City-Funded Solutions on Private Property

The Stormwater Utility is the primary source of funding for stormwater projects.  City ordinances prohibits the use of stormwater utility funds on private property improvements if the solution does not also benefit the public stormwater management system.

For example the Stormwater Utility could not fund elevating a private structure or closing a private low opening if that was the only property benefitting from the improvement.

Purchasing Houses, Buildings or Structures

The 1% Chance Storm Risk mapping was developed using a specific set of assumptions for purposes of the watershed studies. If a building or structure is shown to be in an area of inundation, it does not mean the structure will flood; it means the structure has a chance of flooding under certain conditions and more detail (such as survey elevations) may be necessary to determine the true risk.

There is a potential the City could purchase structures that have a history of flood damage or that may be necessary to implement a larger flood mitigation project. Purchase of private property would occur on a case-by-case basis. It would depend upon many things including, but not limited to:

  • The willingness of the property owner to sell the property and the willingness of the City to purchase the property
  • If a reasonable public solution can be built to reduce flood risk instead of purchase of the property
  • If adjacent properties also need to be purchased to make an impact to the larger regional flood solution
  • The current rules and regulations concerning purchase of private property
  • If the cost-benefit analysis indicates this is a viable option
  • Funding availability

Projects on Other City Property

Public property is managed by a variety of City agencies.  Only some of the property in the City of Madison was dedicated solely for stormwater purposes. Coordination with other City agencies is required if the City of Madison Stormwater Utility wants to do a project on public land was not dedicated for solely stormwater purposes. For example, Olin Park is owned by City of Madison Parks. If the City of Madison Stormwater Utility wanted to do a project in Olin Park, the Stormwater Utility would need to request permission and support from City of Madison Parks Commission in addition to approval from the Board of Public Works and the Common Council.

Most projects will have to be reviewed to determine if there are other issues that need to be taken into consideration and get approval by the appropriate Boards, Commissions or Committees that are charged with the oversite of the property, in the hypothetical case of Olin Park, the Board of Parks Commissioners approval would be sought. In addition, there may also be other concerns such as landmark or historical status and archeological impacts that would require Landmark Commission and State Historical Society approval as well. In other site there may be groundwater or well head protection zones or even landfill or contaminated soil concerns that need to be reviewed and permits or approvals granted. Other properties may have specific deed restrictions limiting the use of the lands. So just because the City owns property does not mean that it can be used in ways it was not originally intended.

City agencies work together on projects when possible however not all City property is available for stormwater and flood management.

Projects on Madison Metropolitan School District Property or County or State Lands

The Madison Metropolitan School District is a completely separate entity from the City of Madison.  If the City of Madison Stormwater Utility wants to do a project on Madison Metropolitan School District property, the City works with the School District like it would work with any other private property owner. They City does not have the right to condemn lands owned by the school district, county, state or federal governments.

Projects in Parks that used to be Landfills

Some closed landfills have added some park amenities.  For example, Mineral Point Park allows walking and snowshoeing. Other landfills have dog parks.  These park and landfill spaces need to be mostly left “as-is” and cannot be reconstructed into stormwater projects areas. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) regulates these areas for safe public use and if it’s a capped site there are WDNR permitting requirements or rules that would be necessary if any modification is done to the surface of the capped landfill.