John Imes would like an apartment building proposed next to his Arbor House bed and breakfast to move four more feet from his property and step back the third floor.
Another development project on Monroe Street is ruffling feathers, this one a 16-unit apartment building called The Glen, near the historic Arbor House, which was built before the Civil War.
Complicating matters, city officials have been presented with conflicting versions of what this proposed apartment building might look like if built.
On Monday night, the developer, Patrick Corcoran, owner of Patrick Properties, showed the Madison Landmarks Commission 3D computer renderings of the project, while the owner of the Arbor House bed-and-breakfast, 3402 Monroe St., countered with a wood and cardboard model, prepared by Lou Host-Jablonski of the Design Coalition.
The commission reviewed both models in trying to determine whether the apartment building would have a negative impact on the Arbor House, an 1853 landmark originally known as the Plough Inn and considered the oldest residential property in the city.
Landmarks had ruled earlier in the month that the apartment design did not detract from the Arbor House. But it was asked to reconsider that decision Monday night by John Imes, owner of the Arbor House.
The development team bristled at Imes' cardboard model, arguing it was inaccurate and deceptive.
"There's a lot more to this building other than this white box they've slapped down next to this nice house," Corcoran said. In addition to apartments, the 22,000-square-foot building is slated to include ground-floor retail.
The two sides disputed which model is more accurate. The developers drafted their renderings showing the buildings from a sidewalk view, while Imes' team showed the buildings "at grade," or ground level.
The result is two slightly different portrayals, with Imes' team showing an apartment building that looks taller than the developer's illustration. Imes argued that the architect's renderings underestimate the impact the new project will have on his b&b.
The developer proposes building six feet from the Arbor House property line. Imes wants him to move the building four more feet and step back the third floor.
He told Isthmus the extra space would help preserve the residential character of his business and protect trees on his edge of the property. "A minimum of 10 feet would help protect those trees," Imes said.
Twenty years ago, Imes built an annex building next to the Plough. Some commission members argued that the new structure set a precedent for more development.
But Commissioner David McLean said that the Arbor House annex respected its historic neighbor, while the proposed apartment building did not.
"The new building is not so sensitive to its surroundings; it's filling up all it can in every direction," McLean said. "The two buildings are so different on the same block. One does not respond to what the other one does."
McLean's arguments swayed the commission to switch its vote and recommend against approving the project as it is currently proposed. The Landmarks vote is only advisory, however, and the final decision rests with the Plan Commission, which will consider the project next month.
The development team was nevertheless angry about the decision, saying that the neighborhood supported their design. Paul Cuta, the project architect with CāS4 Architecture, said the developers had made several concessions to neighbors, including keeping the building at three stories and providing a vibrant streetscape.
If the proposal is rejected, Cuta said, "We're going to push it out to the street so the rest of the neighborhood doesn't get what they want so Mr. Imes can get what he wants."
Stu Levitan, Landmarks chair, said that while the physical model prompted the commission to reconsider the project, it was not the deciding factor. "Just seeing something in three dimensions is enough to say, 'let's think about this some more.'"
The Landmarks Commission has also recommended against tearing down the building at 3414 Monroe St., where the apartment building is proposed (the building currently houses the project's architect, CāS4). But because the building is not a landmark or in a historic district, the panel's decision is not binding.