By Tia Lynn Ivey
Another zoning controversy was brought before the Madison Mayor and City Council last Monday. The council voted unanimously to approve a residential rezoning request despite surrounding residents’ opposition. A public hearing was held before the council’s vote on the application seeking to rezone four parcels of land in one the city’s historic district overlays on North Avenue, across from the Golden Pantry and railroad tracks.
Property owners Everett Royal and Evelyn Willet sought to rezone the properties from a Residential 1 designation to a Residential 2 designation in order to facilitate the construction of at least two single-family dwellings, possibly three—all of which would be rental properties. The new zoning designation would reduce the lot size requirements necessary to build new single-family dwellings. However, in order for Royal and Willet to move forward with the project, they will have to seek a text amendment, a conditional-use approval, and variance from city council, all which will require public notice and public hearings before approval can be granted or denied.
Opponents to the rezoning applications appeared before the council Monday night, arguing that the construction of new houses in this location would result in too much density, traffic, noise and light pollution, and would ultimately decrease property values in the surrounding neighborhood as well as erode the integrity of the Historic District.
Neighbors Grady and Sally Tuell, as well as Selwyn Hollis, were among the residents opposed to the project.
“I am worried that these rental properties would decrease our property values and our standard of living,” said Grady Tuell.
“And this isn’t just about our properties,” said Sally Tuell. “The other citizens of Madison will feel the trickle-down effect of increased density and the domino-effect of other property owners asking to subdivide their properties for their own financial gain at the expense of the surrounding neighborhood.”
Councilman Joe Diletto was unconvinced by opponents’ concerns.
“Ya’ll are going on and on about this and I respect ya’ll’s position on it, but I would need a professional to come tell me this would make your property values go down, I just don’t see how…I don’t know what it is about having another neighbor behind you that is so terrifying? The railroad, with the noise and whistles would affect me more than having a neighbor back there,” said Diletto.
The council explored numerous variations, restrictions and rezoning options, inquiring of city staff to explain detailed zoning policies, procedures, and possible repercussions of approval. After an hour-and-half discussion, the council cautiously voted to approve the rezoning request, but emphasized the project itself would require further applications and approvals.
Royal and Willet will have to take their proposed site plan for the properties to the Downtown Development Authority and Historic Preservation Commission and back again the Mayor and City Council for further approval before any new houses can be built.
Opponents left Monday night’s evening disappointed.
“Thanks for nothing,” said Grady Tuell to the council after they voted to approve the rezoning request.
As the City of Madison grows and the demand for affordable housing increases, the council will be faced with the difficult task of adding housing density while balancing the desire among historic district residents to preserve their neighborhoods.
“We have to be careful when looking at these,” said Madison Mayor Fred Perriman.