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Not Dead Yet, Developer for Proposed $98 million Edgewater Project
in Madison, Wisconsin Pushes Ahead for Access to TIF Funds

Appeals Court Ruling Being Challenged by Residents

By Dean Mosiman, The Wisconsin State JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Nov. 29, 2011--The developer proposing a $98 million remake of the Edgewater hotel intends to do everything possible to access $16 million in city public assistance available only until Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, two Madison residents are asking the state Supreme Court to review a state appellate court ruling that in late October removed a final legal roadblock for the redevelopment.

Robert Dunn, president of the Hammes Co., was unable to secure private financing for the Edgewater project until after the appellate court ruling and now has little time to obtain $16 million in city tax incremental financing (TIF) support available in the 2011 budget.

The council last week approved only $3.3 million in TIF -- a sum Dunn has said won't work -- for 2012.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the council vote, Dunn said he will submit all remaining documents required of him this week to access the $16 million. He is hoping the city will do everything possible to deliver the money by year's end.

Dunn and city staff still must complete a TIF agreement, and the council must approve the borrowing with a supermajority vote. The city attorney's office has said it's virtually impossible to get all that done by Dec. 31.

"I will continue to focus on doing the things I have control over to move the Edgewater forward," Dunn said. "There's no question the timing makes it difficult. It's up to the city."

Mayor Paul Soglin has said he'd sign paperwork to access the $16 million if completed by Dec. 31.

The developer refused to speculate what will happen after Jan. 1.

But Dunn said perhaps $100 million in room and property taxes over three decades may not be available to city taxpayers facing increased costs for services and rising tax bills.

Mansion Hill residents Fred Mohs and Eugene Devitt, who strongly opposed the project, initially challenged the city's 2010 approval of it in Dane County Circuit Court. But a judge affirmed a City Council vote to overturn a city Landmarks Commission denial of the project. In October, a three-judge panel of the state's 4th District Court of Appeals unanimously sided with the lower court's ruling.

Mohs said he and Devitt are now appealing to the Supreme Court because the city and courts allowed a developer with an option to buy and redevelop a property in a historic district to claim a serious financial hardship even though the city's Landmarks Ordinance requires the hardship to be the property owner's.

Regardless of what happens to the Edgewater, the Supreme Court should develop, clarify and harmonize state law, Mohs said. Not doing so leaves a "serious problem" because anyone taking an option to buy a property in a historic district could claim that fixing it is too expensive and get relief from requirements of a landmarks ordinance, he said.

Dunn called the litigation frivolous and Mohs "an obstructionist."

Soglin, who sought and got the sharp reduction in TIF for the Edgewater in 2012, said the city will defend against the appeal "with the same vigor that we did in the last six months." He declined comment on specifics of the litigation.

Hammes wants to restore the original 1946 hotel, cut the size of a 1970s addition and build a public terrace atop it, create a staircase to the lake, erect a nine-story tower and add underground parking.


(c)2011 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

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