Indoor playground still stymies Madison City Council
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Madison City Council members spent a second evening considering what city zones are appropriate for children's indoor playgrounds constructed in large, warehouse-like buildings. Do the businesses belong in industrial zones, because of the type of building in which they are housed? Or do they belong in high-activity commercial zones, such as those deemed appropriate for other indoor recreation like bowling alleys and skating rinks?
There was no clear-cut answer Monday night.
The council did vote unanimously to prepare a text amendment to their zoning ordinance which would allow indoor play centers as a permitted use in C-3 zones in the city. But there was some debate as to whether this action constituted a response to the women who hope to start a “Jungle Jumpers” inflatable play center in Madison, whose application to the city requested a text amendment allowing indoor playgrounds as a conditional use in I-1 zoning. No up or down vote was taken on the actual application.
During conversation as to whether the playgrounds were appropriate in I-1, council member Michael Naples reiterated his position, stated at the last council meeting, that allowing these recreational uses into I-1 zoning could weaken the city's ordinances.
“It just seems to me that we're trying to put a size-10 foot into a size-8 shoe,” said Naples. “We're only going to jeopardize our zoning ordinance.”
The council is very aware that industrial land within the city is an endangered species, and most members seem loathe to begin permitting uses in those zones which could proliferate and potentially prevent an actual light industry from locating in those few areas.
While the council technically does not consider the particular site involved with a business when considering text amendments to the overall zoning ordinance, the council was very aware that the I-1 location in which Jungle Jumpers had hoped to locate, a small parcel of land off Fairgrounds Road behind the Lions Club facility and just down the road from a day care center, represents some of the last industrial land in the city adjacent to a long strip of railroad.
Only complicating matters was the city's Future Land Use Map (FLUM), which shows that stretch of Fairgrounds Road as appropriate for commercial development.
“I'm having trouble with this disconnect,” said council member Connie Booth. “The land is zoned industrial, but our FLUM says it is going to be commercial...when do we make the change?”
City staff members pointed out that the FLUM shows what could happen in a particular area, not what is necessarily going to happen. After a protracted amount of discussion, Mayor Tom DuPree opted to close the discussion.
“I feel like this is not ripe for a decision tonight,” he said.
Because the council added the use to the C-3 zones, as is their right, but did not advertise to the public that such a zoning decision might come up at the meeting, the group opted to table further discussion until a later public meeting; they also asked the city attorney to get a second opinion on whether or not the decision to allow indoor playgrounds in C-3 constituted a response to the application which had asked for a text amendment to the I-1 zone. Under last night's decisions, Jungle Jumpers can come to Madison—but not on Fairgrounds Road.
In other business, council members noted that a discussion of the city's Impact Fee task force would be tabled until February 25. City Manager David Nunn also reported on a consent agreement that the city was asked to sign with the states Public Service Commission (PSC), an agreement that will eventually put into place new written versions of training procedures for those working on or with the state's gas pipelines.
“This deals with operator qualifications,” said Nunn. “In 2007, the PSC inspected all operators of the pipelines systems, and found that there was [a lack] of written procedures...they want written procedures for just about every conceivable action that you can take in and around the pipelines.”
Council members also tabled a discussion of the fees related to licenses for businesses providing adult entertainment.
Although there are currently no such businesses in Morgan County, the city wants to have all of its ordinances and fee structures in place should such an entity decide it wants to locate here. The current fee structures, constituting several hundred dollars for various parts of the license, would not, in all likelihood, cover the increased costs to the city should such a venue open; the council asked City Attorney Joe Reitman to research fees in other communities. They will take the matter up at a future meeting.