Law Group Challenges Madison’s Ordinance for Bird-Friendly Glass

According to the National Audubon Society, up to a billion birds die as a result of window collisions each year. A number of cities and other jurisdictions, including Madison, Wis., have adopted legislation and regulations to try and mitigate those collisions. However, less than a year after the Madison Common Council unanimously adopted Wisconsin’s first bird-friendly building ordinance, one local law group is now seeking to undermine that decision. The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a Notice of Claim alleging that the city’s new mandatory bird-safe glass ordinance is in conflict with state law.

The claim was filed on March 3 on behalf of four real estate, development and building associations, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Wisconsin, Commercial Association of Realtors of Wisconsin (CARW), Wisconsin Builders Association, and NAIOP Wisconsin – the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.

The city’s ordinance went into effect on October 1, 2020, and requires all buildings over 10,000 square feet, skyways and other glass features to incorporate bird-visible safety features of dots or lines into the glass treatment. The notice filed by WILL states that the ordinance is “illegal and violates the settled expectations of builders, contractors, developers, and property owners,” and says if enforced, it will lessen the number of jobs, increase housing and rent costs, and deter investments away from Madison.

“Wisconsin’s Uniform Commercial Building Code passed with overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans because it simplified and streamlined building regulations, keeping costs reasonable without affecting safety or quality. Madison’s Bird-Glass ordinance, no matter how well-intentioned, is the first slippery step toward creating a confusing patchwork of local red tape and higher building costs,” says John Mielke, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, one of the groups represented by WILL.

“The City of Madison’s ordinance sets a dangerous precedent for communities looking to attract and expand business and thus create jobs,” adds Tracy Johnson, president and CEO for the Commercial Association of Realtors of Wisconsin. “Straying from the uniform building code would put communities at a competitive disadvantage for attracting investment as well as hinder businesses and their commercial real estate partners who rely on uniform code to ensure certainty in project cost and delivery.”

The notice informs the city that the groups intend to file a suit in court if the ordinance is not modified in 120 days.

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