A historic home in Madison that has become the battleground over development prospects and zoning policy is under contract to be sold. The Foster-Thomason-Miller House, located at 498 South Main Street, will be sold to the Madison-Morgan Conservancy, a local nonprofit aiming to protect greenspace and historical sites.
The house, built in 1883, has sat dormant in recent decades after enduring two fires and attempts to transform the historical home into a bed and breakfast failed. The current owners, Von and Christy Friesen, along with Developer Brad Good, scored a narrow victory with the Madison Mayor and City Council after nearly two years of petitioning the city to allow a controversial housing development behind the historic house.
Now that the back of the property, about 10 acres, has been rezoned to accommodate a housing development comprised of 19 single-family dwellings, the Friesens, have agreed to sell the front lots on Main Street, upon which the Foster-Thomason-Miller house stands, to the Conservancy – Georgia’s first-ever countywide Conservancy.
“I think it is the best possible thing that really could have happened,” said Christy Friesen, owner of the Foster-Thomason- Miller House.
The Conservancy, which is launching a brand new program to rehabilitate such properties, is excited to acquire the Foster-Thomason-Miller House and would like to go a step further if possible.
“We are thrilled this is happening. The Conservancy has contracted to purchase the Foster-Thomason-Miller House and adjacent Main Street lot, which is a total of 1.8 acres, but we are ready and willing to purchase the remaining 10 acres behind the house, if the opportunity presents itself,” said Madison-Morgan Conservancy Executive Director, Christine McCauley Watts. “This place matters to the people of Madison and Morgan County. The historic significance of the house is preeminent, and the entire 12-acre property is recognized on the City of Madison’s Greenprint five separate times for natural areas/habitat protection, riparian areas, agrarian landscapes, potential trails, and as a Historic Landmark.”
But for now, the Friesens have only agreed to sell the two front lots on Main Street, while developer Brad Good continues on the process of building a housing development on the remaining 10 acres despite threats of legal contestations from opponents to the project.
According to the Conservancy, due to the Foster-Thomason Miller house’s unique historic status and frontline visibility in the heart of Madison’s Historic District, the property is perfect to become the first recipient of the Conservancy’s new program: The Endangered Properties Revolving Fund.
“The Conservancy’s mission is to protect these types of properties – those that include natural, agricultural, and historic resources – and this is a poster-child project and the first opportunity we’ve had to engage our new Endangered Properties Revolving Fund,” explained Watts. “In fact, the property is listed as the top priority on the Conservancy’s newly-developed Endangered Properties list.”
The revolving fund aims to purchase endangered properties in order to carry out stabilizing repairs to ready the property to be sold back into the private market. The Conservancy hopes to acquire a total of $1.25 million for the fund. The organization is well on their way, already achieving $1 million and launching a new fundraiser to raise the rest. The nature of the new fundraiser will be announced next week.
“Funded in part by grants, the Endangered Properties Revolving Fund is not yet fully capitalized. We need to raise another $240,000,” said Watts. “Anyone interested in seeing this house saved, should consider contributing to this fund. The dollars raised will be used on this project and on the next project, in essence ‘revolving’ from project to project. It’s an investment in the future of Morgan County’s quality of life.”
To find out more information about the Madison-Morgan Conservancy or how to donate to the Endangered Properties Revolving Fund, contact Watts at: (706) 818-8046.