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Madison Council Rejects Plan for Whole Foods at Hilldale

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

The Madison City Council voted down a proposal Tuesday night to bring Whole Foods to the Hilldale Shopping area. The city's plan commission has rejected the project twice, but the mayor says the city could reach a new compromise with developers.

The issue of parking could stall the project. Some dislike the idea of a surface lot of more than 200 spaces. Others believe it puts another local grocer at a disadvantage.

"We went door to door, right around the Hilldale-area and just talked to neighbors," Tim Metcalfe says.

Tim Metcalfe is a neighbor himself, as owner of the Sentry Store at Hilldale.

"I live in this neighborhood. We've been there since 1979. We know these people, and they've talked to us," Metcalfe says.

Metcalfe also organized a petition against the Whole Foods project.

"The people that are signing it are the people in the neighborhood. We didn't put up a sign that said 'sign a petition'."

But he says hundreds have signed it.

"There really is no one out there saying we don't want Whole Foods. The issue is the design," he says.

As a grocery store owner, Metcalfe admits he sees a competitor, but he also sees a problem with parking.

"Our concern is that it really does put all of these different stores who've accepted the new urbanism ... This development isn't being held to same standard," he says.
The proposal calls for a 50-thousand square foot Whole Foods store at the corner of Segoe Road and University Avenue with space for about 240 parking spots.

"Developers are saying they need Whole Foods in there to sell the other properties. I'm convinced they're right about that," Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz says.

The mayor's hopeful a compromise to reduce parking by 27 spots and add more green elements, like rain gardens, might give the project a green light.

"In my view, it was worth a bit of compromise to make Whole Foods work, so the viability of the total project was increased," Cieslewicz says.

He says the plan for Whole Foods is a big box, but it complies with the city's ordinance.

"I think it's difficult for us as a city to say, we've just created this ordinance for big box, you complied with it, actually over complied with it, but we're gonna say no."

Alder Tim Gruber represents the area and says he has heard from people on both sides of the issue.

"I think it's looking pretty good with the compromise. I would not vote for it as it stood, or as it stands now without the compromise," Alder Tim Gruber says.

It would be unusual for the council to pass what the plan commission has rejected. But the council will hear about this plan for reduced parking. It could pass it, or refer it back to the plan commission or planning staff.

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