Planning Commission discusses conditional use for personal care home

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By Nick Nunn staff writer

The Morgan County Planning Commission discussed an application for a conditional use permit to operate a congregate personal care home at 150 Hancock Street, Madison. The applicant, Patrick Reams, is proposing to convert the existing four-story structure at the address into a personal care home that will be able to house approximately 70 residents in residential rooms of roughly 400 square feet. The application states that no changes are proposed for the exterior of the building and that 90 full time and part time employees will be hired for the proposed use of the building. Madison Planning Director Monica Callahan said that the only concern raised so far has been parking, but she stated that the applicant plans to use 60 spaces on the lower level of the adjacent parking deck, which the applicant owns, for resident parking and will use parking spaces on the top level of the parking deck to cover the amount of spaces needed for a single shift of employees. Callahan said that the lower level of the parking deck is currently leased by Morgan County and the top level is leased by the city of Madison, but she did not indicate that there would be a conflict caused by the applicant’s planned use of the parking deck.

Planning Commission Chair Brian Lehman expressed concerns regarding fire safety in the building since there will be multiple residential uses. Morgan County Planning Director Chuck Jarrell said that it is likely that the applicant will have to “gut” the inside of the building in order to create the appropriate level of firewall protection required by contiguous residential rooms. There was also concern as to whether the local fire departments will be able to deal with four-story structures.

Callahan said that she would ask a representative of the fire department to come to the Planning Commission’s regular meeting to answer that concern. Commission members also asked why the staff report suggests that the conditional use should expire if construction does not begin within 12 months of approval. Callahan said that the expiration clause would prevent the staff from having to keep track of unused conditional use permits “in perpetuity.” The Planning Commission also looked at a request to rezone portions of tax parcels M08-043 and M08-041 at 555 Fifth Street, Madison, from Limited Commercial/Professional (P2) to Planned Residential District (PRD). The property, which is owned by the Downtown Development Authority of Madison, lies within the Historic Preservation Overlay District (HPO) and is also part of the Urban Renewal Area and the Economic Opportunity Zone. The rezoning proposal seeks to allow 44 units of housing in one main structure, and the intended use is for the development of affordable senior housing by Parallel Housing, Inc.

Madison planning staff recommended conditions on the rezone request, including that the property revert to its original zoning if Parallel Housing’s application to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program is denied by the Department of Community Affairs, that the property revert to its original zoning if sufficient Transfer of Development Rights are not obtained before construction begins, that the property be removed from the HPO before a Certificate of Occupancy. Commissioner Connie Booth indicated that she was concerned with voting on an application that depends on the use of Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) before the Madison City Council has held a vote approving a TDR ordinance. Callahan stated that the proposed TDR ordinance that is going before the city council for a vote on May 2 has had “nothing but positive comments.” She also stated that Parallel Housing has a June 3 application deadline Morgan County Planner Tara Cooner pointed out that the city council will have to hold a meeting to vote on the Planning Commission’s recommendation on the rezoning request before the rezone could become effective. which is why the Planning Commission was asked to look at the request this month as opposed to next month. Lehman asked about the appropriateness of yellow brick, which is intended for the exterior of the structure. Callahan said that yellow brick is “entirely appropriate” for institutional buildings of the 1920s, which the proposed structure intends to emulate.

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