Foster Street project put on hold a month

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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

More than  a dozen citizens left City of Madison’s Meeting Hall disappointed last Thursday, when the rezoning application review for the controversial Miller Property Development on Foster Street was postponed last minute. The Madison Planning and Zoning Commission rescheduled the meeting after the developer, Edward Good, on behalf of Friesen Real Estate Holdings, filed a request for a continuance after discovering additional requirements needed to complete the rezoning process for 622 Foster Street in the Historic District of Madison, in an effort to construct a 37-home neighborhood on the 12-plus acre property. Good’s plan for the neighborhood includes 16 cottages ranging from 1,800 to 2,000-square-feet, and 21 homes ranging from 2,200 to 2,400-sqaure-feet. The cottages will all have free standing garages and the homes will have attached garages in the rear, but will look attached rather than as an original part of the home. A central park is also included in the plan with pedestrian access from Main Street and walking trails.

Good submitted a letter relaying “legal and constitutional objections” to the potential rejection of his rezoning request, believing the City of Madison’s Code of Ordinances to be insufficient to handle the request property.

“The City of Madison’s Code of Ordinances lacks adequate standards for the City Council to exercise its power to review these applications. The standards are not sufficient to contain the discretion for the City Council and to provide the Courts with a reasonable basis for judicial review,” wrote Good. “Because the stated standards (individually and collectively) are too vague and uncertain to provide reasonable guidance, the City of Madison’s Code of Ordinances is unlawful and violates, among other things, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States…”

Good argued in his letter, that if the city refuses his request for the rezoning that it would amount to the “taking of property,” “discriminate unfairly between owners,” and be “unlawful, arbitrary, capricious, irrational and a manifest abuse of discretion.”

“A refusal to grant the rezoning in question would be unjustified from a fact-based standpoint and instead would result only from constituent opposition, which would be an unlawful delegation of authority…” wrote Good.

Local citizens have already vocalized opposition to the proposed project, filling the last Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) meeting addressing the proposal, as well as submitting letters to the city and to the Morgan County Citizen. Most of the concerns revolve around a new subdivision being too dense and out-of-place for the location, increased traffic, and a precedent set if rezoning is approved to pave the way for more developments. “The Applicants are asking to have the property and the vacant lot next to it rezoned to become a part of the bigger development scheme, and once that R-1 designation is lost, anything can happen to those two properties, either through these Applicants or anyone to whom they might sell the development down the road,” wrote Elizabeth Bell in her letter to the City.

“[The Miller House Development would have] too many houses squeezed together, totally out of character with the neighborhood and historic district—a terrible precedent,” wrote in Alexander Durham Newton, who also expressed concerns over increased parking and traffic, as well as the fate of the historic Foster-Thomason-Miller House. “Who is going to want to spend the money to restore this grande dame to its former grandeur if it has essentially a tiny unusable back yard (not to mention a public pathway adjoining it to the south – who wants that?) – no one. This is especially the case when one considers that there are over 10 other old homes presently for sale in Madison’s historic district alone, many on the market for years, not including some major pre-Civil War ones taken off.”

The public will have the opportunity to give feedback on the Miller Property rezoning application at the next Madison Planning and Zoning Commission regular meeting on Thursday, July 21, at 5:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in the Madison City Meeting Hall, located at 160 North Main Street, Suite 400.

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