Posts Tagged ‘Bridget Maniaci’

Verveer: Edgewater should re-apply

December 2, 2009

In an interview with me, Ald. Mike Verveer said he could not make a prediction on the prospects of the Edgewater renovation that was rejected by the Council Landmarks Commission on Monday. However, Verveer noted that there was a circle of Council members, including Council President Tim Brueur, President pro tempore Mark Clear, and Ald. Bridget Maniaci, who have been working with the mayor and potential Edgewater developer Bob Dunn to get the project approved.

According to Verveer, Brueur and Clear – neither of whom have districts near the Edgewater – have become the mayor’s point men on getting the project approved. Maniaci, whose district does cover parts of the concerned neighborhood, has cited support from her constituents as the reason for her voting to approve the renovation. As of this time, Maniaci has not responded to an email in which I asked her if she believed the project would be moving forward.

Verveer is reluctant to override the Landmarks Commission’s rejection of the renovation plan. “Never in 30 years has a certificate from the Landmarks Commission been overturned. I have a hard time believing the Council, in all its wisdom, should overturn the decision made by the experts on Landmarks,” he told me. In addition, he cited historical preservation as a priority. However, he emphasized his hope that the project would live on, and that it would change its plan to fit the expectations of the commission.

Dunn has until noon tomorrow to decide whether he wants to try and push the project through the Council. Bruer says he believes the project is dead.

Meanwhile, the mayor is strongly urging the Council to resurrect the renovation, emphasizing the public amenities (the improved lake view), the job opportunities and the tax revenue. On his blog he criticized the commission’s interpretation of the zoning restrictions on height.

Edgewater. Double-U Tee Eff

December 1, 2009

As you may have read this morning, the Edgewater renovation project was rejected by the Council Landmarks Commission. Ald. Bridget Maniaci was the only member to vote in favor of the $93 million changes the Hammes Co. have proposed for the hotel.

The commission’s vote is not the final nail in the coffin. At least not technically. According to my discussions with council members in the summer, there are no cases in recent memory of the Council overriding Landmarks’ decision. A 14 vote majority (out of 20) would be necessary for such action.

Any predictions on the matter? Any insight? Come on Erik Paulson.

Konkel not down with Maniaci development plan

October 19, 2009

The other day I linked to an article by Joe Tarr, which outlines Ald. Bridget Maniaci’s plans to turn the James Madison neighborhood into a Tax Incremental Financing district. I discussed how Maniaci’s proposal is consistent with the trend of requesting TIF for any development that will bolster the economy, even though TIF was originally designed to prop up “blighted” areas.

Today Maniaci’s predecessor and vanquished opponent, Brenda Konkel, expressed outrage at the idea, writing that TIF districts “encourage tear downs and large developments.”

Most ominous part for Maniaci: “I was leaning towards not running again, but shit like this just makes me mad.”

The political question, of course, is how much of an advantage incumbency is for municipal elections? If Konkel wants to go back to the Council, which she pretty clearly does, what would she need to do to win? I think the answer is to find one issue. Find one issue that gets people to vote against the incumbent. However, it would not be in her advantage to run during a mayoral election year. More people would be interested, and therefore, more moderates and fans of the mayor would be voting.

Maniaci wants TIF funding for James Madison area

October 15, 2009

An article by Joe Tarr at the Daily Page describes Ald. Bridget Maniaci’s plans to redevelop parts of her district, much of which is located in the James Madison Park neighborhood.

To encourage the neighborhood’s renovation, Maniaci would like to declare the area between East Washington Avenue and Gorham, Butler and Blount streets a redevelopment district.

Don Marx, with the city’s planning department, says the city would first have to deem that at least half of the properties are blighted. “It could be a very liberal interpretation of blight,” he says. “For instance, if a house needed new shingles, that could be considered blight.”

Given recent use of Tax Incremental Financing (Edgewater, Capitol Square improvements), it’s clear that many policy makers are not going to bother using the “blighted” argument anymore. Those who protest the use of TIF in already-developed areas are but a small and distant voice in city planning.

In fact, if Maniaci can find a TIF district within a mile of the area she wants developed, she won’t even need to make a case that the neighborhood is in dire need of improvements. It was just the other day that the a Council committee approved the use of TIF funds for a $1.8 million development of Capitol Square, including new benches and sidewalks.

University Square bar dies in ALRC

September 4, 2009

There is a grocery store coming to University Square.

But not a bar. Or a restaurant. What to call it was exactly the source of the controversy that ended developer Scott Acker’s hopes of a gigantic Badger-themed eatery/watering hole next door to Lucky apartments. Cardinal writer Todd Stevens seems to suggest that the Alcohol License Review Committee rejected the plan because it didn’t believe the bar would be able to provide a non-alcoholic environment for underage customers as well as be a bar.

That may be partially true, but that’s not the story city officials I’ve talked to have been pushing. Ald. Michael Schumacher, an ALRC member who voted against giving Acker a second chance to present a restaurant plan, was very straight forward in explaining his opposition: the project violated the downtown alcohol density plan. He didn’t believe it would be a restaurant and he was convinced that the place would ultimately derive most of its profits from alcohol sales. This matters to Schumacher not only because his German heritage instilled an obligation to follow the law (his words), but because if the place becomes a bar late at night it means hundreds of drunks leaving at 2 AM, which inevitably causes problems for cops trying to keep an eye on bar-time exodus.

Ald. Bridget Maniaci voiced the same concern – does the city want to deal with a bar with a capacity of 900?

So what is the real tragedy of the death of the new bar? Is it the lost investment or the lost opportunities for fun? Proponents of the bar say both. Ald. Bryon Eagon was openly disappointed with the dismissal of the plan by some of his colleagues, and sent me the following:

This was surely and opportunity lost and has brought up the need for discussions about downtown business investments and general alcohol policy, specifically about changes to the density plan so we don’t scare off potential good investments. Speaking of scaring off applicants, I was also disappointed that there were some votes against referring the application, which not only seems to be unprecedented, but sends the wrong message to this and also future applicants and investors.

Ouch. A good, above-the-belt knock at Schumacher. Stevens uses the same arguments – stupid Madison is being anti-business. Granted, his assertion that we have an anti-business reputation isn’t so true – Madison was recently rated one of the best places to find a job. Of course that’s largely due to the public sector…but I digress.

However, business be damned, the sad end to this story is that yet another door to underage entertainment is closed and many of the anti-bar crew aren’t proposing alternatives. Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff seems to be an exception. A supporter of the density plan which restricts the number of bars downtown, Bidar-Sielaff nevertheless is a vocal proponent of expanding social opportunities for 18-20 year old students. When I asked her if the city lacked entertainment for underagers she was blunt: YES! “We need more live music, more movie theaters, more places to dance.” She spoke eloquently about the issue when voting in favor of adding a student voting member to the ALRC the other day (proposed by Eagon). Why not have an underage member of the ALRC, who could push for establishments that have liquor licenses as well as non-alcoholic options?

If Madison city officials make it known that they welcome such places, prospective developers would be eager to put forth plans that integrate drinking and non-drinking better. There are way too many concerts, for instance, that you have to be 21 to get into. It’s unacceptable.

Edgewater politics

August 27, 2009

I had a very comprehensive discussion with Ald. Bridget Maniaci at the Old Fashioned about the Edgewater development. First I must note that I had an excellent bowl of chili, which was more than filling for one of the “lighter” dishes on the menu. Maybe I should have just gotten a cup. The onions on top were great, I wish they’d put more. When I asked Bridget if there were any good drink specials, she noted there were 2-4-1 rails on Tuesday night, which she said she enjoyed, albeit without the company of Edgewater developers, contrary to a rumor reported to Brenda Konkel. Maniaci defender herself on her own blog.

Maniaci sits on the Landmark Commission, which if you look through the entire approval process, is but one hurdle in a very long race. In fact, as Maniaci explained, Landmarks does no more than give out “Certificates of Appropriateness,” to projects, based on whether the development is “respectful” and in line with the neighborhood’s planning. The certificate isn’t absolutely necessary for approval, however, according to veterans of City Hall [Mike Verveer], it would be unprecedented for a project to go forward without the nod from Landmarks.

Nevertheless, Maniaci emphasized that the city zoning code needs updating. According to her, the code reflects the vision of a different era, when Madison was trying to develop a more “suburban” residential feel, which is where the restrictions on towers comes from. The code does not facilitate integration of residential and commercial interests, and, according to Maniaci, almost every commercial development needs to apply for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) exemption. That comes from the “Plan Commission.” Hence it is not surprising that there are imminent plans to revise the zoning code, and the city website has a zoning code rewrite page.

I couldn’t get Maniaci to commit to any position on the project, and she insists that she doesn’t know how it will ultimately fare before Landmarks or any of the other committees. However, she does believe property owners are unrepresented in Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. and points to other neighborhood groups that are more accessible to non-residents who have a stake in the community.

Here’s the tricky part though. CNI has faced the “openness” fork in the road before. Concerns over lack of student input caused State and Langdon to secede from the organization, led of course by former student alder Eli Judge. Now a pro-development group, the Mansion Hill Coalition, has formed in response to what it says is the group’s disregard for the interests of property owners and businesses. However, others I’ve talked to say CNI will unlikely change its current structure or membership rules because the leaders’ agenda does not involve development. Fred Mohs, a member of the CNI steering committee on the Edgewater renovation, is known to not be on good terms with the Faulkners, who run the Edgewater. Ledell Zellers, another member, is a very active preservationist. (I am trying to contact CNI members about the development to almost no avail)