Doug Schoepp wasn't trying to set a city record when he built his house last year on Madison's far west side, off Mid Town Road.
Schoepp - who owns Schoepp Motors Inc. - says he and his wife, Michelle, just wanted a house big enough for them, their three children and both sets of parents, should they ever need to move in.
"My grandfather went into a nursing home...at 84 years old and just gave up on life," says Schoepp, who moved in with his family last month. "We made a promise that none of our four parents will go into a nursing home. We designed it so they can all live in it."
In doing so, Schoepp built Madison's largest single-family home. Located at 18 Turnwood Circle in an upscale neighborhood known as Hawks Landing, the house has 15,768 square feet of finished space (including 7,154 square feet in the basement). Built on two lots that were combined, the house has seven bedrooms, seven full bathrooms, two half-bathrooms, three fireplaces, a gymnasium, a hot-tub room, a theater room, a play room, a rec room, a golf room and garage space for nine cars. There's also a 6,000-square-foot patio and a pool.
The next biggest house is owned by George Gialamas at 100 Thorstrand Rd., just off University Avenue on Lake Mendota. It has 10,492 square feet of finished space, with an assessed value (house and land combined) of $3.1 million. Schoepp's home, finished in January, has not yet been assessed.
By contrast, the smallest house in Madison is a 336-square-foot structure at 4157 Veith Ave. Owned by Collin and Margaret Schroeder and assessed at $104,000, the house is almost the same size as a shed on the same property.
Other homes in the Hawks Landing neighborhood range from 3,500 to 6,400 square feet. Because Schoepp's house has more than 10,000 square feet of finished space, it required a conditional-use permit, which city planner Kevin Firchow says is unheard of for homes: "I've been here for three years, and that's the only one we've seen."
To qualify for the conditional-use permit, a house must meet several criteria. Madison Plan Commission member Judy Olson, who cast the lone no vote against the Schoepp home permit, describes the standards as "kind of vague."
"I felt its size compared to surroundings did violate the standards," she says. "And it also concerned me that the owner may not be able to sell it as a single-family house and it would end up being turned into apartments."
But, she adds, "I don't think it sets up a precedent or an encouragement for other similar size houses."
Which means Schoepp might hold the record for some time to come.
Multi-space meters arrive
Next time you land a parking space downtown, you might be feeding some newfangled contraption instead of a traditional parking meter.
The city is installing new multi-space meters at parking lots and streets downtown. The city tried out two types of multi-space meters (see Watch Out!, 7/5/2007) but settled on one that has parkers enter their space number into the electronic meter. It takes credit and debit cards as well as coins.
Bill Putnam, Madison parking engineer, says the meters will be more convenient for parkers and meter attendants, who won't have to individually check each car.
The city plans to install about 100 of the new meters this year, with another 100 likely. It won't get rid of all the 1,600 single-space meters, Putnam says, since the city needs "areas high in usage to cover the cost."
The new meters will cost $1.70 an hour for street parking and $1.45 for lots, 20 cents more than the current rate. "Part of that," says Putnam, "helps cover the cost of the machines."
Sherman Avenue to get new look
Later this year, Madison hopes to finish the reconstruction of Sherman Avenue along Warner Park.
Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway, whose district includes the project, says there's been contention between those who want improved bike and pedestrian access and those who want to maintain four lanes of traffic.
The proposal - to be unveiled March 9 at a public meeting at Warner Park - doesn't keep four lanes of traffic, but Rhodes-Conway hopes it's an acceptable compromise.
"I hope this is something everybody can support," she says. "I think everybody recognizes there's a lot of pedestrian traffic across Sherman, and it's not a safe crossing. I think this addresses that."
The proposal being presented next week would rebuild Sherman between Trailsway Street and Northport Drive into a boulevard with a median. There will be two lanes of traffic northbound and one lane southbound, with left-hand turn lanes at intersections going south. There will be bike lanes on both sides.
City engineer Glen Yoerger says the city looked at having two lanes in both directions, but that meant losing more trees. "We tried to lessen the impact on the trees and the park," he says.
The current plan would sacrifice 18 to 20 trees.