Both developer Bob Dunn and opponents appeared increasingly exasperated Thursday night as they clashed once more over adjusted plans for the controversial Edgewater Hotel.
"We have had an overwhelming amount of feedback on this project, and what we've got from the community was overall in favor of the project," Dunn said at a question and answer session on the project at the downtown MATC campus. "The council laid out the path and our focus has been to provide the information, and we feel like we're making progress."
But after the meeting, downtown Ald. Mike Verveer said he did not feel as though any progress was made toward a compromise.
"This didn't shed any new light -- the community is still quite split," Verveer said of the groups that remain at loggerheads. "It's by far the most contentious development I've dealt with."
Brad Murphy, the city's planning unit director, set out a timeline of hurdles the project still needs to clear before a final vote could happen on what's expected to b a marathon Common Council meeting on Feb. 23. There remain three crucial issues: a zoning amendment considering the project independently of the zoned area; a conditional use consideration; and amending a rule that applies to vacating Wisconsin Avenue. Those votes could start as early as this Monday, Feb. 8, clearing the way for the development.
A majority of the crowd cheered Dunn on as he explained changes to his plan to scale down the scope of the project. It now stands at eight stories, and includes a sloping terrace approaching Lake Mendota.
The public space on the terrace was a point of particular contention, as this is the justificationfor the city's decision to hip in $16 million in tax incremental financing toward the project's cost. Dunn at one point assured that weddings would be allowed at the terrace, with private catering.
But project foes fired questions at Hammes Co. about everything from setting precedence in the city to the size of the pier jutting out into the lake. Some complained that the city is bending rules to allow an inappropriate construction in an historic district.
"How you 'get to yes' is building a building within the building code," said neighborhood resident Gene Devitt. "If my neighbors want to change their door they have to abide by the rules just like everybody else."
Ald. Bridget Maniaci, who has supported the project that falls in her district, said in all likelihood no more floors will come off the building in making it smaller.
"I think there's enough support to allow it to happen," Maniaci said after the meeting. "There's a will, so as a city we'll find a way."
Ald. Bryon Eagon was also encouraged by the responses he heard, "Not every concern will be met 100%. I don't think we should nit-pick. Anytime you're rezoning you have to strike a reasonable balance."