Bravo to former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz for exposing the increasingly parallel universe of the Landmarks Commission ("Landmarks Commission Is Hurting City," 3/7/14). The singular focus of the commission has its roots in the ordinance creating it. All members are required to have a preservationist background and perspective. By law there can be no balancing of interests, and the inherently subjective criteria can be used to support virtually any decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness.
The current commissioners have repeatedly expounded bizarre and personalized aesthetics and imposed them on a mystified citizenry. In the case of the project across from Overture, they have even taken to handing their own project design to the developer in an effort to substitute their concept of appropriateness for that of the builders. Buildings of no architectural significance at all, such as the building on the northeast corner of Mifflin and Fairchild, are required to be preserved. Nondescript facades are required to be pasted onto new buildings in the name of preservation. No deference is given to the aesthetics of the owners. The commissioners' views of beauty and appropriateness are all that matter.
This strange commission is a godsend for obstructionists, and merely invoking the mystical language of preservation usually brings them favorable results.
Madison needs political leadership that will amend the ordinance to make the commissions' decisions advisory to the Common Council. Then all appropriate criteria can be applied and balanced when evaluating projects.