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Milwaukee Street property owner appeals Plan Commission decision on Amazon delivery center

Milwaukee Street property owner appeals Plan Commission decision on Amazon delivery center

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A warehouse on Milwaukee Street that sits behind the Madison Metro East Transfer Point is the proposed location for a 116,242-square-foot Amazon package delivery center. 

The owner of property on Milwaukee Street who hopes to use it as a parking lot to support an Amazon delivery center is appealing the Plan Commission’s rejection of the project.

At its Jan. 27 meeting, Madison’s Plan Commission denied final plans for a parking lot with access driveways and stormwater management improvements at the three-acre 3630 Milwaukee St. parcel.   

“Members of the commission voting to deny the request stated that the proposed use of the subject site was not compatible with adopted plans or the intent of the demolition permit section, and did not represent normal and orderly development due to the traffic that would be generated by the use of the site,” according to minutes from the meeting. 

The massive online retail company wants to combine properties at 3630 and 3650 Milwaukee Street and reuse part of the former Swiss Colony building, a 228,100-square-foot and two-building distribution center, for an Amazon Hub package distribution facility.  

Leo Ritter and Company, owner of the 3630 Milwaukee St. parcel, appealed the decision Feb. 6. The applicant argued that the Plan Commission erroneously denied a permitted use of the property as a parking lot. 

“The Plan Commission lacks discretion to deny a permitted use,” attorneys Daniel O’Callaghan and Angela Black said in the appeal. “The proposed use of the 3630 parcel is a ‘permitted use’ under applicable zoning.” 

Also, the applicant argues that the commission misapplied standards when considering if the proposed use would be compatible with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and the Milwaukee Street Special Area Plan. 

“Ritter respectfully requests that the Common Council reverse the action of the Plan Commission and find that the proposed use of the 3630 parcel — for parking, access drives and stormwater management improvements that are accessory to a proposed package distribution facility located on the adjacent 3650 parcel — is a lawful and permitted use,” the appeal states. 

The appeal will be introduced to the City Council at its meeting Tuesday. The council will review the appeal at its March 17 meeting. A two-thirds vote would be required to overturn the Plan Commission's decision. 

Amazon plans to lease the facility from Leo Ritter and Company and is under contract to acquire the vacant 3630 Milwaukee St. parcel from the Duren Income Trust. After acquiring the vacant property, Ritter plans to combine the two parcels into one for zoning and assessment purposes.

The proposed project calls for approximately 500 parking spaces for vans or fleet vehicles and 200 for employees. 

In 2018, the Plan Commission approved a demolition permit for the 9,150-square-foot commercial building that formerly occupied the 3630 Milwaukee St. site. The city required the applicant return to the Plan Commission for review of any future reuse plans.

City staff found that although the proposal does not fulfill recommendations laid out in the city’s Comprehensive Plan for the Milwaukee Street Special Area Plan, the proposed use as a package delivery service is a permitted use at the property. 

“While the use of the property does not implement the adopted plan recommendations, it is permitted by the site’s existing (industrial-limited) zoning,” city planner Tim Parks said in a Planning Division report. “With that key consideration, staff believes that the request should be found to meet the applicable standards.”

District 15 Ald. Grant Foster, who represents the area in which the property is located, agreed with the Plan Commission’s decision to reject the project plans. He said a “sprawling distribution center” is not consistent with the Milwaukee Street Special Area Plan, which positions the area as a prime location for new housing.  

“The adopted plans we have are the decision making of our community and our elected officials,” Foster said. “I think we need to stick to them more than we do.”

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