Madison property owner Fred Mohs expects to appeal a court decision over the Edgewater Hotel expansion that could significantly delay or even kill the $98 million project.
A Dec. 30 decision by Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas dismissed Mohs' lawsuit against the project. Colas wrote that the Common Council acted properly when it overruled a decision by the city's Landmarks Commission, which had denied the Edgewater project a certificate of appropriateness.
Mohs has until Monday to appeal Colas' ruling, and although he hasn't made a final decision, he said this week that he expects to do so.
The reason is that Colas, despite ruling against Mohs, found that the Common Council was given incorrect instructions by City Attorney Michael May when debating the project. The council was advised it could grant Hammes Co., the proposed developer, a hardship exception to zoning rules, when the law required that this apply only to the building's owner.
Also, according to Mohs, Hammes Co. was granted a hardship exception because it proposed removing tiles from the original hotel structure, to create a vapor barrier in the walls. But the developer has now decided not to do this.
"This council has never [before] overturned the Landmarks Commission," Mohs says. "So now they do it and they do it based on advice from the city attorney that was wrong."
Appealing Colas' ruling at the appellate court level could easily take a year and, even then, the losing party could seek state Supreme Court review.
Bob Dunn of Hammes Co. did not return a call from Isthmus. Previously, both Ald. Bridget Maniaci and City Attorney May have said the project can't move forward while a lawsuit to block it looms. According to May, the Hammes Co. says "there is a financing impediment so long as the suit is pending."
An extended lawsuit could also mean the city's TIF subsidy would have to go before the council again, because it would be part of a different city budget.
Mohs argues that his lawsuit doesn't have to kill the project. "There could be a compromise here," he says, referring to design changes to reduce the project's height and move it away from Wisconsin Avenue.
Mohs knows many people will see his waiting until the last minute to file an appeal as a stalling tactic. But he says he waited in hopes of meeting with Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Dunn to find a compromise. He adds that while he will be footing the bill for a lawsuit, many people are encouraging him.
"I've threaded my way through my business career with an amazing lack of lawsuits," he says. "Suing the city of Madison is almost unthinkable. But in this case, I think we've lost our way."
City seeks bike hotspots
Now that Madison has approved a $300,000 deal to bring bike sharing here, officials must help decide where to locate the 35 planned kiosks for bike rentals and returns.
B-cycle, an offshoot of Trek, is expected to install 350 bikes this spring. Eric Bjorling, B-cycle spokesman, says, "This is where the collaboration comes in. The city knows better than we do where the high-usage sites will be."
The city's Parks Division is leading the search. Parks spokeswoman Laura Whitmore encourages people to email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The kiosks themselves are modular, with both corner and linear units, Bjorling says. "It's pretty easy to put them anywhere."
Madison aldermanic primaries
There are 41 candidates for 20 Common Council seats this spring. But only five of the seats involve a primary election on Feb. 15.
Of the five, only one of these primaries involves an incumbent: Brian Solomon, who faces a challenge from Nelson Donovan and Tom Farley.
The four other primary races are in districts where the incumbent is stepping down.
Matt Brink, Brian Driscoll, Lisa Subeck, Danny Thomas and Richard Williams are running for Jed Sanborn's far-west-side seat; Christian von Preysing-Barry, Scott Resnick and Kyle Szarzynski seek Brian Eagon's seat in the heavily student-populated downtown district; Micah Berken, Sue Ellingson, Michael Lester and TJ Mertz are vying for Julia Kerr's seat on the near west side; and Steven Coleman, Peng Her and Anita Weier want to replace Michael Schumacher on the north side.
Alders Lauren Cnare, Mike Verveer, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, Satya Rhodes-Conway, Tim Bruer, Larry Palm and Mark Clear are running unopposed. The remaining eight seats involving only two candidates will be decided in the general election April 5.
He wants a pony
The Overture Center has settled its debt and is now restructuring itself under new management. But one Overture employee hasn't given up the fight.
Davin Pickell, a member of AFSCME Local 60, which represents some Overture employees, has filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Employees Relations Commission claiming the city and the Overture Center broke several state laws by excluding unions from the negotiation process.
As a remedy, Pickell (see letter to the editor) is seeking to keep all Overture workers employed by the city and to have ownership of the facility turned over to a nonprofit of his choosing.
But his demands don't end there. Pickell's filing says: "The complainant also requests a pony." And he wants the address of Overture changed to 251 State St. "in recognition of the hard work of the membership of IATSE Local 251 to fight the illegal acts of the defendants." And finally: "The complainant also requests one 20-inch jalapeno pizza from any pizza parlor of his choice, every day, for the rest of his life, to enjoy, or to share, as he so chooses."