Last month Madison’s Plan Commission, the group that advises the city on construction projects, denied a part of the land owner’s plan to build an Amazon distribution center in northeast Madison. The owner of the land, the New-York based company Leo Ritter & Co. appealed the decision.
A main facility that incorporates an existing building and includes parking, was given the go-ahead by the city. But, a smaller piece of the plan, which includes a driveway, a stormwater management facility, and additional parking, was rejected. Grant Foster is a Madison alderman who testified against the plan. He said that the main problem with the plan is that it doesn’t conform to the city’s zoning requirements.
“When someone wants to demolish a building they need to describe what the intended future use of the land is and that future use needs to be consistent with any adopted plans that we have in place,” said Foster.
Foster says that because the Amazon plan is not consistent with the deed, it was rejected.
According to city restrictions, the land must be used for mixed-use and residential projects. Residential areas are used for housing while mixed-use areas must be used for a variety of purposes, including cultural, residential, and entertainment.
While the plan commission advises the city will ultimately have the final say on whether or not the distribution center is built.
Eric Sundquist, a member of the Madison Plan Commission, says the problem is that while the area is zoned for industrial use, the city has other plans for it.
“Madison and almost every other city puts land use regulations into effect through zoning,” said Sundquist. “Zones are drawn on a map and they say what you can and can’t build in certain places. The property was still zoned for industrial and that would have probably been sufficient for the parking lot that they wanted to do for Amazon, but there’s a new land use plan that suggests it should be re-zoned for mixed use and residential. In this case, they stuck with the old zoning in contravention of the current plan and so the plan commission said no.”
Sundquist voted against the permit for the smaller parcel, which was rejected in a 6-2 vote last month.
The appeal, which was filed last Thursday, alleges that the proposed use for the land falls under the zoning code, and that the standards in the decision had been misapplied. Sundquist says that he hopes Madison will take this opportunity to update how it handles zoning.
“There is a move to try to sync up the zoning with the plans better so that we don’t wait for developers to ask for a re-zoning,” said Sundquist. “It’s something that has been talked about for many years. Maybe a good thing coming out of this would be that we actually move forward on that. Like this area. It’s zoned industrial. We now think because of development patterns it’s no longer suitable there. We want mixed use, so you actually go in and do the re-zoning so there’s no conflict between zoning and plans.”
The company’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment by the time of this broadcast.
A spokesperson for the city of Madison told the Wisconsin State Journal the appeal will go before the Common Council on February 25th, and the council is scheduled to make a decision next month.