After months of delays and readjustments, the City Council on Tuesday approved the rezoning needed for a sizeable mixed-use apartment project on the 700 block of East Johnson Street to move forward.
The project narrowly failed to gain City Council approval earlier in June. But on Tuesday, with the help of some alders who were absent from the last meeting, the measure passed 13-6.
Chris Houden is the developer of the mixed-use apartment project, which would span 11 lots from 717 to 753 E. Johnson St., construct a four-story structure with 2,800 square feet of retail space, 54 apartment units and over 60 underground parking stalls. Several of the existing houses on the lots would be demolished or relocated; others would be renovated and remain on the site.
The project needs to rezone the area from residential to neighborhood mixed use; in June 10 alders supported the move, but 11 yes-votes were needed. Four alders weren’t present, and Ald. Steve King, District 7, asked for reconsideration of the proposal.
On Tuesday, all four alders who were absent from the last vote — Alds. King, Larry Palm, District 12; Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5 and Amanda Hall, District 3 — voted to approve the rezoning. Former alder Denise Demarb, who previously voted in support of the rezoning, has since resigned.
The approval comes amid opposition from the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association (although some residents have voiced support) and the district’s alder, Ledell Zellers, who said the development conflicts with the neighborhood development plan.
Before arriving at the City Council, the plans underwent several iterations to accommodate neighborhood concerns. One example: more homes were originally slated to be demolished, but the developer shifted course as it became clear the neighborhood wanted to preserve the homes.
The TLNA continued to oppose the project, and on Tuesday, Patrick Heck, representing the TLNA, said the development was “plopping down and oversize luxury apartment building on top of and in the core of our neighborhood.” Residents had submitted letters outlining concerns with the size of the project and the demolition of houses on the site.
Much of the tension between the neighborhood and the developer came from different readings of the 2008 Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Plan, Melissa Huggins, a consultant for the project who works at Urban Assets of Madison, said previously. The developer argued it's in compliance with the long-range goals stated in the plan, which would bring a neighborhood mixed-use district to the 700 block and calls for densities between 16 and 40 dwelling units per acre.
TLNA members countered by saying the neighborhood plan does not envision “large-scale teardown of existing residential structures” to replace them with “out-of-scale mixed-use buildings.”
But on Tuesday, the City Council supported the developer's plans.
“If we want to be a city that’s forward-looking and continue to grow and thrive ... we need to be open to exciting projects like this,” said Ald. Sara Eskrich, District 13.
ALSO PASSED TUESDAY:
Thanks to a zoning change by the council, food carts can now dish out their empanadas, smoothies and spring rolls on private property.
Selling from a food cart, known as free-standing vending, is currently only allowed on public property -- although food carts do set up on private property, as businesses may not know the rules. But an ordinance approved by the Council Tuesday night makes food vending a permitted or conditional use in mixed-use and commercial districts, employment districts, downtown and urban districts, and residential districts with a conditional use permit.
Madison street vending coordinator Meghan Blake-Horst praised the measure in May, saying the ordinance will allow food carts to spread out of the crowded downtown area.
“It will also increase the economic viability of a food cart,” Blake-Horst said. “If they can't get a spot in the mall concourse, it doesn't mean it’s a make or break it (scenario).”
The carts are allowed to operate between 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m, generally cannot be located within 25 feet of a restaurant or restaurant-tavern, and require a letter of permission from the property owner, to be given to the Zoning Administrator.
Also passed on Tuesday, an ordinance prohibiting conversion therapy, or therapy to change a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity for a fee. Violators would be fined $500 and $1,000 for each violation, with each day considered a separate violation.
Ald. Arvina Martin, District 11, sponsor of the ordinance, is unaware of any current conversion therapy happening in Madison, but wants to prevent it from happening and send an affirming message to LGBTQ youth “so they can be confident in their own self-expression and know that their city is not trying to counteract that.”
“It’s unanimous that this is something that is damaging and contributes to the statistics for self-harm for LGBTQ youth,” Martin said. “If we can do anything to stem that, we need to do that.”
On Tuesday, Owen Karcher and Chelsea O'Neil Karcher, co-founders of the Center for Community Healing, which specializes in therapy for LGBTQ clients, both spoke in support of the ordinance, saying that youth will feel validated in their identities.
“Who we are is not wrong, who we are is not broken, and does not need to be fixed,” O’Neil Karcher said.
This article has been corrected to state that the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Plan was written in 2008, not 2004, as previously stated.