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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Edgewater Hotel vote delayed until Feb. 23

After a lengthy battle with the city of Madison, the fate of Hammes Co.'s Edgewater Hotel redevelopment proposal will be decided at the Madison Common Council meeting Feb. 23.

The new development follows a Dec. 15 meeting in which the Common Council voted to uphold the Landmarks Commission decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness to the developer. 

The council, which has never overturned a Landmarks Commission decision, needed a 14-vote supermajority of 20 members to overturn the commission and grant the appeal.

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After hearing statements from and asking questions of Hammes Co. President Robert Dunn, Landmarks Commission member Stu Levitan and over 40 citizens who had registered to speak, 12 voted to overturn while five voted against the proposal. Three council members were absent.

Citizens spoke to the importance of job creation in addition to the importance of preserving the neighborhood.

Due to the language of the landmarks ordinance, committee members were required to base their decision on whether or not ""special conditions of the property created constraints that caused serious hardships for the owner, which were not self-created.""

Many council members, including Ald. Lauren Cnare, District 3, whose proposal to delay the vote on the Hammes Co. appeal was not supported by the council, expressed their sincere hope that the developer would be able to go back to the drawing board and meet the requirements of the landmarks ordinance.

""I want this project to happen; every single person in this room wants this project to happen,"" Ald. Brian Solomon, District 10, said.

However, there is no certainty that this will be the case.  According to Dunn, ""it will completely undermine the financial viability of the project if the designs are altered.""

He added, ""the great irony in this whole project is the path to preservation is from the redevelopment; that's what gets us the public terrace and the redesign of the 1940s building.  If we leave it, this building will continue to deteriorate.""

The Landmarks Commission had voted 5-2 to deny the certificate of appropriateness because the tower is not compatible with buildings in a 200-foot radius.

Hammes Co. appealed the decision to the council with the argument that the commission did not consider the purpose of the landmarks ordinance, which refers to preserving and enhancing the city's cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history.

Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, the lone alder on the Landmarks Commission, moved to accept the appeal because she felt there is great public interest in preserving the property, in addition to the fact that hardships were caused for the owner.

Soloman, conversely, said he did not think the council had proved Dunn would have to endure sufficient hardship if he changed the plans.

Despite a conflicted council and public, the fight is not over.  Ald. Michael Schumacher, District 18, who was not present at the December 15 meeting, asked for reconsideration of the project.

At the January 5 meeting, the council unanimously voted to delay their decision on whether or not to overturn the Landmarks Commission decision until February 23 so the city's Plan and Urban Design commissions can review the project ad make recommendations. 


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