the rural heritage is what one enjoys here. It really sucks that so many state parks are now hemmed in by hideous McMansions. The Kettle Moraine units are the worst case scenario in this regard.

Item 16 (River based Conservation)

A. I don’t think the bands [along the river] should be so narrow.
B. I think you should use conservation funds as an adjunct to CRP [conservation reserve program] funds to really target highly erodable lands all the way to the hilltop and *pay* farmers to put those lands into permanent conservation, or at least perennial crops like hay, clover, etc.
C. Work with farmers to at least have contour strips of permanent perennials at intervals [alternating with crops] all the way up all hillslopes which provide more infiltration zones to facilitate more even flow in the rivers across the course of the year [as opposed to storm surges straight into our surface waters].

That is to say, protecting rivers starts at the top of the hill, not down at the bottom. Once you’ve got a problem down at the wetlands, it is too late.

On the boat access issue: NO MOTORS!

18. What do you think the priorities of the GHA project should be?

Saving the rural landscape–and not just along the trails. As we see farmland getting gobbled up, we are losing the great biking this state offers. As a rec cyclist, I consider an acre of farmland to be better than an acre of parkland in terms of getting away from it all while still living in the city. If DNR could manage to team up with the farm folks to ensure that a) their practices are sustainable, and b) they remain economically vibrant *and preserved* green zones surrounding cities (instead of being used as development zones), I think we could see a real win-win for the environment as well as our ability to continue to enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors. So the thrust isn’t necessarily to buy land; it should be to ensure that the remaining open spaces remain rural. I think you could get a lot more bang for your buck (from a recreational & environmental standpoint) by doing transfer of development rights/purchase development rights or land trusts & the like rather than outright purchases. And this is particularly important in these sprawl zones between Madison & Sprawlkesha. Why? So we who live in the city won’t need to drive for hours to get to the great outdoors. We should be able to bike for a half hour from the capital and find ourselves in the middle of farm fields.

19 (Additional comments).

Is there any way we could work out a more extensive foot trail network that is similar to the snowmobile network? I mean, the farmers are already on board with having the motorized menaces ripping across their land in the winter. How about extending it to peaceable hikers in the fall?

Also, how about gun-free zones for fall hiking?


In sum, Wisconsin Department of Natural resources is proposing a place that does not suck. Thanks, Ranger Rick!

Fightin’ the Good Fight Out West(ern Dane Co., That Is!)

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Here’s the latest from the good guys of the Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment….

From: “Stefi Harris” To: “Stefi Harris” Subject: letter to friends 7-25-09 Date: Thu, 30 Jul 2009 14:19:07 -0500 7-30-09 Dear Friends of the Environment Many thanks to all of you who testified at the public hearing and wrote letters to the Capital regional Planning Commission (CARPC) against the proposal by the Village of Mazomanie to expand their urban service area into a sensitive watershed area for purposes of creating yet more urban sprawl in a cornfield. We won at CARPC in a vote of 7 to 5. We should all be proud of our collective efforts. We think that having lost unprecedented two times at CARPC Mazomanie‚s proposal will also be rejected by DNR. However, we‚ll keep watching the situation just to make sure and let you know of further developments in this case. This time we are asking you to continue our common efforts and join in a fight against the request by the City of Verona to create development in a highly sensitive environmental corridor near Badger Mill Creek and the Sugar River. Both of these are coldwater streams with unique and rare aquatic and terrestrial habitats. The proposed development comprises 572 housing units, 12.6 acres of commercial development and 20.4 institutional development on 265 acres in two areas, located near the intersection of the US Highways 18-151 and State Highway 69. Specifically, the proposed development threatens the two streams with further reduction of already low base flow, increased runoff, erosion, sedimentation and pollution, as well as with increased water temperatures. These threats extend also to the area‚s riparian wetlands alongside of both creeks and to the spring fed wetland in State Natural Area adjacent to the western portion of the proposed urban service area (USA). There are at least four springs in and immediately adjacent to the affected area. If the City of Verona is allowed to spill and sprawl over its current boundary in a direction of Badger Mill Creek and the Sugar River these springs will dry up in the foreseeable future. The proposed Verona USA is a home to several threatened and endangered species. They are Acadian Flycatcher bird, Mulberry Wing butterfly, Lady Slipper orchid and the entire communities of calcareous fen and sedge meadow wetland types. At present the amendment area is sparsely populated. It includes agricultural fields, isolated patches of woods, wooded slopes, a few houses and the streams which flow through. In the past this area, because of its richness and diversity of plant and animal life, was a place where through centuries Native Americans lived, camped, hunted, fished and were buried. There are ten documented archaeological sites in and directly adjacent to the proposed USA. Four of those are mound sites. Since we have the knowledge of these sites only through literature search and not through an actual field survey, the number of the archeological sites in the same area might be even greater than ten. The City of Verona promises a limited protection to water quality, threatened and endangered species and archaeological sites. But its promises do not match its plan for mitigation of detrimental effects of its proposed development. You can read more about Verona‚s proposal on CARPC website under „Upcoming Public Hearings‰ (google „CARPC DANE‰ to find it). NR 121 relating to areawide water quality management plans contains a provision for areas such as the one between the Sugar River and Badger Mill Creek to be saved from destruction through massive development as the one proposed by the City of Verona. This is what it says: „Major areas unsuitable for the installation of waste treatment systems because of physical or environmental constraints are to be excluded from the service area. Areas to be considered for exclusion from the sewer service area because of potential for adverse impacts on the quality of the waters of the state from both point and nonpoint sources of pollution include but are not limited to wetlands, shorelands, floodways and floodplains, steep slopes, highly erodible soils and other limiting soil types, groundwater recharge areas, and other such physical constraints‰ (NR 121.05 (4)(c). And that is what we should insist on because the amendment area contains all those conditions. Please e-mail to CARPC that you oppose the City of Verona USA amendment request and send copies to individuals listed below. Also please, come to the public hearing on August 13 held by CARPC at City County Building downtown Madison at 7:00 PM in Rm 201. Stefi Harris, Dennis Franke and Arnold Harris Western Dane Coalition for Smart Growth and Environment 608-798-4833; 608-798-4835 3427 County Rd P Mt Horeb WI 53572 It is important that you send your e-mail letters to CARPC with copies to all of the following: CARPC Dane County Executive Mayor of Madison Dane County Towns Association Gerry H Derr Renee Lauber Mark Hazelbaker

Mermaid Cafè, a Crown Jewel of the Eastside; Nay, of Madison; Better Yet, of Wisconsin

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Eastsiders are loving their Mermaid Cafè, and this just in from the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara Neighborhood Ass’n President, Dan Melton, proves it:

Lisa, owner of The Mermaid, on Winnebago, guarantees her Sunday Special this Sunday will ‘knock your socks off’.  A regular at the counter asks, ‘Any kind of socks?  Even wool socks?’. ‘Yes, Lisa assured him, even winter socks. I ask, ‘On Sunday do you have to wear socks?’ ‘Only if you want ‘m knocked off,’ Lisa said.

This sock-off-knocking special, apparently, will be a Singapore Curry, involving local potatoes, mint, and a mango pickle on the side. Atwood area restaurant owners are taking their food creations to a sublime, whole nuther[*] level.

Yaaaaaaa, the sandwiches are supreme. But the espresso drinkies ascend to otherworldly. My über-finicky friend from Milan declared their cappuccino to be superior to any he had ever had anywhere in Italy. Mind you, nothing ever pleases him. So the fact that he’s been singing the praises of Mermaid’s cappuccino ever since should say something about their espresso eminence!

Oh, and, btw, there is no free parking available. Yet the place is packed 7 days a week. Hmmmm. City planners, Transit & Parking Commissioners, Zoning Administrators, Economic Development Gurus, are you taking note? The number one means of access to the shop? Walking. #2? Bike. #3? Probably a tie between bus & deathmobile. Time to wake up to the new possibilities O Ye Powerbrokers of Madison.

*I always wondered how to spell “whole nuther”!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mayor Pave’s Paving Problem

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Hmmm, we haven’t heard any of this before have we? (That would be a webpage of mine–ca. A.D. 2002–on the very topic of parking reduction, including citations of Donald Shoup.)

Mayor Pave won’t have the guts enough to do anything more than nibble around the edges of the vast paving problem in this community, I guarantee it. It just doesn’t have the cachet of a solar panel (see Greenwashers & Greenwashing). And the greenies will let him get away with it because they still can’t bring themselves to understand that deathmobiling, and all of the paving & manufacturing that supports it, is the most polluting of all human activities.