Last night, Madison’s common council voted 14-6 in favor of purchasing property at 2002 Zeier Road. The former big box store will be used as a temporary men’s homeless shelter and a “long-term site for redevelopment.”
In May, the site was rejected as the location for a permanent men’s homeless shelter. Alder Gary Halverson, who represents the district the shelter will be located in, voted in opposition both times.
Speaking at yesterday’s council meeting, Halverson expressed concern that the temporary site may not be so temporary — and could become Madison’s de facto shelter.
“This resolution doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said. “We addressed this earlier this year. There’s many, many reasons as to why this location is not the right location. The only difference I see is that now it’s temporary, while honest feedback from my constituents is that it’s not going to be temporary.”
Currently, Madison runs its men’s shelter out of the former fleet services building on First Street. That site is scheduled to eventually become Madison’s Public Market, but the city needs to move its shelter operations out before that project can move in.
Halverson also expressed concerns that the new purchase, and the purchase of a similar site on Bartillon Drive, were rushed to council.
Both resolutions were introduced just two weeks ago. Halverson organized a neighborhood meeting to discuss the proposals on Sunday.
“Some of the feedback that day was they didn’t even know this was happening, and had stumbled across it,” Halverson said.
Alder Sheri Carter also said that the council was rushing into the decision.
“When the government rushes in, it usually crashes and burns,” she said.
Halverson was joined in opposing the purchase by Alders Barbara Harrington-McKinney, Charles Myadze, Nasra Wehelie, Syed Abbas and Sheri Carter. All of those except Wehelie voted against the initial May proposal.
So what changed this time around?
Back in May, alders voted 14 in favor and 5 against purchasing the Zeier Road property. But, because that measure would have altered the city’s 2021 budget, it required at least 15 ‘yes’ votes to pass.
This time, the city is pulling funds from a separate Land Banking fund and Land Acquisition Fund. That means the measure needed a simple majority — or 11 alders — to pass.
The city will spend more than $3.2 million to purchase and overhaul the Zeier Road site.
The city will also be pulling about $900,000 from the land banking fund to purchase property at 1902 Bartillon Drive. While the Zeier Road site is a temporary shelter operation, the Bartillon Drive site will provide the city with both short-term and long-term options to address homelessness.
Neither resolution states any specific long-term projects for the site. Halverson, whose district also includes the Bartillon Drive site, said that ambiguity was a major sticking point for his constituents.
“The ambiguity of it is where we’re running into some challenges with some of the residents and constituents, as well as myself,” Halverson said.
Also yesterday, the common council passed a resolution recognizing this coming Monday, October 11th, as Indigenous Peoples Day.
PHOTO: Brian Standing