The Madison City Council on Tuesday displayed a stunning reversal of course and approved the rezoning of Raemisch Farm at 4150 Packers Ave.
The council voted 15-3 to approve a rezoning, switching the plot of land from zoned for agriculture to residential. The vote was a full 180 from previous council votes on proposals for the development. In August 2021, the council voted 15-2 to deny the project, and voted 14-6 to deny it a second time in February.
The development is close to the Dane County Airport, where F-35 fighter jets will be housed at Truax Field beginning in 2023. The potential noise from the jets has caused many to question how ethical it is to place residential housing close to where the jets take off and land.
Yet almost none of the discussion on Tuesday centered around the F-35s. Even the staunchest opponents of earlier Raemisch Farm plans, concerned about residents in the noise path — such as District 12 Ald. Syed Abbas and District 8 Ald. Juliana Bennett — reversed course and supported the proposal.
“You may also recall that twice before I did not vote for this project because of concerns surrounding the F-35 fighter jets,” Abbas, who represented the area around the proposal before redistricting, wrote in a blog post. “However, this time around I am supporting the project.”
Green Street Development of St. Louis is proposing to construct 76 single-family homes and a mixture of other apartment/mixed-use housing on the plot of land (between 600 and 1,300 housing units). The proposal also includes the donation of 3.5 acres of land to Lakeview Elementary School to be used for outdoor activities and learning for kids. Approximately 10 acres would also be dedicated to urban agriculture.
Abbas pointed to a written commitment Green Street made to do sound mitigation to reduce potential noise effects from F-35s. Abbas also supported Green Street’s application to create a tax incremental district around the area.
Tax incremental financing is a financial tool the city uses to address gaps in project funding for developments and other infrastructure construction. The city assists with project costs and then recoups the funding through property taxes. Specifically, the difference over a period of years between the property's old tax levy and the new, higher tax levy is what pays off the city's project costs.
In this case, that money would be for the sound mitigation needed to insulate homes from the F-35 noise. Joel Oliver, who is heading the development team, said discussions about a TID are underway but are in the very early stages.
With the rezoning approval, Green Street can move forward with conceptualizing what types of houses and buildings could be constructed on Raemisch Farm. Oliver told the Cap Times on Wednesday that discussions about what specifically could be built on the 65 acres of Raemisch Farm are beginning.
The bulk of housing is expected to be market rate, but Oliver said that some portion of it will be designated for workforce housing, a middle ground between market rate and affordable housing aimed at middle class workers.
“We do intend to have a portion of the apartments attainable at 80% (area median income),” Oliver said. “A unit split has not been discussed yet.”
Eighty percent of AMI in Madison for a family of four would include households where the average income is approximately $63,900 (0r $44,740 for a single person), according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The plat mapping out the site area approved by the council on Tuesday was preliminary. Oliver is not certain when a final plat will be submitted. That will require Plan Commission and council approval, as will the plans for the development itself.