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Edgewater: The waiting is the hardest part

By Paul Snyder

When talking with Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz for a story last week, he paused for a moment and congratulated me on my impending move to The Daily Reporter’s Milwaukee bureau.

I thanked him, but told him I wasn’t quite done with Madison yet. I’ll still be splitting the beat with my new colleague, Darryl Enriquez, through the end of June. We joked that I just might have enough time yet to see the end of the city’s almost year-long Edgewater debate.

After Monday night/Tuesday morning’s marathon Landmarks Commission and Board of Estimates meetings, that prospect seems a little more likely.

Ever since the Landmarks Commission in November first denied a certificate of appropriateness for the project and the Common Council in December failed to overturn the decision, the waiting game has stretched on and on and on.

I know a lot of it worked to Brookfield-based Hammes Co.’s advantage. As Mayor Dave pointed out Tuesday morning, the developer has a few things going for it that it did not in December — design approvals from the Urban Design Commission and Plan Commission and approval for $16 million in tax incremental financing from the Board of Estimates.

(Rendering courtesy of the city of Madison)

(Rendering courtesy of the city of Madison)

But as has been proven time and again with Madison government (and particularly with this project), there are no guarantees. The Board of Estimates split its vote on putting up $16 million in taxpayer money for the project, with the mayor casting the tiebreaking vote in support.

The Landmarks Commission, meanwhile, overwhelmingly rejected the certificate of appropriateness for the estimated $98 million redevelopment. That decision means the council must try again to summon 14 votes to overturn.

As always, the inherent problem with the project is the lack of one easy decision to be made. Alderman Jed Sanborn on Tuesday morning told the Board of Estimates he “loves” the project. He said he loves what it could mean for downtown, as well as the construction and permanent jobs it can provide. He said the benefits could be enough to outweigh the Landmarks Commission’s ruling that the project does not conform to neighborhood design standards.

But he also said he could not support spending $16 million on it.

The dichotomy is what’s been at the heart of this debate all along. As Hammes President Bob Dunn told the Landmarks Commission on Monday, “it’s a complicated project.”

The good news is after hearing about possible Common Council votes looming almost every month so far this year, the May 18 vote appears ready to go.

And even if it’s not the final Council debate, I guess I’ll have one more month to hope for an end to the debate.

Paul Snyder, who stuck it out until the Board of Estimates meeting was over at 1:45 a.m. this morning, is a tired staff writer at The Daily Reporter.

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