Rezoning paves way for Starbucks, pawn shops downtown

Jesse Walker News

Two recommendations from Madison’s Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) may pave the way for a Starbucks to set up shop in Madison as well as pawn shops downtown, which Madison has never allowed.

Last Thursday, The PZC voted unanimously to recommend approval for a zoning change that is necessary in order for Starbucks to open a store at the company’s preferred location beside the Steak N’ Shake on U.S. 441. The PZC also voted to allow for pawn shops in the C1 District of the City of Madison, with member Sherry Alexander Terrell abstaining from the vote.

According to City Manager David Nunn, the allowance of pawn shops in this Downtown District is not being done in order for new pawn shop businesses to open downtown, but was prompted to remedy a long-time dispute between The City of Madison and Steve Stempinski, the owner of Steve’s Place.

Stempinski currently classifies his shop as a “discount department store” since pawn shops are not allowed in the C1 District. But the City of Madison contended Steve’s Place essentially operates as a pawn shop and wanted Stempinski to comply with reporting regulations specific to pawn shops. Stempinski has appeared before the Mayor and City Council numerous times in the last couple of years to make his case and even filed suit against Madison’s Chief of Police Bill Ashburn and City Attorney Joe Reitman.

“Cracking this door open just a little on this is about getting everyone in compliance with the law,” said Nunn, who noted Stempinski has been in business for about 20 years at this current location downtown that has never posed a problem for the city. “Over the years, his store has morphed into a pawn shop and that needs to be reflected. If we make this allowance, Steve’s Place will officially be a pawn shop and he will be expected to comply with all regulations for pawn shops.”

Nunn also said no one else has asked to open a pawn shop downtown at this time. “Theoretically, someone else could apply to open one once this is passed, but no one has asked yet,” said Nunn. “We are opening this very narrowly and possibly not for long. The Mayor and City Council will review this in the future to see how long they wish to keep it and if they get rid of it, Steve’s Place will still be grandfathered in and be able to continue business as usual.”

“This solution was to everyone’s satisfaction being settled this way. It requires no change from his operation or from the city’s operation,” added Nunn.

The Mayor and City Council will finalize the pawn shop allowance at the next regular meeting in December, along with reviewing the PZC’s recommended zoning change that could help bring Starbucks to Madison.

Starbucks is hoping to land a prime location near the bypass in Madison to open up a new store. However, the City of Madison’s current zoning ordinance is standing in the way. Starbucks wants to build its store on the same lot as the Steak N’ Shake on U.S. 441, but the city’s zoning ordinance does not allow two primary businesses with separate buildings on the same lot. The Madison Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) is reviewing a text amendment that would allow for “dual locate sites” in the Commercial 4 (C4) zoning districts that would remedy this dilemma.

“The Mayor and City Council has made this one of my priorities to look into,” said Monica Callahan, director of City Planning at last Thursday’s PZC regular meeting. “Land is so precious. People are trying to use every piece of space they possibly can.”

According to Callahan, the city’s ordinance is extremely specific about the types of allowable “land use.” While there are allowances for separate businesses to operate out of shared or connected buildings, such as gas stations with convenience stores or shopping centers, there is nothing in the current codes to allow for two free-standing businesses on one site. The lot in question is about 1.5 acres, which is too small to subdivide into two lots. The city requires a minimum of one acre to develop a site in the C4 district.

“Starbucks doesn’t want the building joined together with Steak N’ Shake and if they aren’t together we don’t have a way to help them under the current ordinance,” explained Callahan.

Under the proposed text amendment, dual locate sites would be allowed in C4 Districts only with several conditions.

“We have opened it up very narrowly,” said Callahan.

Only hotels and restaurants would be eligible to apply for dual locate sites and each business much ensure there is at least 20 feet between the two buildings constructed on a single lot of record.

“We want to make sure we can fit a fire truck between buildings” explained Callahan.

While the City would allow for some reduction in parking requirements, dual locate sites would not be allowed to increase impervious surfaces at all.

“We are not giving an inch on impervious surfaces,” said Callahan. “They would have to maintain whatever the impervious surface percentage already is on site. You can’t produce more run-off. You could have some realignment of pavement during the construction process, but the percentage cannot increase.”

Robert Trulock, chairman of the PZC, was open to adding dual locate sites into Madison’s zoning ordinance.

“I think we really need to talk about these dual locate sites, not really specific to Starbucks and Steak N’ Shake. That will come under a different discussion once the ordinance is cleaned up,” said Trulock.

After much discussion, the PZC voted unanimously to recommend the allowance of dual locate sites in the C4 District, adding the stipulation that there must be a 15-foot “vehicular clearance” between buildings.

The Madison Mayor and City Council will vote on the PZC’s recommendation on Monday, Dec. 11 at the next regular meeting, which is held at 160 North Main Street, Suite 400 in Madison. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.

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