salvation army rendering

An architectural rendering of the proposed Salvation Army facility on East Washington Avenue.

A petition seeking to appeal the Madison Plan Commission’s approval of a proposal for an expanded Salvation Army homeless shelter campus on East Washington Avenue has failed, according to the City Attorney’s office. After reviewing the petition submitted on Nov. 21, Planning Division staff and members of the City Attorney’s office determined that the appeal was not signed by 20% or more of the property owners entitled to notice, which is one of the requirements for appeal under Madison City Ordinances. 

Area residents were appealing a decision made on Nov. 11 by the Plan Commission to move forward with approval of Salvation Army’s proposal to demolish its current shelter at 630 E. Washington Ave. and construct a five-story building in its place that would include a shelter for women and families, mental health services, medical services and other amenities. The Salvation Army is also proposing to build a 3-story, 44-unit apartment building with affordable housing on the same site, along with a gymnasium and chapel.  

Residents from the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood spoke for over three hours during the Nov. 11 Plan Commission meeting, mostly in opposition to the Salvation Army’s presence in the area. Residents were most concerned about security issues around the current shelter.  

The Plan Commission approved the project unanimously. City ordinances require that in order to appeal the Plan Commission’s decision, area residents would have to file signed documents filed with the secretary of the Plan Commission within 10 days of the panel’s final decision. Assistant City Attorney John Strange told the Cap Times that residents filed the petition on the latest possible date.  

The City Council is voting on Tuesday, Dec. 3, on a proposal to spend $500,000 from the Affordable Housing Fund to help pay for construction of the project’s apartment building. The proposal passed the city Finance Committee last week. The filing of an appeal did not threaten the process of the council reviewing approval of those funds, according to Ald. Patrick Heck, whose district includes the shelter. 

It is a moot point now that the ordinance requirements of appeal have not been met. However, that there was an appeal attempt will be added to the record during council proceedings tomorrow.  

Strange said that had the appeal been successful, two-thirds of the council would have had to side with the appeal in order to reverse the Plan Commission’s decision. In that circumstance, the Salvation Army’s proposal would have been denied and the organization would have had to restart the process in order to get necessary approvals. 

The petition, which asserted that the presence of the Salvation Army shelter endangered the surrounding area and was detrimental to public welfare, had approximately 34 signatures. 

“They did meet the ten-day window, but if they don’t have enough signatures, they don’t have a verifiable appeal,” Strange said in a Monday interview. “The council has heard these kinds of things before. What you’d normally have is the people who have signed the appeal have to speak about the conditional use and say why they thought Plan Commission was in error. They did not meet the 20% threshold required for an appeal.”  

The Salvation Army shelter provides the only emergency drop-in shelter for women and families in Dane County. Because of the demand and limited space, Salvation Army Major Andrew Sheils said the shelter turns away more than a dozen families each night during warm weather months. 

Unauthorized persons coming to the shelter site — particularly men — have contributed heavily to the security concerns of area residents who have complained about noise, loud music, public urination and other security issues. 

Even if the petition had succeeded and the Plan Commission decision was reversed, the Salvation Army would have continued operating at its current capacity at the site. Both Shiels and former neighborhood association president Patty Prime have maintained that the construction of the new building and the resources it will provide will help alleviate security concerns.