1018 Williamson Demolition Delayed

Landmarks gives owner a year to sell or tie property to Petinary expansion

1018 Williamson (right) is spared from demolition for now. Owner Mike Kohn who also owns the Petinary (left) wanted to convert the property to greenspace.

1018 Williamson (right) is spared from demolition for now. Owner Mike Kohn, who also owns the Petinary (left), wants to convert the property to greenspace.

When Petinary owner Mike Kohn purchased 1018 Williamson in 1992 it was in sorry shape and he planned to tear it down. A year later the City of Madison Landmarks Commission granted him permission to demolish the property but it never happened.

Now 22 years later, after restarting the process, Kohn will have to wait another year to try for a demolition permit. Landmarks has suspended his application for demolition until next fall, a move that one person close to the process says may be nearly unheard of in Madison.

At Monday’s Landmarks Commission meeting (October 6) the body weighed strong pushback from the Marquette Neighborhood Association and residents. MNA Board Member John Coleman, in an email to the Board, reported that the Commission gave Kohn a year to find a buyer for the property or develop plans to incorporate the property into an expansion of the Petinary, his animal medical practice next door.

Coleman added that if no progress is made in one year the Commission is likely to approve the demolition. Earlier Monday, the Board had sent a letter to the Commission urging the demolition be denied and offering to help find ways to rehabilitate the property:

“While there are some structures on Williamson St. that may warrant demolition because of their extreme decay; the house at 1018 Williamson St. is not one of those structures.  Neighborhood residents, MNA board members and members of MNA’s Preservation and Development Committee have toured the house and are of the strong opinion that the building is structurally sound and should be rehabilitated.”

The Queen Anne style house was built in 1894 and is currently assessed at $75,000. City Staff in preparing its report for Landmarks acknowledged the house contributed to the historic character of the neighborhood, but contended the soundness of the structure was in question. The staff, in recommending demolition, also cited the significant investment it would take to make the property liveable again.

However resident Linda Lehnertz, in a letter to the Commission, felt that in the intervening years Kohn hasn’t tried hard enough to rehabilitate the property and should still be able to fetch a fair and possibly enhanced sum for the house:

“Times have changed since the early 1990s. An example of this renewed economic viability is 1030 Williamson. In 1991, 1030 sold for $70,000. In 2011, it sold for $275,000. Today its assessed value is $286,000. (1030 Williamson is about half again as large as 1018 Williamson, 1,578 versus 1,106 SF.)”

When Kohn bought the house in 1991 it was completely gutted and has remained that way and no tenants have lived there during that time. As with any owner of property, Kohn has, over the years, had to deal with building inspection work orders from the city including replacing the roof earlier this year. District Six Alder Marsha Rummel says the Commission’s action is a win-win for Kohn and the neighborhood.

“The Landmarks Commission [unanimously] voted to delay action to allow Mike Kohn to market the property for sale which he had told me and others he was willing to do,” Rummel said to Willy Street Blog. “It was a good outcome for the neighborhood and allows Mike some breathing room on the Building Inspection work orders.”

Rummel added that Kohn still has to keep the property maintained in a safe condition but she says if he makes a “good faith effort” the City can be flexible on deadlines while he tries to sell the property.

MNA, in their letter to Landmarks, also offered to help find a buyer to help revitalize the home:

“To that end, MNA has been making inquiries as to individuals and groups that may be interested in acquiring this property for rehabilitation as a single family residence.  These have included inquiries to Common Wealth Development and Madison Development Corporation, among others.”

“If you know anyone or any entity that wants to rehab an unusual old house, let them know about 1018 Williamson St. The assessed value is only $75,000 and I understand the lot is larger in the back than one would think from the front,” Coleman wrote after the meeting.

When contacted for comment, Jim Glueck, of Glueck Architects who represents Kohn in this process, said he has not had a chance to comprehensively discuss the Commission’s action with Kohn.

[Update – 10/06/2014, 11:32 p.m.] Removed “tabled” and replaced with “suspended” as the action taken by the Landmarks Commission after input from Alder Marsha Rummel. Rummel explains that if the action was tabled (no action) then the permit would automatically be denied after 30 days. While tabled can sometimes stand-in for suspended; in the exacting world of parliamentary procedure, it falls short in properly describing the official events.

READ: 1018 Williamson Demolition Application

READ: 1018 Williamson City Staff Report

READ: MNA Letter to Landmarks Commission

READ: Linda Lehnertz Letter to Landmarks Commission

READ: Gary Tipler Letter to Landmarks Commission

READ: Lynn Lee Letter to Landmarks Commission

Related: Greenspace Possibly Returning to Willy Street

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