Soliciting Neighbor Feedback: Occupy Madison Memo

Hello, Emerson East residents,

The Emerson East Neighborhood Association would like to solicit your feedback on this memo to the City of Madison Planning Division.  Would you like to add any contingencies?  Do you have any comments on the overall content?  If so, you may post a comment here on this entry, or email Meredith Lowe at  Comments are due at 8pm on Tuesday, April 15.  Please submit comments only if you are a resident of the Emerson East neighborhood.


TO: City of Madison Planning Division

FROM: Emerson East Neighborhood Association

DATE: April 8, 2014

SUBJECT: Occupy Madison Tiny Houses/Village Proposal, 2046-2050 East Johnson Street

The Emerson East Neighborhood Association (EENA) recognizes that residents in the neighborhood care deeply about homelessness as a societal problem and human rights issue. However, EENA residents hold diverse opinions on the Occupy Madison Tiny House / Village project and its appropriateness for our neighborhood. Some residents support the proposed tiny home village, some do not support the project, and there is a very broad spectrum of opinion in the middle. Given this range of opinion, EENA voted at our meeting on April 2, 2014 to remain neutral on the project itself. EENA views itself as a facilitator of meetings between the city, developer, and residents, and has historically remained neutral during other neighborhood projects.

However, EENA would like to propose some contingencies, should this Occupy Madison project move forward.

We request that:

1)      The site should remain under the continuing jurisdiction of the City of Madison Plan Commission

2)      Occupy Madison shall post property manager contact information in a publicly visible place so that any resident of the neighborhood can contact that person or persons with concerns.

3)      The City should disallow the use of compost toilets in the tiny homes.

4)      Workshop hours should be limited from 8AM – 8PM on weekdays, and 10AM – 8PM on weekends and holidays.

5)      Tiny homes should not be allowed to park on streets within the neighborhood borders.

6)      The site should maintain appropriate noise levels at all times.

7)      Should the property leave Occupy Madison’s ownership at a future date, the property should revert to neighborhood mixed use zoning.


4 thoughts on “Soliciting Neighbor Feedback: Occupy Madison Memo

  1. Stuart, neighbors voiced concerns about smell (particularly in summer months) and sanitation if the property were to flood. According the reps from Occupy Madison at our April 2nd meeting, the tiny houses will no longer be supplied with the toilets anyway – residents of the village will have 24/7 access to the plumbed toilets within the permanent structure. This is just the neighborhood association reiterating that there was strong opposition of the compost toilets voiced by neighbors, and asking that the city continue to support that.

  2. Howdy All: Sorry for my prolonged absence but have been dealing w/ some health issues. Spring is coming and I’ll take it as an opportunity for growth. In reading the memo I have formed some conclusions and have perspective to share. Most concerns seem to be under the assumption that people will be boisterous w/ car camping going on intermittently. We should be embracing this opportunity to make history and demonstrate the “Wisconsin Idea” is alive and well. We can live up to and act on our reputation of a progressive city and provide a partnership to empower our people – friends, strangers, and family – to rise above the oppression of a system that in the name of “not enough profit” casts off the resources needed by our people to simply live. The premises which have fostered the growth of Tiny Houses can be the foundation to make our homes more friendly to our world.
    For those concerned about deprecated house values, you can collectively organize and negotiate w/ mortgage companies/banks to share some of the loss (if it happens) by increasing the value of your equity (if have not completed payments/gained ownership from MC/Banks) to account for differences in home value. If you have paid off the mortgage and in fact own your home the brokers can pay the difference between original price and deprecated price based on the percentage once you sell the house. So before I address specific concerns of the memo I’d like to conclude my narrative saying, I think the concerns are built with the perspective of failure. We need to have faith in its success and the willpower to achieve it.
    Concerns by number:
    3) Composting toilets can save water and produce soil enrichers that can be used from home gardens to community farms to public works (parks, highway medians, rail corridors, wetland amelioration projects and former brownfield sites) to private landscaping. There are variables to consider for implementation. Basically type of toilet ( solar, no water, electric fan system), how installed (contained entirely indoors or having a mixed indoor/outdoor component to utilize solar energy), rate of emptying (which will address concerns of smells – though I find Oscar Meyer smells that drift down this area are accepted as part of the neighborhood) , where product goes, how transported, and cost of services (can be monetary or in-kind). This is a link to a good description of the essence of composting toilets. it provides a nice series of comments that can be additionally enlightening or correcting of misperceptions – both pro and con.
    The use of composting toilets can create a partnership between the city and residents by having city vehicles pick up the finished product and bring it to the public space that needs this to improve soil quality and productivity. A nice “win, win” situation that can allow for any profits to be set aside for a public fund for other similar projects. The use of gray can be applied as well as using alternative energy(both passive and active solar, small-scale wind, and yet to be discovered technologies that can have minimal impact on the planet). Hopefully more conventional homes can be designed similarly.
    4) Workshop hours should be flexible and reflect the times that people can attend. It seems wasteful to insist on business hours when people have to work/care give (and w/ single parent families having to be concerned w/ both) resulting in low numbers. If a larger number of people can attend a workshop at either end of the timeframe (say 6:30 AM and 7:00 PM)it will ensure the workshop is successful.
    5) Tiny Houses not allowed on streets. Would these not be considered motorhomes/RVs? Apply the same statues for these or address by classifying and clarifying determination of vehicle type through statute formation.
    6) Noise levels. Same as above – equal application of already existing laws. (Is this a pattern of intolerance and prohibitive thinking?)
    7) Reverting back to mixed use zoning. How would this happen? Sounds like hedging a bet because of fear of failure.
    As I have stated I have been out of touch so I am assuming that there are plans by the Tiny House group to address these concerns. A strong proactive policy should account for the future concerns that may occur during the development process. Let’s be good parents and do what we can to help this project mature during its formative years!


    • Thank you for your feedback, Rich. I will clarify in the memo that the compost toilets should not be allowed because Occupy has stated that they will no longer be installed in the homes. They will be renovating the workshop on the property to provide enough restroom services for the OM village residents.

      The hours at the shop are requested by those who live within feet of the property, and are concerned about noise issues at times that are not the norm for a residential neighborhood. EENA would like this project to adhere to the idea that this is a residential neighborhood, because they will be doing manufacturing on site – therefore, we think it’s a reasonable request. I should also mention that representatives of OM Inc were at this same meeting where these contingencies were discussed, and found them reasonable. We are aware that existing laws are in place. This memo is a mechanism to make sure that OM, the neighborhood, and the city are on the same page. It’s a communication tool, not an ultimatum. We have made contingency requests of other developers in the past, and this is not an exceptional list of requests.

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