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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

Madison’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) formally issued a letter denouncing a rezoning request for the resurrected Foster Park project, a proposed housing development behind the historic Miller Thomason House on South Main Street.

Developer Brad Good originally sought approval for a Planned Residential Development (PRD) before the zoning designation was eliminated from the Historic District altogether last December. The nearly 11-acre plot of land is currently zoned as R-2 and could technically support 20 housing units. However, depending on needed infrastructure to go along with a housing development, such as roads, Good believes the current zoning status would only support about 13 housing units under R2’s required lot sizes. Good is seeking a map amendment to rezone the land to an R4 zoning designation in order to reduce the minimum lot size required, which would enable him to carry out the 24-house plan proposed.

After a three-hour meeting on Tuesday, July 11, at which nearly 40 citizens attended to debate the proposal, HPC members acknowledged that at some point the property would be developed, but could not support this particular request to rezone the property in order to accommodate more buildable housing lots.

“With a quorum present, the HPC voted unanimously to authorize me as chairman to communicate to you our recommendation that the proposed rezoning from R-2 to R-4 be rejected on the grounds that it would allow development of the tract in a manner significantly inconsistent with the historical pattern of the adjacent Foster-Pine-Plum-Poplar neighborhood,” wrote HPC Chairman Flynn Clyburn. “This recommendation should not be construed to mean that the Commission would oppose any plan that included a mix of large and small lots on this tract, but the Commission does believe that the specific “Foster Park” preliminary plan and R-4 zoning, in general, would allow for the massing of small lots in a configuration that is historically inappropriate.”

Brad Good argued that although rezoning the property to an R-4 status would technically allow for 40 housing units, that he would publicly commit himself to building only 24 houses as his current site plan depicts. Good also argued that the rezoning classification would free up the land to have houses on both sides of a street in keeping with other neighborhoods in the Historic District. 

But the citizens present begged to differ with Good’s assessment, arguing that the Foster Park development add too much density, traffic, noise, decrease surrounding home values, and depart from the look and feel of the historic district. 

“Part of the pitch for this plan that we heard from Mr. Good is that it wouldn’t be visible,” said Elizabeth Bell of Good’s claim that the project wouldn’t be visible from Main Street.  “If your pitch is that ‘oh you won’t be able to see it,’ then what does that tell you about the plan? It’s inappropriate. The lot size will affect density…It is an inappropriate development for the Historic District.”

Citizens feared that a rezoning approval would lead to a “slippery slope” situation, bringing in dense development and deteriorating the integrity of the Historic District. 

“I encourage you to not recommend to the zoning commission a rezoning that is irreversible,” said Celia Murray, another resident of the Historic District. 

“Mr. Good has not told us what kind of houses he plans to put on those lots,” said Chuck Dorr, a local attorney. “You do not have sufficient information in front of you to form any kind of informed opinion.”

The HPC sided with the opposition on this particular request but warned citizens not to oppose PRDs or zoning changes as a concept in the future just because they are against this particular project. While the HPC has filed an official comment against the Good’s rezoning application, the matter is far from over.

The Madison Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) will review Good’s application this Thursday, July 20 at 5:30 p.m. in the City of Madison’s meeting hall located at 160 North Main Street, Suite 400. The PZC will make a recommendation for approval or denial, but the final decision will be made by the Madison Mayor and City Council at the Monday, August 14 regular meeting. 

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