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Property owner willing to talk about public walkway in Madison

By Darryl Enriquez

A developer’s interest in selling land for a walkway connecting lakes Mendota and Monona along the east bank of the Yahara River in Madison leaves Karolyn Bebee as the lone holdout.

She didn’t realize she was holding out.

“I guess I’d better read my mail,” she said. “There’s so much junk mail. It’s all such a pain to read.”

Bebee’s phone number is unlisted and two letters from the city in the past year went unanswered.

Bebee did, however, answered a knock at her door Tuesday night and said she does not want to be the one person who prevents construction of the walkway.

In fact, Bebee, 69, who has lived at 220 Merry St. since 1984, said she would welcome people strolling through her backyard as long as the city uses wood chips or gravel, rather than paving, for the walkway.

That’s another step in the right direction for the city’s plans, said Joe Stepnik, a real estate agent in the city’s Office of Real Estate Services. The city needs a portion of Bebee’s river frontage, which is near some parcels of land owned by Apex Enterprises Inc., Madison.

Apex is planning an 11-unit complex near Bebee’s house, and the developer is interested in selling land for the walkway, said Apex President Steve Yoder. The estimated $1.7 million project calls for 11 side-by-side townhomes and for a new duplex, he said.

The proposal is smaller than the $8.5 million plan rejected last month by the city’s Urban Design Commission.

But the city’s Board of Estimates has approved the purchase of land for the walkway. Stepnik said city officials will try harder to line up Bebee’s property if the Common Council on Tuesday signs off on buying the walkway land.

Madison officials, he said, have not tried to meet with Bebee in person because the city typically first tries to establish written contact.

“We’ll send another certified letter,” Stepnik said. “And if that gets no response, then I’d be glad to go knock on her door, or I’m sure someone else here would.”

Stepnik said the city will pay for Bebee to get an appraisal of the river frontage the city is targeting. Once that appraisal is complete, the city will negotiate a price.

Bebee said she will be willing to talk when the city decides to pay her a visit.

“I’ve always treated it as being public land,” she said.

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