Rummel Appeals Rifken Development Approval

Sixth District Alder wants more neighborhood review of design process

The proposed six-story multi-family and commercial development at 702 Williamson. Courtesy: The Rifkin Group, LTD.

The proposed six-story multi-family and commercial development at 702 Williamson. Courtesy: The Rifkin Group, LTD.

City of Madison Alder Marsha Rummel is appealing the Plan Commission’s approval earlier this month for a conditional use permit for a development at 702-706 Williamson Street. The Rifken Group, Ltd., is proposing a six story multi-family development to replace the current one-story building.

In a letter to the Marquette Neighborhood Rummel cited her right as an alder to appeal a Plan Commission ruling within 10 days of a decision. She said the appeal will be introduced August 5 and receive a public hearing before the Madison Common Council on September 2. Rummel is concerned that the neighborhood is being cut out of the design review process.

“There is considerable public interest in protection and appropriate development in the Third Lake Historic District.” Rummel wrote. “This corner building will be the gateway to the historic district but it has been approved without a corner entrance and lacks sufficient entry articulation on Williamson St as required by ordinance.”

Two-thirds of the council will need to approve the appeal in order to send the proposal back to the plan commission with the request that Rifken present his designs for the ground floor entrances for public review.

“In my opinion, the Plan Commission is the appropriate body to approve design elements required in the zoning code, not Planning Division staff  -after- the proposal is adopted.” Rummel wrote.

During both the Landmarks and Plan Commission stages of the approval process for the development, the neighborhood has felt their objections were getting little consideration. Following approval by the plan commission despite good attendance from the neighborhood, Marquette Neighborhood Association (MNA) Board Member John Coleman summed up his frustrations in a letter to the neighborhood.

Despite the 2 years of neighborhood meetings that went into the BUILD II neighborhood planning document, the Plan Commission approved the project that did not meet guidelines in that document,” Coleman wrote. “Despite the unanimous vote against the project by the neighborhood association, the Plan Commission decided that they knew what was best for the neighborhood.”

Lindsey Lee resides on the 700 block of Will and has been bullish about the other development on the block, 722 Williamson, thanked Marsha Rummel in an email response on the neighborhood listserv for noticing the small details that were at the heart of the appeal. Lee said his committee, which includes John Coleman, may have gotten tunnel vision over the general project.

“As a neighborhood we should have been working all along in making sure this was the best designed building possible. But instead we got solely hung up on whether it was going to be five stories or six.” Lee wrote.

“Given its prominent corner location, it should be a landmark quality building that will attract the best possible local retail tenants on the ground floor. I would not be surprised if Marty Rifken does not volunteer to have his further design work that he is currently working with city staff on reviewed by the Plan Commission…I personally will encourage him to quickly do so.” Lee continued.

Meanwhile, Baldwin Development Group’s project at 722 Williamson is slowly moving forward after scaling back the design to nine stories with more underground parking. The developer’s request for a rezoning of the property from Traditional Shopping Street (TSS) to Planned Development (PD) will be likely be considered by the Plan Commission next week.

Marsha Rummel Email July 20, 2014

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