Madison's city commissioners decided on Monday to send back to the planning commission proposed new municipal zoning rules that would have added congregate-living facilities to to the types of residences defined within Madison's zoning laws.
The mayor and city commissioners decided unanimously not to approve the second reading of the changes, and they advised that more work was needed on rules for operating congregate-living residences in Madison.
Two weeks ago, the city commissioners heard the first reading regarding proposed changes to zoning laws for duplex residences designed as multi-residential housing with some communal-living aspects.
Called congregate-living dwellings, the duplex housing units would provide separate bedrooms for its residents. Under the new rules, each building in the duplex would have some shared bathrooms and a kitchen and/or a common dining area, shared recreation room or other similar facilities.
A duplex residence that has kitchens in each of its sleeping areas and/or separate bathrooms for at least half of its sleeping areas would not meet the criteria for congregate living in duplex housing. Instead, the housing would fall under Madison's zoning laws for apartments.
Madison has already experienced similar development plans when a Brookings real-estate developer submitted a proposal to construct duplex congregate-living dwellings on two lots in central Madison. Each of the lots would, under the present plans, have a duplex building with two floors that would contain 12 apartments. Under Madison's current laws, six unrelated adults can live under one roof.
The developers plan to construct the proposed duplex buildings in Madison's historical district. Since the first reading of the congregate-living rules, neighbors have spoken to the commissioners about their concerns regarding increased population density and vehicle parking. The neighbors, who are typically single-family residence owners, also expressed concerns about a conditional-use option that future developers could have in constructing up to four congregate-living dwellings on a single lot. Four congregate-living dwellings could bring 24 tenants to a single lot.
After looking at the new zoning rules, some neighborhood residents asked the city to change the law from six to three unrelated adults living as tenants under the same roof.
Chad Comes, city engineer, reviewed the proposed zoning-rule changes and the concerns of some Madison residents for the commissioners on Monday. Comes said that if the second reading of the zoning rules was rejected, he would want to bring the issues back to the municipal planning commission in December.
Dean Gulbranson, a real-estate developer of Madison property, spoke to the commissioners about his concerns regarding older rental properties in the city. Gulbranson pointed out that some older houses in Madison had five or six bedrooms, and they have developed into rental housing for students. He said a reduction from six to three unrelated adult tenants could complicate business for rental-property owners.
Gulbranson asked the commissioners if older rental properties could continue operating as before under a grandfather clause. He also suggested placing congregate-living facilities in Madison within a planned development district.
Planned development districts exist as separate zoning classifications that allow new real-estate development which is consistent with a community's comprehensive plan but would not exist under other zoning -- due to limits on dimensions, permitted uses, or other standards.
Commissioner Mike Waldner said that an observant person could drive through Madison and see that "... there's a lot of things going on," regarding housing within the community. Gulbranson added that it was likely that more outside investors and developers would come to Madison to propose development projects.
Bob Sahr, a Madison resident who had expressed concerns about the new congregate-living rules, said the commissioners should "... try to find a balancing point."
In discussing whether the commissioners should table the second reading or reject the zoning changes, Gulbranson suggested that the commissioners vote down the zoning changes and establish a working group to make changes.
Comes and David Jencks, city attorney, told the commissioners and meeting attendees that Madison already had the planning commission as a working group.
Other concerns were spoken of before the commissioners voted to not approve the second reading. Sahr said the city should have some consistency among the rules for older and newer rental properties. Commissioner Jeremiah Corbin said city officials should continue to pay attention to neighbors' concerns about population density.
Roy Lindsay of Madison told the commissioners that they shouldn't make zoning rules too restrictive; thereby avoiding the possibility of "scaring off" developers. Lindsay said developers could start building outside city limits instead.
Also within the proposed changes to Madison's zoning for congregate-living dwellings, the property owners would need to provide at least one parking space for each of the sleeping quarters. Apartment buildings having four or more dwelling units in Madison are required to provide at least two parking spaces per apartment.