Advocacy Organization supports Local Developers
Smart Growth Greater Madison represents the interests of Dane County’s real estate developer and contractor community
Founded in 2003 by a group of real estate developers as an entity to represent the voice of the developers’ community, the mission of the non-profit advocacy organization Smart Growth Greater Madison is to further rational public policy as it pertains to real estate development throughout Dane County. This group has been involved in policy and advocacy for such development-related issues as zoning code rewrites, land ordinance rewrites, tax incremental financing policy, demolition standards, energy benchmarking, development process review changes, parking standards, changes to signage requirements for mixed use/multifamily and commercial buildings, and affordable housing policy—basically anything that falls within state statutes or local ordinances that can be considered either pro- or anti-development.
Terrence Wall, one of the organization’s founders (who is also President and Owner of T. Wall Enterprises), notes, “Smart Growth has been an incredible asset to my organization. As a founding member, I wanted an organization solely focused on issues that impact development. Thirteen years later, Smart Growth has evolved into a known and respected organization. The resources that are afforded to my business and the businesses of our members have proved invaluable. Smart Growth will provide immediate value to a new member.”
Smart Growth Greater Madison is, in fact, membership based and annual dues afford all members access to the many services the group provides. Overall, members fall into two main categories. The first is multifamily or commercial developers. The other category—associate members—includes anyone who does business with a developer throughout the course of a project. For example, lawyers, bankers, insurance companies, title companies, architects, civil engineering firms and general contractors. With such a wide array of talent in the mix, Smart Growth has an unparalleled pool of resources at hand.
In addition to advocacy, the group offers educational resources for group members and the public on myriad issues surrounding development. Membership benefits, in fact, include coordinated activism on behalf of the developer and contractor community as well as education, outreach and seminars. Courses are offered at least once a month, be it at a breakfast, luncheon or happy hour event—experts in an area of focus provide members with an educational perspective on key issues.
Meeting the Community’s Needs
The need for such an organization and the benefits it brings are central to the group’s core philosophy. According to Matt Brink, Executive Director of Smart Growth Greater Madison, “There is such a moving landscape with laws and there’s so much to keep up on, even a small change in the zoning code can be disastrous. We have to have people watching that. Our current development members who formed Smart Growth felt there was not an organization that was 1. solely focusing on those issues and 2. was mobile enough to go after issues without having a lengthy board approval process. We’re a very flexible organization so we can attack things quickly, without a lot of red tape.”
Matt notes that Smart Growth is currently working towards re-crafting Smart Growth to be an even more proactive organization. He says, “Madison is a very progressive city and so much is changing. For instance, we’re always looking to be more environmentally friendly, which is great but most of the time that adds costs. And there wasn’t someone saying here are the ramifications, how can we work together to benefit everyone—make it more of a win-win.” Increasingly, Smart Growth’s goal will be to keep members apprised of what is going on and be a thorough conduit to elected officials, city channels, alders, etc. to keep the avenues of communication open related to some very complicated issues that impact all parties. The value-add here is the idea that Smart Growth monitors all public agendas—common council, planning commission, urban design—all the commissions a developer would have to go through as part of the development process. As Matt shares, “It’s a lot for people to have to keep on top of with their ‘day jobs’ so Smart Growth takes on that monitoring role. And that information spurs conversation.” With this said, new members are always welcome, whether it’s a plumbing firm or a siding contractor. Anyone with a vested interested in Madison’s real estate development process can have a voice and reap the benefits of resources they wouldn’t otherwise have available to them.