Common Council Recap

Posted January 8th, 2014 @ 8:46 AM by

Tall buildings downtown ok, but not ok with Weier if its on the northside, council thumbs nose at state legislature and Professor Paul gives a lesson.

ROLL CALL AND GETTING STARTED
Sounded like everyone was there except King who was excused. Rules are suspended to take things out of order and introduce things at the end of the meeting. Item 1 is introduced and referred a petition to be attached to the City of Madison. They have nothing to do until 6:45 so they suspend the rules and take up the consent agenda, that passes.

CONSENT AGENDA
It’s here. Items 2 – 11 and 35 are public hearing items, so those are separated. There are several items with additional referrals, item 96, 100, 106 referred to Board of Estimates. Item 126 is introduced at Jan 21 council meeting. The following items are extramajority vote items and they are asking for a unanimous vote on them – items 12. The items on the exclusion list are 28, 56, 62 and 74. Sue Ellingson adds item 15. Joe Clausius is not paying attention. Consent agenda passes with all items passing with the recommendations on the agenda except as noted above.

REMAINING AGENDA
Item 15 – High Speed Rail
They suspend the rules to take this item up earlier than 6:45. Passes. Move adoption. Resolution urging Urging the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to partner with Minnesota DOT on the Milwaukee-Twin Cities High Speed Passenger Rail Study and other regional rail efforts. Ellingson says that Minnesota is going forward with high speed rail and its going through Wisconsin and it will by-pass Madison and its “a really bad thing”. Cnare asks to be added. Mayor asks to be added as cosponsor, Phair and Clear are added too. Mayor thanks Ellingson for separating it to highlight it given the importance of the issue and the profound impact it will have on Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota in the next 20 – 40 years and it is unfortunate we will not be participating at the level of other states. Passes unanimously.

Registration on Item 13 – Committee appointments.
They move reconsideration to hear the person who came to speak. They move approval again. Joel Gratz is concerned someone is getting appointed (David Elbino) to Emerson East Eken Park Steering Committee. Several people applied a year ago, lots of frustration about not having information and communication and finally people were appointed in December and a person who just moved to the neighborhood (less than 6 months) got appointed. There are people who have lived there longer and have long term interest in the neighborhood were overlooked and no one knew this person. He’s a graduate planning student, but that is why we have staff. He doesn’t think a student should be chosen over long term residents. No discussion. Appointment goes through.

Registration on item 15 – High Speed Rail
As they were rushing through, people who came to the meeting didn’t get there on time to speak, so they move reconsideration of this item as well to allow the person to speak. Motion Passes. They move adoption again. Royce Williams speaks in support, didn’t know it was on the agenda. He on a National Council (for high speed rail?). He thinks it is terrific this was on the agenda. He says the state is finally finishing up its draft plan, service to Madison is in there sort of in the appendices, but it is really important for the City to keep the pressure on. He wants to make sure there is follow up. The work that was done was thrown out and now we are starting over. We are starting at groudn zero. They suggest that they send it to Long Range Transportation Committee for follow up and to keep the pressure on. They pass it again, unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARINGS
Hearings open and closed on the following:
#2, no registrations, grant with conditions
#3, no registrations, re-refer public hearing
Move to adopt, motion carries on unanimous voice vote.

Hearings open and close on the following:
#4, no registrations
#5, no registrations
Motion to approve items 4 and 5, no discussion, passes unanimously on a voice vote.

Hearings open and and close on the following:
#6, 3 people register in support and available to answer questions, one woman speaks in favor. Hundred year old trees and boulders prevent them from having sidewalks, cars trucks and buses go 45 miles and hour and people in wheels chairs, kids on bikes and pedestrians are at risk. When they heard Gilvert would be resurfaced, they met with many people and city engineering came up with strategies to reduce the speed and this is a safety issue at this point. She urges them to vote yes. Motion to adopt. Skidmore moves and amendment submitted by engineering staff. Subeck asks what area of Gammon this refers to (I think, sound cut out) – Tree Lane to Old Sauk Road is the answer. Amendment passes. Main motion passes unanimously.

#7 – recommendation to refer to plan commission, hearing not closed
#8 – no registrations, recommendation to adopt, hearing closed. (hedges)
#9 – no registrations, hearing closed (campus/institutional district height rules)
#10 – no registrations, hearing closed (open space from 160 sqr ft /unit to 20 sq ft per bedroom for Traditional Employment Districts)
#11 – no registrations, hearing closed (day care)

Schmidt moves adoption for items 7 – 10, separating number 11.

Weier wants to discuss item 9, she thinks that it is fine in districts around the University of Wisconsin but perhaps not as fine in her district where the Mendota Mental Health Institute is surrounded by some beautiful lakefront wooded areas. She says there was oppostiion when a 58 foot building was proposed and she is not sure if anything can be done at this late date – so she asks the city attorney if there is a way to differentiate this so she could have something apply differently to other areas. City Attorney suggests that they don’t do it on the floor, that they adopt it and then she talks with staff. She wants to refer now to the next meeting. Mayor asks them to separate #9 from the item. They take up 7,8 and 10, passes unanimously with a voice vote.

#9 – Mayor asks Steve Cover if the plan commission took up the issue of height in the Mendota area. Cover asks Matt Tucker for more details. Matt Tucker says plan commission and council did debate the area around Mendota Mental Health Center, it was one of the last items they discussed in the adoption of the new code. This amendment does apply to MATC, UW, four high schools and Edgewood primarily. Weier moves re-referal to the next council meeting. Motion and second. Resnick asks them to refer to plan commission. Then he makes a motion, amends the motion to refer to plan. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff asks for an overview of what this does. Matt Tucker says that it clarifies or corrects what he thinks is an oversight. There are some buildings higher than three stories in height and this will make the zoning code consistent with the way we deal with building heights exceeding those as permitted heights, making them the same as other districts. It will make them conditional uses, we will look at adopted plans and how it impacts properties around it. Bidar says that a master plan would supercede the height plans, Tucker agrees. Clear asks if there are any pending projects that would be affected by timing. Tucker says he is not aware of any. Ellingson asks about Edgewood and timing. Tucker says he got an email about Regina Hall, they will be having a preapplication meeting on that project. Ellingson asks if they can apply if they don’t pass this tonight. Tucker says yes or it would have to be a condition of . . . sometimes they do it concurrently, but pretty rarely. Most of time they want the ordinance in place before the applicaiton comes in. Ellingson says she will vote against, Edgewood is about to come in for a conditional use and they do not have their master plan in place yet for the dorm expansion. She is comfortable with this. This is a hard and fast rule about not having buildings taller than 3 stories and she thinks a conditional use process is reasonable, it is a good change and she doesn’t want to defeat the process for the building coming up, she will vote against. Schmidt says that if we pass this, the conditional use process has protections for the concerns Weier has and additional process could be explored later. Weier says in the past when the plan commission put this forward and it was delayed at the last minute after being handifly approved by the plan commission and ultimately it wasn’t built. She also thinks there are people in the Edgewood area that are concerned and she supports referral. Motion to include Plan Commission fails. Main amendment to refer fails. Motion to approve passes seemingly unanimous on a voice vote.

#11 – Schmidt moves approval, then moves to refer to Jan 21 and reopen and recess the public hearing – passes.

#35 – open hearing, no registrations, recessed. Refered to the 4th.

BACK TO THE REST OF THE AGENDA
#28 – Removes requirements that landlords provide information about smoke alarms to their tenants. (i.e. Thumbing their noses at the Republican Controlled State Legislature
Scott Resnick wants to read what they are reversing – fire safety education requirement, once each new lease and once every 12 months, the owners shall produce fire safety education materials. This was passed with unanimous support following an incident in November 2007, where Peter Talen, a UW LaCrosse student passed away during a house fire near UW Madison campus, the smoke detectors were disabled. However the republican legislature has decided under SB 179 that we need to improve the business climate for landlords throughout the state and part of that is a requirement that any documentation that is not mandated by the state or the federal government shall not be posted in any building in the City of Madison. In response, a quote from a mother of the deceased victim “If its one life that we can save, its worth doing.” I don’t see as a body, and I realize we are violating state law here, why we should go along with the state legislature. If a landlord would like to proceed in litigation against the city, because they feel it is an undue burden to provide fire safety education material to tenants, I think let them bring forth litigation. Do I think that we would lose litigation? Yes. I am fairly confident I know our city attorney’s opinion there, but I cannot in good faith vote in support of item 28.

Mark Clear appreciates Alder Resnick’s comments and agrees with them completely. One perhaps small but possible consolation is that we are not actually repealing it but moving it to the wonderful 78 square ordinance which is our repository for ordinances that were repealed by the state legislature. Its getting crowded in there, and I suspect we are not done moving things into that ordinance, but it holds out the faint but possible hope that we could bring it back at some point when things are a little more amenable to local control in the state capitol.

Marsha Rummel says that Resnick used the word post, does that include that a landlord would give to the tenant with the lease, could they do that way? Michael May, city attorney, says they are not precluded from doing it, but they are not required to do it. That is the effect of this. Rummel says it seems like the key word is post, is that what the ordinance says we have to do or is it broader. May says that he believes it says they have to provide it to each new tenant along with the lease, it is a handout that goes with the lease.

Sue Ellingson asks what the materials look like, is it one piece of paper or 10 pages? Fire Chief Steven Davis doesn’t know, he would have to refer them to the fire prevention team, there is a couple page handout that gives tenant and landlord guidance on fire safety, it has exit plans and smoke detector recommendations, that type of thing. Our community education will go and work with the landlord to provide education for tenants, above and beyond what is required in the ordinance. It is a bit of a blow to our community that it is no longer required, the event that took Peter Talon’s life were preventable and we created the smoke detector ordinance based on that, we created this ordinance based on that, and it was a matter of educating landlords about their responsibility for prevent fires in their buildings. That was the focus of the ordinance and will still be the focus of the fire department. Ellingson asks if they still intend to do things even tho . . . Davis says community education is one of the most important things they do so even tho not required of the landlord, we will still be communicating with them about it. The importance of fire safety in their buildings. Ellingson also asks the city attorney, if a landlord doesn’t want to do this and chose to sue, how much does it cost to say, ok, you win. Is that a big deal? May says as a practical matter the landlord just wouldn’t do it, they would just ignore the ordinance.

Mayor Paul Soglin says, let me weigh in on this. He would tend to veto this if it passes. And he intends to support fire marshalls and building inspectors in enforcing the ordinance against any landlord that might refuse to obey it. Then he will stand right behind the city attorney when the lawsuit comes and I hope we can take it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary and determine whether or not this is an issue of statewide concern or a matter of local concern.

Lisa Subeck says she is pleased Alder Resnick has suggested this, this is one of those things that as each of these many, many items both in the landlord tenant realm and from other realms from the state have come our way and we place them in 77 square I have often thought to myself, what if we just try to enforce them, your right, a law suit will come, and I can’t think of a better choice of items on which to fight the fight than this one, because of the safety nature of this one. As much as I think it is horrendous that we can no longer require a landlord to provide a local phone number to tenants is absurd, this one has such safety ramifications that I think it is the one to dig in our heels and continue to enforce this and let the state go after us for it. She is very pleased about that. She would also like to suggest that perhaps next year around this season we have a our own Festivus celebration in which we host a reading of each of the items in 77 square and air our grievances.

Motion to place this in to “never never land” as the Mayor said, fails. Not one single vote for it. Unanimous no vote. The Mayor says “Yes!” And smiles. He announces “A moment of insurrection, the motion fails!” He then says “that felt good”. Everyone laughs . . .

I’m stopping right here. This will likely be my favorite moment of he year for the common council. Yes, it won’t have a huge impact most likely. But they showed they had a spine. Of course critics will say that they can have a spine when it doesn’t matter – but when it really matters they don’t. They might be right, but I’ll enjoy this moment . . . . there’s about 45 minutes of the meeting left, spent mostly on one or two items (composition of Economic Development Commission, Hoyt Park Plan and Sewer District committee). I’ll finish this tomorrow. Enjoy the nice moment for now.


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