Since launching this website we have gotten a lot of questions from the community. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common ones:
What do the Voits want to see happen with the land?
While we do not want to speak for the Voits, as they have a 165-year history with the land, they have mentioned to us that they would like to see something special happen on the property, which honors their legacy and benefits the people of Madison’s East Side. Also their Realtors have stated that strong municipal support is necessary for any offer to be accepted. To that end, we have been working on gaining support from City of Madison alders, the Mayor, and staff, as well as Dane County supervisors and staff.
What is the timeline, considering that the property is currently for sale?
The property has been on the market since January 12th. We believe that to have the greatest chance of success, we will need to get our offer submitted within 30-60 days. After that, if our offer is accepted, there will be a 9-12 month contingency period. When all contingencies are satisfied we would expect to close on the property, and development would occur over the next 3-5 years.
What are donations used for? How can my small contribution make a difference?
Thank you to all who have donated! So far, donations have been used for seed funding including legal, marketing, and other startup expenses. When we reach our GoFundMe goal we will be able to engage professional architects and consultants to finalize our detailed concept plan and site plan, incorporating our vision and core values. Funding has also been used to print flyers for our Saturday lit drops, which have played a critical role in informing immediate neighborhoods about this project, and spreading the word in general. To be a community-led effort, it’s important that the community have as much information about the project as possible.
What is an investment cooperative? How does it work to collaboratively purchase this property? Do we need to raise $11.5M?
More about the investment cooperative can be found on our Investment Cooperative FAQs. We are in the early stages of creating the investment cooperative and set an initial goal of $2 million because this would roughly be the amount needed to purchase the 12 acres of land devoted to built infrastructure. We are planning to partner with other stakeholders to purchase the remainder of the land, which is intended for agricultural (20 acres) and conservation (33 acres).
Is the Farm still in Blooming Grove? What is the zoning?
The Farm is currently in the Town of Blooming Grove, which has been zoned as ‘agriculture’ by Dane County. For many years, there was a Cooperative Plan between Blooming Grove and the City of Madison wherein the Town of Blooming Grove would be annexed into the City of Madison in 2027. Because 2027 is quite far off, and the property is likely to be sold this year, the City of Madison and Town of Blooming Grove recently signed an amendment to the Cooperative Plan that will attach the Voit Farm into the City of Madison upon sale of the property. Once attached to the City of Madison, the property would be rezoned.
Even 12 acres of development is still a massive amount, couldn’t we just keep the whole thing as a park or natural area?
In 2018, the Common Council voted to implement the Milwaukee Street Special Area Plan, which calls for roughly half of the farm (~32 acres) to be developed into fairly dense housing. For context, this is approximately 15 full city blocks. Reducing the developed land area by over half, to 12 acres is a significant compromise for many Alders who are concerned about adequate affordable housing. We share this concern and feel there is a way to create a win-win scenario that builds the same or more housing as the City originally intended without replacing so much virgin soil with impermeable surface area, which intensifies flooding due to climate change. The primary method of achieving this is to greatly reduce the number of roads originally planned for this development and implement a “car-lite” design. We are working with Madison-based Zerology to set-up an EV carsharing program that will dramatically reduce the need for private vehicle ownership. We will also follow the framework of the Living Community Challenge to implement a 100% carbon-free development.
How realistic is it that we can actually influence what happens to this land?
Very realistic! There is power in numbers, and together we are capable of sending a very strong message to our elected officials that the community wants to see more than just a cookie-cutter development on this farm, which is likely unique in the nation. We’ve received some positive feedback from a variety of public officials, but no one has publicly championed it yet. The more they hear from you–their constituents, the more they will know that this project is something special that deserves their support.
What similar models exist and how do they inform this development?
We’re pretty unique! What we envision for Voit Farm has never been done before, but we have drawn inspiration from many similar projects. Here are a few:
- Madison, WI – Troy Gardens
- Oakland, CA – East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative
- Ann Arbor, MI – Veridian @ County Farm
- Appleton, WI – Riverview Gardens
- Tempe, AZ – Culdesac
- Arvada, CO – Geos Neighborhood
If another developer purchases the property, are there plans to pivot to organize around interventions/demands to shape the outcomes and process of development?
Our game plan has always been: hard work + passion + persistence = success, to the largest degree possible. While our number one goal is to purchase and preserve 100% of this unique land as a community asset, we are mindful that there is steep competition for this parcel. It’s possible that the Voits will sub-divide the land and we will control some, but not all of it, and will partner with another Buyer. Alternatively we may never acquire any ownership in the land. Regardless of possible future outcomes, we will always push hard to ensure our core values are realized to the largest extent possible.
Do we know much about what the city would like to do with this land or what ideas they might be willing to approve?
In 2018 the City of Madison approved a Milwaukee Street Special Area Plan (SAP), which incorporated elements of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan and community feedback. The SAP lists goals and recommendations about future land uses for the area around Milwaukee Street, including Voit Farm, Swiss Colony (Amazon), Woodman’s, and the bus transfer point. While this was approved by the 2018 Common Council, we believe our current elected officials have an appetite for a more impactful project, which goes much further in providing positive social and environmental change. No one has outright opposed our vision, but many are sitting on the fence. It’s critical that they hear support for our vision from as many of their constituents as possible. Please consider emailing email@example.com to express strong support for this project and/or opposition to a cookie-cutter neighborhood subdivision.
Is Save the Farm against the Milwaukee Street Special Area Plan? / Is the Special Area Plan being abandoned?
The Milwaukee Street Special Area Plan (SAP) is very flexible with regards to implementation to allow for a variety of developments and visions. Apart from a couple key differences, we’re very much in alignment with the SAP.
The key differences between Save the Farm and the SAP are:
- The SAP extends Chicago Ave across Fair Oaks, adds a bridge over the Starkweather Creek, and across the Voit Farm.
- Save the Farm does not want this Chicago Ave extension for multiple reasons: It would disrupt the Starkweather ecosystem, require removal of a community member’s house, and cut through the area we propose for urban farming.
- Instead, we envision a car-lite development with bike and pedestrian connection to Fair Oaks in locations that minimize environmental impact.
- The SAP lays out 600 – 1000 housing units over 24.4 acres, with a traditional street grid.
- Save the Farm envisions up to 1000 housing units on 12 acres along the Milwaukee St frontage only. This is achieved by replacing roads with housing, requiring less surface parking for private vehicle ownership by implementing EV carsharing with the help of Zerology, and ensuring housing is more dense and sustainable by following the guidelines of the Living Building Challenge.
- The resulting savings of acreage will be used for urban agriculture and green space community commons. This area, which will be 4 times the size of Troy Farm, will be a public asset for the benefit all including local residents, the larger community, and visitors from around the nation.
Can you bring back the carnival?
We would very much like to bring back the carnival/festival, as a social justice benefit to build generational wealth for marginalized communities. However, we can only do this if we actually purchase the property.
How can community members support this initiative?
Fill out the survey, join our bi-weekly meetings or action teams, share our website on email listservs, donate to the GoFundMe, volunteer at a lit drop, express your interest in the investment cooperative, share the buzz on social media, and contact your alder and county supervisor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com