TOD Overlay District Facts and Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) and TOD Overlay?

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is a pedestrian-oriented, compact, mixed-use development that is centered on quality public transit. It typically includes a mix of housing, office, retail, neighborhood amenities, and other uses within walking distance of a transit station. This is a separate but related effort from the Bus Rapid Transit, which is settled legislation and has already begun construction.

What is TOD Overlay and what does it seek to do?

Increase density along the new BRT corridor by overlaying zoning "bonuses" on top of existing zoning that extends 1/4 mile from the initial route. In University Hill Farms, this means single-family homes could hypothetically now be duplexes and existing duplexes can be 3-units or triplexes according to zoning guidelines. Currently-zoned single-family homes in SR-C1 would be zoned SR-C2 (2-unit) and SR-C3 (2-Unit) would be SR-V1 (3-unit). The execution is in a line that essentially bifurcates the neighborhood in 2 sections: those with zoning changes and those without at arbitrary points outside of the 1/4 mile designation.

Zoning changes do not allow developers or private interests to purchase multiple properties and build anything other than what is on current or proposed TOD zoning restrictions and restrictions levied by deeds and covenants. In other words, a house or series of houses cannot be replaced by apartment buildings.

University Hill Farms is a National Historic District. Has the city met requirements for these zoning changes?

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires a review of such changes. It did meet the criteria when the Federal Transit Administration issued the letter of compliance on January 24, 2022 to the WI State Historical Society which stated historic districts would be excluded. This promise was broken by the Plan Commission vote on December 12, 2022 following Alder Furman’s introduction of a revised ordinance to include National and Local historic districts. This move was predicated by a conversation Transportation Director Tom Lynch had with someone at the FTA in November (no public record of this conversation has been provided) stating the FTA would not intervene in local decisions, thus clearing the way for the vote and introduction of the revised ordinance. Mr. Lynch communicated that conversation to the Transportation Policy and Planning Board on December 5, 2022 which is after the date to contest.

Has Hill Farms threatened to sue anyone in relation to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 ?

Hill Farms nor any past nor current Board Members have threatened to sue anyone as we were satisfied with the outcome of the section 106 process. If the City violates their assurances, Hill Farms can ask the Federal Transit Administration to reopen the section 106 process per the regulations.

Does the University Hill Farms Neighborhood Association oppose changes to increase density and diversity?

No. More than 2,000 apartments, some of which are being built currently like the Madison Yards, were part of the stated goals of the 2016 Neighborhood Plan. The creation of this plan included collaboration from members of the Neighborhood Association Board. Many neighbors also spoke in favor of the TOD Overlay.

What do University Hill Farms Deeds and Covenants state?

"All lots in the plat of University Hill Farms shall be used only for single family residential purposes... and no structure shall be erected altered, placed or permitted to remain upon any lot in said plat other than: one single family dwelling not exceeding two stories in height; one private garage attached to the house for not more than two cars unless the architectural control committee shall approve a detached garage or a garage for more than two cars."

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What happens when city law (such as zoning) and Covenants conflict?

The zoning and the covenants exist in two separate universes. One is a law (zoning) and the other a contract (covenants). The covenants are not repealed or amended by changes in zoning. The covenants are still enforceable by the lot owners in the plat in which the violation is occurring, not by the Association or the ARC, however. For example, if the covenants are violated in the Hill Top Addition, any resident in the Hill Top Addition can file suit in court for a Judge to decide.

What happened on November 22 in Common Council?

Minutes (Item 52)

Video not available (recording of meeting ends prior to Item 52).

The TOD Overlay District Ordinance changes were introduced at Common Council. After no discussion or actions, Alder Kieth Furman motioned to refer the proposed ordinance for consideration to the Transportation Policy and Planning Board and the Plan Commission. This motion was seconded by Alder Matt Phair. At this point, the proposed ordinance did not include Local and National Historic Districts.

What happened at the Transportation Policy & Planning Board: Meeting of December 5, 2022?

Watch Online (40:30 to 1:33:20)

Minutes (find 74703)

Alder Kieth Furman moved to approve with removing the exclusions for Local or National Historic Districts. This was seconded by Chris McCahill.

The motion passed unanimously by Alder Grant Foster, Alder Keith Furman, Alder Erik Paulson, Randy A. Udell, Christopher T. McCahill, Carolyn A. McAndrews, Thomas L. Wilson, Baltazar De Anda Santana and Badrinath Lankella.

What happened at the Plan Commission meeting on December 12, 2022?

Watch Online (4:06:13 to 5:47:00)

Minutes (find 74703)

On a motion by Alderman Heck amending sections within Chapter 28 of the Madison General Ordinances to implement the new Transit Orientated Development (“TOD”) Overlay District including Local and National Historic Districts. This was seconded by Nicole Solheim.

The motion passed 6-1 with the following voting AYE: Alderman Currie, Alderman Heck, Alderman Paulson, Dr. Maurice C. Sheppard, Nicole Solheim, Kathleen L Spencer;

What happened at Common Council on January 17, 2023?

Some 150 neighbors and community members spoke both in favor and against an amendment by Alder Tishler to remove National Districts from the TOD legislation. That amendment failed. The legislation was passed by a vote of 14 to 5 and several abstained.




  • TOD first included as part of Comprehensive plan. National and Local Historic districts not included in this recommendation (page 18, 32)



  • April 19: BRT passes at Common Council

  • May 11 & 16: City Planning held public meetings regarding TOD Overlay without National and Local Historic Districts included

  • May 25: After being rumored for months, District 11 Alder Arvina Martin resigns

  • June 7: District 11 Alder Bill Tishler assumes office

  • August 8: Plan Commission at held an Informal Vote for National and Local Historic districts to be included

  • August: Alder Paulson requested City Staff to write the legislative language such that National and Local Historic districts could be added but removed without requiring major rewrites

  • October 24: District 11 Town Hall Plan Department stated to the public at the Mayor’s own Town Hall that National and Local Historic districts would be excluded

  • November Director Tom Lynch had spoken to the Federal Transit Administration about Section 106 but there is no record of this conversation

  • November 15: 90-day Public comment period ended without National and Local Historic districts included

  • November 16: Referred from City Attorney to Common Council without National and Local Historic districts included

  • November 22: Introduction at Common Council (no discussion or debate), referral to the Transportation Policy and Planning Board and Plan Commission without National and Local Historic districts included

  • December 5: Transportation Policy and Planning Board discussion with National and Local Historic districts included

  • December 12: Plan Commission public hearing and discussion with National and Local Historic districts included


  • January 10 - City Planners presented TOD Overlay with National and Local Historic districts not included to Hill Farms residents for the first time!

  • January 17 - Common Council to voted to approve legislation including National and Local Historic Districts