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Madison Landmarks Commission Sends Strong Rebuke To Developer Of Williamson Street Project

June 15, 2015

It is nice to have a victory when it comes to development projects in the City of Madison.   For opponents of the demolition of a house at 906 Williamson Street there is much to be glad about tonight.

As noted on this blog I am in favor of thoughtful development and not opposed to infill. I think both are important, and my support of various projects proves that to be true. The large project on the 500 block of State Street met my approval, as did the proposal opposite the Faurerbach Condominiums which is in my neighborhood.

But it is also very obvious from this blog that I have great appreciation for older houses and firmly feel there are times when no other option exists than to dig in the heels and fight for what is right. That is what many did when it came to this home.  The house was built in 1901 and represents what the city calls “vernacular working class housing”.

Some in the neighborhood, along with a developer, thought the best remedy was to tear down the house and construct a multi-story building. From the very first public meeting where neighbors could weigh in on the project I raised concerns and objections to the demolition of the home.

Tonight the Landmarks Commission voted the project down.   I greatly applaud the commission’s consideration for the many reasons opponents fought this project. While there were issues raised from the volume of the new project to affordable housing and green space I have always had the actual house front and center for the reason I wanted this project to implode.

I made it clear from the start that I was not opposed to the development but wanted to find a way forward that would save the home, either by moving it, or having it incorporated into the development plans. It was most apparent that many of those pushing for the development thought the wheels were greased and that this project would move quickly through the process. The severe pushback from the neighborhood and negative reaction from the all-important Landmarks Commission clearly were not foreseen

There is no doubt that this area in which we live is one of the most vibrant and up-ticking sections of the city.  Everyone wants to come here to live or eat or visit.  There is much to be proud of for those who have worked to make this area so attractive.   At the same time however we must be cognizant of what makes this place so unique and special.    One of those characteristics is the homes that allow for long-term owners and residents to continue to make this the mixed-type neighborhood which all enjoy.  Removing an older home that many refer to as affordable seems to undercut the feel that we should seek to foster here.

I know there will be some bitter feelings and possibly attempts to undermine the commission vote. I am appreciative that  Alderwoman Marsha Rummel understood the importance of respecting the deep feelings registered by many of her constituents who worked very hard to make sure that the house was not demolished.  She cast a vote this evening against the proposal.

I also hope that this victory tonight at the commission will send a clear message to those who want to come into a historic district with grand designs for making money. Future developers must come here with a deeper appreciation for the concerns we have, and work from the very start to meet our expectations. This is also a good reminder for developers to ponder what the people who live here want as opposed to just talking at the outset with leaders who may or may not fully appreciate the concerns the rest of us have and the degree we will fight for our voice to be heard.

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