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)