No Christmas miracle for Foster St. project

Tia Lynn Ivey News

There won’t be a Christmas miracle for the Foster Street housing development project after all it seems. After Developer Brad Good struck up a compromise with residents in the Historic District to submit a revised proposal for the controversial Foster Park development behind the Historic Thomason Miller House on Main Street, Madison’s Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) voted unanimously to recommend denial to the Mayor and City Council at the December 21 regular meeting.

Good, in an effort to appease objecting local citizens, agreed to reduce the number of single family houses built to 19 and keep the nearly 13-acre property’s current zoned.Residential (2), instead of seeking a Residential 4 (R4) rezoning, as previously proposed.

“We have worked over a period of time to come to, what we felt like, was a good resolution for the neighborhood, ourselves, and the city,” said Good. “The use of R2 with variances makes sense because it keeps the underlining zoning intact.”

This seemed to satisfy many of the opponents at the last Madison Mayor and Council meeting, but Good’s new application earned the ire of more local residents, the PZC, and Madison’s planning staff.

Good’s latest application sought variances to the current zoning status instead of a rezoning, but in order to the designs plans with 19 houses, Good’s application requested a total of 80 variances, with every lot except one in need of multiple setback, lot size, and width variances.

“It’s unheard of,” said City Planner Molly Bogle, who urged the PZC to recommend denial for Good’s application. “The number of variances being requested here would be detrimental to our zoning ordinance, not just the R2 zones, but all zones…It is a public detriment because it would be detrimental to our zoning ordinance the protection our zoning ordinance provides to our citizens.

Several citizens spoke against the application, including Stratton Hicky, Alex Newton, Cathy Andrews, and Frank Walsh.

Opponents complained that Good’s application was essentially a roundabout way to achieve an R4 zoning designation while keeping the property zoned as R2 in name only.

“The plan is basically R4 but being called R2, and that’s the biggest problem you need to consider,” said Hicky. “They just want to develop this property and want to be able to make some money on it, and while that’s the American way, that doesn’t mean you should change zoning to make that happen.”

Cathy Andrews urged the PZC to deny Good’s request in hopes that a preservation group, Georgia Trust for Public Lands, would raise funds to buy the Thomason Miller property and preserve the land in its entirety.

“They could prevent any development at all,” said Andrews. “This development isn’t appropriate historically or keeping with the surrounding neighborhood…it would set a very dangerous precedent for future development.

“This is important because of the precedent. It horrifies me,” said Newton. “Whatever you do today, five or 10 years from now, this will be cited as an equivalence. I would caution against this again just for the sheer size of the variances required to do this.

Good implored the council to consider that the property’s current zoning allows for 20 houses already, without variances. But PZC member Rich Wall took issue with that.

“You keep saying that, but the current zoning does not allow for 20 houses. The density allows for it, but zoning is not all density. The dimensional requirements of R2 would only allow you to build 11-13 houses under the current zoning.”

Good also asked the council to consider the demand for more affordable new houses in the City of Madison, arguing that with a development of 19 smaller houses, each houses would sell in the $350,000-$450,000 range; whereas fewer larger houses would sell in the $800,000 range.

“It’s an appropriate density there. The Comp plan calls for this be higher density,” said Good. “Given those factors, we think there is an opportunity for new homes in the area. Most of the homes on the market today are older homes that require renovations. So, we believe this will be a good product for the entire neighborhood.”

But the PZC was not swayed.

“Precedent is king,” said Wall. I think we are setting a dangerous precedent by allowing this.”

The PZC voted unanimously to recommended denial for Good’s application.

The Madison Mayor and City Council will review Good’s latest application at the January 8 regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the City’s meeting hall located at 160 North Main Street Suite 400. The council will also review Good’s previous R4 application, which is still open after it was postponed at an earlier meeting.

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