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Land owner appeals Plan Commission denial on portion of Amazon project
PROPOSED AMAZON CENTER | PLAN COMMISSION DECISION

Land owner appeals Plan Commission denial on portion of Amazon project

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Amazon.com distribution

A property owner is appealing a Madison Plan Commission decision that would complicate Amazon.com's proposal to open a distribution center on the city's East Side.

The owner of the property that would hold a proposed Amazon distribution center on the East Side is appealing a recent Madison Plan Commission denial of a part of the project.

Leo Ritter & Co., of New York, which owns a 13.3-acre parcel at 3650 Milwaukee St. and is under contract to buy an adjacent, 3-acre parcel at 3630 Milwaukee St., intends to lease the sites to Amazon for the package delivery center.

Amazon can create its main facility from part of an existing 228,100-square-foot building, as well as parking, on the larger parcel as a matter of right. But Ritter says the Plan Commission erred when it denied the proposed use of the smaller parcel for a driveway, additional parking and a stormwater management facility, and is asking the City Council to reverse the decision.

If sustained, the impact of the Plan Commission’s denial is unclear. Amazon may need to amend plans related to access, parking, stormwater, landscaping and lighting if it sought to only use the primary parcel, which would delay approvals, said Tim Parks of the city Planning Division. Amazon could also look for another site.

An Amazon spokesperson could not be reached Thursday.

The appeal will be introduced to the council on Feb. 25, and the council likely will make a decision at its March 3 meeting, Assistant City Attorney John Strange said. It takes a two-thirds vote to reverse the commission’s decision.

Amazon’s plans

Amazon intends to raze about half of the existing, single-story, 228,100-square-foot structure at 3650 Milwaukee St. that was once a distribution facility for Swiss Colony, a structure that seems like one large building but is actually two. It would remodel the remaining 116,242 square feet into the package delivery center and use the rest of the property for 509 parking spaces for employees and fleet vans. This is a permitted use and needs no city approvals.

On behalf of Amazon, Ritter also requested permission to use the adjacent parcel at 3630 Milwaukee St., for the driveway, stormwater management facility and 200 more parking spaces. Ritter needs city approval for that use because the Plan Commission approved demolition of a 9,150-square foot commercial building without a proposed use in September 2018 with a condition of commission approval for future use of the property.

On Jan. 27, the Plan Commission voted 6-2 to deny Ritter’s request, saying the proposed use is not compatible with adopted plans or the intent of the demolition permit, and did not represent normal and orderly development due to traffic that would be generated by use of the site.

The denial came despite a Planning Division staff report that said the proposed use could meet applicable standards.

Objection outlined

Ritter’s appeal, filed Wednesday, says the Plan Commission lacks discretion to deny a permitted use, and even if it did, misapplied standards. “The record is undisputed that the proposed use for the 3630 parcel is a permitted use under the zoning code,” it says.

Further, the appeal says that the proposed use is compatible with existing plans for the area, in this case the Milwaukee Street Special Area Plan adopted in December 2018. But the commission used a standard that effectively required the proposed use implement future land use recommendations in the area plan. The plan, the appeal states, has language that acknowledges that the property may continue to be used for light industrial purposes.

Ritter’s attorneys, Carlson Black O’Callaghan & Battenberg, of Madison, declined comment.

Ald. Grant Foster, whose 15th District includes the site and supported the Plan Commission’s decision, could not be reached.

The Madison facility would be another presence in the city for Amazon and one of the latest in a growing number of facilities in Wisconsin for the online retailer.

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