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Tuesday, July 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 74.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Mansion Hill neighborhood residents weigh in on Edgewater Hotel use agreement

Mohs: 'We didn't sign up for a concert here. We signed up for a comfortable, residential area.'
Mohs: 'We didn't sign up for a concert here. We signed up for a comfortable, residential area.'
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Residents of Madison's historic Mansion Hill neighborhood are reticent but largely resigned to an Edgewater project that has finally gotten the go-ahead. There are just three things they want: no noise, no nuisance, and no traffic.

"If it's getting built, we want this to be the best for our neighborhood," said Madison Ald. Bridget Maniaci, summing up many of her constituents' feelings at a Mansion Hill neighborhood meeting Wednesday night.

The meeting gave residents a chance to offer input on Edgewater's Plaza Use Agreement, which governs what can be done on the plaza and when it can be used by the public, before the plan comes before the to the Plan Commission next week.

The Plan Commission will vote on two pending resolutions at their meeting Monday. The first authorizes the city and Edgewater development company, Hammes Co., to enter into a public access management agreement and the second stipulates seven easements and provisions that define viewing areas, public stairs, and conservation issues, as well as designate a specific area of space to preserve the view of Lake Mendota.

At Wednesday's meeting, the "input" offered by Mansion Hill residents often verged on being an airing of grievances.

Neighbors almost unanimously expressed concern for the preservation of their neighborhood's historic and residential character, while reserving a round of laughter for the two residents who expressed support for the project.

Hammes Co. representatives were faced with a volley of questions on topics ranging from bus traffic and loading docks to the potential smell coming off of proposed lakeside restaurants.

Edgewater opponent and Mansion Hill resident Fred Mohs summed up the demands.

"If the noise and annoyance and the traffic, parking, deliverance be orderly, quiet, and unobtrusive, we will have gone a long way," said Mohs.

But Hammes Co. representative Amy Supple insisted the project had been mischaracterized, and that Edgewater's interests were "very much aligned" with neighborhood concerns.

"The primary business that we are entering into is a hotel," said Supple. "'In order for our business to run, we have to have a space that is orderly. ... that fact gets lost a lot in this conversation."

Supple reminded residents the project was an "investment in their neighborhood," and encouraged them to focus on the new public space, featuring tables and trees, that they would soon enjoy. Supple said the space might even play host to community events like those enjoyed on Monona Terrace, including concerts.

Mohs was not consoled.

"The main event here is the success of the Mansion Hill District as a historical, residential neighborhood," said Mohs. "We didn't sign up for a concert here. We signed up for a comfortable, residential area."

Mohs' complaints drew a rebuke from another resident, Rosemary Lee. "I'm sick to death of people saying there are going to be rock bands that are going to disturb us, or the lights on the side are going to be too bright," groused Lee. "It's a hotel!"

Lee urged the project's "naysayers and nimbies" to "cut it out!" and let Hammes finally build its hotel. She also decried the way obstructionists like Mohs, whose lawsuit to block the expansion was recently rejected by a Dane County judge, had impeded progress.

Whether Mohs will continue to "obstruct" the project is uncertain. He said he hasn't had time to consider an appeal: "We're just not there yet."

Lee's take on it was simple. "I think it's about time we all work together on this because, like it or not, I think [the hotel] is coming," she said. "And," she added defiantly, "I hope it does."

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