Thursday, April 10, 2014

Common Council upholds decision to deny Steve Brown Apartments construction

The Madison Common Council supported the Landmarks Commission’s denial of Steve Brown Apartments’ request to build three apartment buildings on the 100 block of West Gilman Street by a 12-6 vote in a Monday meeting.
SBA agent William White appealed the Commission’s denial in a Feb. 17 meeting. White claimed in the appeal the Commission incorrectly interpreted standards and SBA submitted “substantial” evidence demonstrating the project’s conformity.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, supported the Commission’s decision. Verveer represents part of the Mansion Hill Historic District and represented a larger portion of it before recent city redistricting, including Gilman Street.
“The Landmarks Ordinance is extremely clear as to what standards the city council must follow in considering such an appeal,” Verveer said.
SBA had to prove the decision was creating “undue hardship,” which Verveer said it did not prove in the six hours of testimony and discussion. Verveer said reviewing legal advice from attorneys on both sides was helpful in making his decision.
“When the final vote came in around 2:30 in the morning, I was actually surprised that the vote was so lopsided,” Verveer said. “I thought it would be a much closer vote.”
SBA would have needed a two-thirds majority vote to overturn the Commission’s decision.
“The Landmarks Commission has consistently done a remarkable job in following the ordinance as a quasijudicial body,” Verveer added.
Verveer said he has seen “numerous” examples of tension balancing new development and historic preservation throughout his tenure, once was when Brown approached him in 2002 about demolishing the same house. Brown dropped the issue when he didn’t get approval from Verveer.
“Fast forward over a decade, and the proposal is back but even bigger,” Verveer said.
Verveer wished SBA “the best of luck” in repairing the building as it reallocates the funds for construction in the historic district to other projects, indicated in a statement by CEO Margaret Watson.
Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, who voted to overturn the Commission’s decision, could not be reached for comment.