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Edgewood, other schools now need city OK for major changes to outdoor facilities
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Edgewood, other schools now need city OK for major changes to outdoor facilities

From the Edgewood athletic field conflict coverage series
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Edgewood Stadium new photo, baseball team

The Madison City Council approved an ordinance change Tuesday that requires Edgewood to get permission to add lights or a sound system to its field if the school repeals its master plan.

If Edgewood High School wants to add lights or a sound system to its athletic field, it will have to get the city’s OK — even if the school is successful in repealing its master plan — under an ordinance change the Madison City Council approved Tuesday.

UW-Madison, Madison Area Technical College and Madison’s public high schools also will now have to get city approval before making major changes to outdoor spaces.

The private Catholic school on the Near West Side has been trying to repeal its master plan for months because the city says that wording in the plan prohibits students from playing games and competitions on its athletic field. According to the school’s master plan, the intended use of the field is for practices and gym classes.

Last spring, Edgewood was issued two notices of ordinance violations for games it held at the field, sparking a months-long conflict between Edgewood and the city over the field’s use that culminated last month in a federal lawsuit. Edgewood is alleging religious discrimination by the city, claiming the city is treating it differently than other schools in the area.

Ald. Tag Evers, whose district includes Edgewood, said the measure approved Tuesday closes a “loophole” that would have allowed schools zoned like Edgewood to make major changes to outdoor spaces without getting approval from the city.

Before Tuesday’s change, the ordinance had required schools to get approval from the city Plan Commission before making changes to large buildings, but made no mention of open spaces and outdoor facilities, such as athletic fields. If Edgewood was successful in getting city approval to repeal its master plan later this month, the school would not only be allowed to play games on its field, but also would have been able to add lights and a sound system without city approval.

That possibility alarmed neighbors frustrated with noise from increased use of the field over the last several years. They are concerned that adding lights would open the door for Edgewood to host nighttime football games, bringing more noise and traffic to the neighborhood.

Under the ordinance changes, approved on a near-unanimous voice vote, all schools zoned as Campus Institutional, or CI, Districts must apply for a conditional-use permit when making modifications to outdoor facilities. The ordinance does not require a conditional use process for minor changes, such as repairs.

CI-zoned schools affected by the change also include UW-Madison, Madison Area Technical College and Madison’s public high schools.

Ald. Sheri Carter, 14th District, voted against the ordinance change, saying she felt it was “unfairly” targeted at Edgewood “and not trying to bring the schools under one umbrella.”

Edgewood’s master plan repeal will be taken up by the Plan Commission on Oct. 14.

Loan for golf course introduced

Also Tuesday, the council introduced a resolution that would authorize the city to loan Madison’s golf courses up to $1.5 million to provide a “short-term” fix to the courses’ ongoing financial problems, which were exacerbated last year by flooding.

In 2018, the city’s public golf courses lost a record $800,000, prompting Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway to start a Golf Task Force to seek solutions. Golf was supposed to be a self-sustaining operation in Madison, supported by user fees.

City Finance Director David Schmiedicke said the resolution is a “short-term measure in anticipation of future action” by Rhodes-Conway and the council after they receive feedback from the task force.

The resolution would establish a loan repayment structure for an $813,000 advance that was given to the golf courses at the end of last year because of a lack of cash in the Golf Enterprise Fund.

It would also allow for additional advances from the city if there is a “cash shortfall” at the end of 2019 or future years, Schmiedicke said.

The resolution next goes to the Finance Committee.

In other business, the council:

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Emily Hamer is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She joined the paper in April 2019 and was formerly an investigative reporting intern at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

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