City to add ‘event facility’ to local zoning ordinances

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By Patrick Yost

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Hallie Duan, owner of Empire Mills, came to the city of Madison recently to purchase a business license for her event facility.

The city couldn’t do it.

According to City Planner, Monica Callahan, the request, which she said was valid, was the first of its kind. The city, she told the Madison City Council Friday during a work session, does not have a designation for an “event facility,” per se.

However, she said, the city’s planning department was currently reviewing existing businesses within the city limits that could fit the designation of an event facility. “We do not have a specific section in our ordinance for event facilities,” she told the council. She said the city had identified the Madison–Morgan Cultural Center, the James Madison Convention Center, Holiday Inn Express, the Madison Chophouse, Madison Oaks, Heritage Hall and the Brady Inn as sites that currently have the ability or have operated as an event facility in the past. Callahan also identified the Madison Tea Room, which is owned by mayoral candidate Kathi Russell, as a site that could fit the designation. She said both Russell and Duan had recently requested business licenses and the city was proceeding with caution. “We are looking at adding an event facility designation,” she said, “but we don’t want to have the conflicts the county has had.”

Recently two requests for event facilities in Morgan County have been denied by the Morgan County Board of Commissioners, in large part, because of neighborhood protests around the requests.

Callahan said the city would draft a designation that would insure the facility is “buffered by commercial zoning.”

“It’s pretty easy for us to add it to the land use table,” she said. She also said planners would also “allow latitude for existing businesses.”

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