Citizens object to postponement of public hearing on controversial zoning issue

Celia Murray (left) and Elizabeth Bell confer during Monday’s city council meeting.

Michael Stone


The controversial Foster Park rezoning issue wasn’t on the Madison City Council agenda Monday night, but opponents of the plan showed up to argue that it should have been.

Before council could get far into its agenda, Elizabeth Bell and Celia Murray challenged the city’s right to delay a vote on the zoning change until after the election.

Bell and Murray said the public hearing scheduled to discuss the zoning issue had been advertised in the Morgan County Citizen legal section for the Oct. 9 meeting, requiring the city to settle the matter Monday night.

City attorney Joe Reitman said that the applicant requested the postponement, and said that holding the public hearing with his presence wouldn’t be fair to him and could invite a lawsuit.

City staffer Molly Bogle said the legal ad that ran in the Oct. 5 issue of the Citizen should have read that the hearing had been rescheduled but didn’t.

Bell and Murray suggested the city council was being manipulated by developer Brad Good who has proposed the zoning change for political purposes due the impending election and the controversial nature of the rezoning.

The charge drew a sharp response from Carey Peters-Reid who said that not all members of city council were up for re-election and that holding the public hearing without the applicant’s knowledge would be unfair.

Theresa Bishop, another long time opponent of the rezoning, said the city council was more interested in the rights of developers than residents of the city.

Bell and Murray suggested that advertising a public hearing for Nov. 3 would allow the required 15 days and give Good time to appear so the issued could be resolved before the election.

Mayor Fred Perriman said that it was unknown if Good would be able to appear at a called meeting on Nov. 3.

The controversy began more than a year ago when Good proposed a planned residential district within Madison’s historic district.

That plan drew heavy criticism and was quickly dismissed by the Madison Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council.

In July, Good floated another idea, this time asking that the 10.36 acres of land he owns between Foster Street and Hunter Street south of Main Street be rezoned from R2 To R4.

Good said he needed the zoning change in order to layout a neighborhood with homes on the both sides of a proposed street with 24 lots. Zoned R2, Good said the property would only allow for 13 lots.

Good argued that his plan would create 2.1 housing units per acre which was in keeping with the 2.08 units per acre in the adjacent Plum, Pine and Poplar Street neighborhoods.

The Madison Historic Preservation Commission first weighed in on the plan last July and rejected Good’s proposal.

“I think this development is too dense for the area,” Commissioner Cherie Vaughan said of the proposal. “Eventually something will happen with this property, but once it is developed we can’t go back.”

The HPC doesn’t have any statutory authority on zoning matters, but the board sent a recommendation to the Madison Planning and Zoning board voicing opposition to the zoning change.

Later in the month, the Planning and Zoning Commission delivered strike two by recommending that city council reject the idea.

The issue was originally scheduled for an August meeting but has been postponed until the Nov. 11 meeting.


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