Despite a lower than expected turnout, the various Madison residents who gathered at the second round of the city's "neighborhood summit" still had endless ideas for more robust neighborhood inclusion in the city's planning and development process.
The summit, hosted at the St. Paul Lutheran Center on the city's north side, is the second of its kind to help critique the Economic Development Committee's recently-released draft plan to simplify the process the city uses to consider and approve development projects.
"I thought this would be a good opportunity for people to meet each other and discuss the issue and see what we could do to fix the system," says Ald. Marsha Rummel, the summit's main organizer. "I came from being a sort of grassroots organizer and I know I've benefited from meeting several different people at events like this."
Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway says she decided to help Rummel with the summit because they did not see any plans from city officials to include neighborhood associations in the discussions of proposed procedural changes, despite the impact development projects ultimately have on neighborhoods.
The first summit, held at Trinity Lutheran Church in August in the midst of the controversy over the Edgewater Hotel expansion and its impact on the Mansion Hill neighborhood, saw a much larger turnout of residents from across the city.
"We had over 100 people show up to the first summit, which to me said there was a real kind of pent-up need to have this discussion and let neighborhoods have a voice in this process," Rhodes-Conway says.
Among the more than 30 participants in Saturday's summit were former Ald. Brenda Konkel, former Ald. and mayoral candidate Ken Golden and downtown activist Fred Mohs, who was a major opponent of the heated Edgewater redevelopment project.
A reoccurring theme was a desire for increased clarity and transparency, both with a developer's plans and requests and also with the city's actions while reviewing those projects. Residents pointed out how the city and developers could involve neighborhoods simply through better notification of meetings and availability of development plans.
Ald. Joe Clausius, who sits on EDC, says the committee is scheduled to come out with a finalized plan for procedural changes by the end of the year, though that date is admittedly very "flexible."
According to Rhodes-Conway, the suggestions from the summits -- as well as any other individual comments made to alders and city personnel -- will be compiled for EDC's purposes as well as for discussion at the Mayor's Neighborhood Roundtable on Nov. 6.
She adds these summits have also had benefits outside of their intended purpose and could be repeated in the future.
"I think a lot of good things have come out of the summits besides just the comments that will be submitted," Rhodes-Conway says. "We've heard that there is a real desire for people to communicate across neighborhoods be it through annual summits like this or an e-mail list to talk about their common issues."