After a yearlong battle with the city of Madison and surrounding neighbors, Edgewood High School can now host games on its athletic field — something the city prohibited last spring.
The City Council voted 15-5 to allow repeal of Edgewood’s master plan, which the city said limited the use of the athletic field to only practices and gym classes. The vote just met the three-fourths majority needed for approval after neighbors filed a successful petition against repeal.
Without the master plan, Edgewood has free reign to host games on the field, but cannot have night games unless it applies with the city to install lights.
Conflict over the field has been escalating for more than a year. Since late 2018, many neighbors have been organizing in opposition to field upgrades. Last spring, the city said all games are technically illegal. In August, the private Catholic school filed a federal lawsuit against the city, alleging religious discrimination.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said she was “disappointed” with how the conflict has unfolded.
“Bombs are flying in Iraq and this is what we’re talking about,” Rhodes-Conway said. “We could have done a much better job in resolving these issues before we got here.”
“The basis for the vote is the law,” Rhodes-Conway said. “We can’t break our own laws.”
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She said Edgewood “loses the most” with repeal, but said “whether we like it or not” the master plan was voluntary, and Edgewood is allowed to get rid of it. She urged council members to vote in support of repeal.
Many neighbors testified against repeal Tuesday because the master plan contains an agreement to protect access to boardwalks along Lake Wingra, stormwater management plans, schedules for when gates close and limits on parking, noise and lighting.
“All of that would be trashed if this were repealed, just trashed,” said Ald. Rebecca Kemble, 18th District, who voted against repeal. Alds. Syed Abbas, Tag Evers, Grant Foster and Marsha Rummel voted with her.
Around 70 members of the public either registered or spoke against the master plan repeal, while around 135 registered or spoke in support of repeal.
Edgewood representatives said they wanted out of the master plan because it had become “burdensome” and a way for neighbors and the city to restrict the campus.
City staff made it clear that Madison’s ordinances allow Edgewood to scrap the plan.
Heather Stouder, city planning director, said Edgewood’s request met city standards for approval.
Assistant city attorney John Strange said the master plan is not a binding contract but a voluntary agreement. He said Edgewood was never required to have a master plan and is not required to have one now.
Said Evers, who represents the Edgewood neighborhood: “Voluntary in should not be construed as voluntary out.”
Despite disagreements, Edgewood High School President Mike Elliott shook hands with Evers after the meeting.
“Our goal is to communicate. Our goal is to continue to talk to the neighbors,” Elliott said. “I still think we can come together.”