City Council denies North Avenue rezone
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Madison City Council members voted unanimously Monday, Feburary 9 to deny a request by Jeff Royal to rezone nearly two-and-a-quarter acres on North Avenue to R-2 from R-1.
The council first considered the rezoning application in November, but tabled the discussion several times while attempting to explore all options in the area.
“We’ve certainly considered this thing very carefully,” said Mayor Tom DuPree.
Jeff Royal and his business partner and father, Everett Royal, purchased the two-plus acres on North Avenue in the hopes of renovating an existing historic house and building two more houses on the site. But the acreage was just shy of that needed to split the parcel into the three-.75 acre lots required by the R-1 zoning classification. The Royals applied to have the zoning changed to R-2, which would necessitate only half-acre lots, but met with opposition from the council, some members of which were concerned about the precedent of changing zoning in the historic district. Other council members were concerned about the look of the infill-style development.
Council member Michael Naples made the motion to deny the petition, citing several of the city’s standards for granting zoning changes which Naples said were not met. Ultimately, council members agreed with him.
“Of course, we are very disappointed that the City Council didn’t agree with us that the North Avenue rezoning was good for Madison,” said Jeff Royal in a statement on Tuesday. “They tabled us three times, with instructions to come back and provide additional information…each time, we agreed to make suggested changes but ultimately Councilman Naples was able to kill the zoning. It is unfortunate that at a time when jobs are critical, the City Council was willing to eliminate 8-10 jobs over the next 12-14 months,” said Royal.
The Royals had told council members that if they were not able to develop three houses on the lot, they might have to suspend renovation work on the historic home currently being repaired. But Naples maintained that the lot was viable even without three houses, and pointed out that the financial considerations of developers cannot influence zoning decisions.
Naples called the Madison historic district an “irreplaceable resource” that must be protected.
Following the vote to deny the rezoning, council member Fred Perriman made a motion to add to the agenda a discussion of a possible city-initiated rezoning of multiple lots on North Avenue from R-1 to R-2.
But the vote on whether to add the discussion to the agenda failed 3-2, with council members Perriman and Rick Blanton in favor of the discussion, and council members Naples, Whitey Hunt, and Connie Booth voting against the item. The discussion was not added to the agenda.
In other city business, the five-year comprehensive plan update is nearly complete, and the city will hold a special called meeting on Tuesday, February 17, at 8:30 a.m. at the Madison Fire Station to formally adopt the plan.
In the meantime, a final list of projects prioritized by the Madison City Council is being prepared. That list will be available to the public by this Friday, February 13.
“These are not new projects,” clarified Madison Planning Director Monica Callahan.
“These are projects that are already in the plan, have already been subject to review by the public…we simply want the council to tell us their priorities so that we can enclose them with the plan,” said Callahan.
Finally, City Manager David Nunn said that much of the new Town Park will be complete by mid-March.
“The pavilion will be done, the cottage will be done, much of the hardscape and walkways will be done,” said Nunn. “We’ll still be working on the gazebo and some of the landscape elements…the fountain should be placed within the next couple of weeks,” said Nunn.
“That will be a milestone, to say the least.”
Published in the February 19 edition.