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Madison City Council again halts Raemisch Farm proposal

Fighter jets (copy)

The location of the Raemisch Farm proposal would be relatively close to Truax Field, which will be home to F-35 fighter jets beginning in 2023. The noise from the F-35 jets is anticipated to be louder than the noise from the F-16 jets that Truax currently houses.

Madison's City Council on Tuesday night halted a proposal to develop single family housing, commercial space and mixed-use buildings at 4000-4150 Packers Ave. and 4201 N. Sherman Ave. 

The proposal would have brought approximately 96 single family home lots as well as a potential mix of condominiums and apartment buildings to Madison’s near north side. It would also have helped address a citywide concern that there are not enough options for home ownership in Madison.

However, the location of the proposal would be relatively close to Truax Field, which will be home to F-35 fighter jets beginning in 2023. The noise from the F-35 jets is anticipated to be louder than the noise from the F-16 jets that Truax currently houses.

Allowing residential construction to happen prior to the full impact of the F-35 noise was a nonstarter at the City Council on Tuesday night. It voted 14-6 to place the zoning changes needed to greenlight the project on file without prejudice, and voted 15-5 to also place a proposal for a land plat on file without prejudice.

Alds. Arvina Martin, Mike Verveer, Lindsay Lemmer, Regina Vidaver, Syed Abbas, Brian Benford, Juliana Bennett, Nikki Conklin, Jael Currie, Tag Evers, Yannette Figueroa Cole, Grant Foster, Keith Furman and Patrick Heck voted to place the project on file. Alds. Charles Myadze, Nasra Wehelie, Christian Albouras, Sheri Carter, Barbara Harrington-McKinney and Gary Halverson voted against placing it on file.

Placing the project on file allows the developer to return with an amended proposal at a later date. It is the second time in six months the council has halted the Raemisch Farm proposal. In August 2021, it voted 15-2 to stop the project.

The council made its decision close to 11 p.m. on Tuesday night following hours of public testimony. That testimony included much back-and-forth between alders and residents who participated in a Raemisch Farm Work Group, which had attempted to work closely with the development team throughout the process.

Members of the work group said they felt as though they were not in close enough contact with the development team, particularly after redistricting resulted in Ald. Abbas of District 12 no longer representing the area. Ald. Myadze now represents District 18, where the potential development would be located.

Abbas has had concerns about the F-35 noise from the very beginning of the proposal and helped spearhead a study that sought to understand the potential impact the jet noise would have.

Myadze, by contrast, has supported the proposal and touted it as an opportunity to create home ownership in Madison.

Multiple members of the work group testified and stated their desire to work more closely with the Green Street development team and Myadze in order to figure out how to do this proposal more effectively.

The members of the work group submitted a protest petition on Feb. 17 which forced a supermajority vote of 15 alders in order to approve the proposal. It never got to that point on Tuesday night, however, because Ald. Heck, District 2, introduced an alternate motion to place the proposal on file rather than to vote on a straight approval or denial of it.

“A very important thing for us to remember and think about is public health, public safety and environmental justice,” Abbas said. “We should not put future residents at risk until we know in 2023 how (loud) the planes sound.

"Until then I think it is extremely key for us to wait and see and not rush. There are a lot of question marks and so I think we should wait and see,” he said.

Green Street is a St. Louis development company which took over in mid-2021 from the Rifkin Group. Since that time, Green Street has engaged heavily in public outreach and communication. They have modified their proposal significantly, including taking out dozens of single family home lots in order to donate that land to Lakeview Elementary for outdoor learning.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway called attention to the fact that Green Street is an outside developer choosing to conduct their business in Madison, and urged members of the council to think about how denying these proposals could send the wrong message. She added that council needs to respond to the proposals being brought forth, not try to dictate what types of proposals there are.

“We don’t get to choose what proposals get to us,” Rhodes-Conway said. “We can’t dictate that. We can’t make there be an urban farm there. This project has been on the market for decades, since before I was an alder. If this community had the collective will to make it an urban farm, don’t you think it would have happened by now?

“I just ask that as you think about the decisions you make, that we stay grounded in reality and what is possible... because I think we’re getting a little lost in that. I don’t think we’re being grounded in reality. I’m just asking that we stay a little more grounded in reality.”

Ald. Bennett, who represents District 8, responded to Rhodes-Conway, saying that her comments were “condescending." Bennett said that the “present reality” is that we don’t know how loud the F-35s are going to be.

“The present reality is it’s kind of crappy to live in those areas,” Bennett said. “So, if you’re okay with putting your constituents in those types of areas, be my guest. But I’m not okay with that. I think that all of us as alders are able to make decisions based on the real conditions that are presented to us.”

Earlier in the evening, Bennett said placing low income residents in the proximity of what other residents who live in the path of the F35s (in Vermont) have called environmentally destructive, is comparable to redlining.

“This is just modern day redlining,” Bennett said. “We continue to put low income people, and Black and Brown people, in these areas that are not the best. It is obvious why we have low income housing in this area.

"You wouldn’t put... white people with high incomes out in this area. You just won’t. This is literally what redlining is. It’s putting people that cannot afford to live in better places into areas that are not environmentally stable.

“Would you live there?” Bennett asked.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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