Whitewater park concept plan (copy)

A proposal from 2018 to build a whitewater park along the Yahara River illustrates some of the complications that could arise with the as-yet unclear southern boundary of the power plant building, which now has Local Landmark status. Changes within that landmark area are subject to review by the Landmarks Commission.

The power plant building on Fourth Street is now eligible to be registered on the State and National Register of Historic Places.

The building, once connected to the Yahara River dam, was built in 1911, according to an entry in the Wisconsin Historical Society archives.

In a resolution Tuesday, Aug. 12, the Common Council unanimously approved the Landmarks Commission’s definition of the landmark boundaries for the power plant. The building could not be registered as a landmark until the city created boundaries to cut the building out of a larger parcel that includes the former public works building.

The commission designated the northern and eastern boundaries 30 feet and 50 feet from the power plant, respectively, and it defined the western and southern boundaries using the parcel’s property boundaries.

As the commission could not find any record of the parcel’s original property boundaries when reviewing historical documents and maps, this made the southern boundary ambiguous. The commission was able to determine the western boundary of the parcel must be the sidewalk.

After some debate, including concerns about potential conflicts with future riverfront redevelopment, the council decided to approve the commission’s recommendation.

The belief appeared to be that the parcel’s southern boundary is somewhere along Yahara river, with part of the power plant building at the river’s edge, which would mean any redevelopment efforts in this space would be subject to the approval of the Landmarks Commission. That was a concern Ald. Timothy Riley (Dist. 1) raised.

But city attorney Matt Dregne told alders it would be important for the city to retain control of property south of the power plant for riverfront redevelopment plans, including trail improvements and a whitewater park.

The commission had recommended going with the ambiguous property line because it could not authorize a survey to be taken, commission chair Peggy Veregin told the council. She explained it was considered an accepted best practice that would allow the city to move forward with registering the landmark.

The parcel’s property boundaries, along with the landmark’s western and southern boundaries, will therefore be determined when the parcel is going to be sold as part of the riverfront redevelopment, and that will require a survey, she said.

Council president Tom Majewski (D-3) suggested the council deny the boundary until the southern boundary is changed to match the riparian edge, which is where the aquatic ecology from the Yahara River ends.

Ald. Lisa Reeves (D-2) wanted to continue the discussion, but a majority of the council decided to end the debate.