Watchdog group formed to monitor historic district

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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

A new citizen-led watchdog group has been established in an effort to protect Madison’s Historic District due to a few controversial zoning requests inside the district in the last year. The Historic Madison Coalition (HMC), a non-profit group with an eight-member board comprised of Historic District residents, is aiming to organize concerned citizens united in goal of preserving the integrity of the Historic District.

The group released a joint statement announcing its launch.

“The Historic Madison Coalition [is] to help citizens become better informed about historic preservation issues in the City and its Historic District. The Historic Madison Coalition was formed in response to growing concern for the historic integrity of the City arising from two recent debates concerning zoning in the Historic District,” the statement noted. “The first was the proposed Planned Residential Development (PRD) on the Foster-Thomason-Miller property on South Main Street. The second was the rezoning of property on North Avenue from R-1 to R-2 with no input from the Historic Preservation Commission.”

According to the HMC, both projects would harm the Historic District, eroding its character, tourism-appeal, and create population density, traffic, and noise problems.

“These controversies and the lack of easy-to-get basic information concerning them highlighted the need for a group that is current on these issues and can provide citizens with easy access to important documents forming the basis of discussion. Other potential threats to the character of Madison and its Historic District, vitally important to our economy, are likely to arise from time to time, and we hope to be there to help people better understand the issues and present insights as may be appropriate,” said the HMC’s joint press release.

The eight members of the HMC board include Alex Newton, Glenn Eskew, Carol Winslow, Stratton Hicky, Elizabeth Bell, Sally Tuell, Celia Murray, Selwyn Hollis.

According to Chairman Alex Newton, while the HMC may have been born out of these two specific proposed rezoning requests, the group will broaden its focus beyond these issues.

“We are not a single-issue group,” said Newton. “This is a long-term effort to protect the district and maybe, eventually, other historic sites outside of the district… We are trying to do our best to preserve the historic district and address any matters that can be make it better or keep it from going down hill.”

Stratton Hicky, HMC board member, joined because of his concern that the Historic Preservation Commission is not being given the proper role in approving proposed projects in the district. Hicky fears that a push for more development within the district will harm the local economy and local property values.

“I was getting concerned that the city council was getting somewhat calloused to the concerns of the historic district residents,” said Hicky. “Some people charge us with being elitist, and I guess in some ways we are because we are wanting to protect our property values,” said Hicky. “Anybody can live in the historic district, but there are some real restrictions and limits to be able to do that. It can be a burden at times. It’s a responsibility to live here and keep the history intact.”

HMC is encouraging interested citizens to contact them and get involved in the group. To find out more information, e-mail historicmadisoncoalition@gmail.com.

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