Last night, the Madison Landmarks Commission blocked the Hammes Company's bid to improve the Edgewater Hotel (with the help of $16 million in TIF money). Daring to adhere to the actual language of the city ordinance, the commission declined to give Hammes a variance for the project.
Now Hammes has to choose whether to ask the City Council to overrule the Landmarks Commission. It would take a 2/3 super-majority of the Council (14 out of 20) to do so. Hammes has already spent money on a Lambeau Field junket for neighboring fraternities in order to get them on board, as well as a dog-and-pony show for the public at the Brink Lounge. Too bad they didn't foresee the need to grease the wheels of the Landmarks Commission.
Mayor Dave is hoping they don't give up. On his blog today, he had this to say: "...the decision of a handful of unelected individuals on the Landmarks Commission can only be overturned by a supermajority (14) of the twenty elected representatives of the people on the Madison City Council. This is fundamentally undemocratic."
Just who appoints those unelected individuals in this fundamentally undemocratic system anyway? Oh, that's right...
Alder Bridget Maniaci was the only Landmarks member willing to issue a certificate of appropriateness (which, I believe, would preclude the need for a variance). While she is that district's elected representative on the City Council, she is also the Council member (and probably Landmarks Commission member) most personally beholden to the Mayor, as he recruited her to run against former alder Brenda Konkel and threw all the weight of his endorsement and connections behind her candidacy.
In hindsight, I wonder if he knew the Hammes proposal was in the cards even before the Spring election season. Brenda Konkel would have been a thorn in the side of the Hammes Company.
In the end, though, it was a few citizens appointed to a "fundamentally undemocratic" body by Mayor Dave himself who spiked his wheels.
Update: The Hammes Co. will appeal to the City Council.