It’s funny how sometimes you might lose a battle or two, but ultimately you win the war.
At least that’s what one Madison Common Council member said happened to Fred Mohs.
Mohs, an attorney and resident of Madison’s Mansion Hill Historic District, was at the forefront of a group of local property owners who opposed the $98 million Edgewater Hotel redevelopment along Lake Mendota for the past few years.
After the council’s May 2010 approval of the project, Mohs and fellow resident Eugene Devitt filed a lawsuit against the city and Landmark X LLC, the name of the hotel’s redevelopment company lead by Robert Dunn, president of Brookfield-based Hammes Co.
The lawsuit, which forced Dunn to delay construction, sparked a 17-month court battle that led to two court losses — one in Dane County Circuit Court and the other in District IV Court of Appeals — for Mohs. Most recently, the appellate court in October ruled that while Mohs and Devitt said the council made an unwise decision in approving the project, courts did not second guess credibility decisions made by local governments.
But during the legal battle, perhaps the most critical development as it related to the Edgewater project was the turnover in city leadership when Paul Soglin defeated Dave Cieslewicz to become mayor last spring.
Soglin, who opposed the city’s decision to contribute a $16 million subsidy for the project, said in September he would slash that number to $3.3 million as part of his capital budget recommendations for 2012. Even then, there was belief the project would have enough support from the council to undo the recommendation.
When the Common Council deadlocked on a 10-10 vote Nov. 15 for an amendment to restore the $16 million in tax incremental financing, Soglin’s victory put the project in peril. But not without a little help from Mohs, Alderman Mark Clear said.
“Fred won,” Clear said. “The most atypical thing about this project was that it was delayed a year-and-a-half by a lawsuit, otherwise it would be well under construction by now.”
Mohs was not immediately available for comment.
When asked of the lawsuit’s impact on the project, Soglin was less emotional.
“That’s hard to judge,” he said. “We don’t know if other doors would have opened or closed or how things would have gone, so that’s really hard to judge.”
Clear lamented the project’s fate saying the council’s failure to extend the 2011 subsidy to 2012 will kill the project, although Dunn, who has not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Daily Reporter, officially has not pulled the plug.
But until Dunn says he can make a $3.3 million TIF contribution from the city work, Mohs just might reign victorious.
“This definitely pitted the community against itself,” Clear said. “It’s very unhealthy for the community and unproductive for the legislative body.
“The problem with a war is healing afterward and with a civil war, it is extremely difficult.”