Town of Madison

Next week, town residents will have the opportunity to voice their opinions on a proposed historic zoning district in Madison.

The district, which is being proposed by the Madison Planning Commission, would create a historic zoning district overlay to preserve and protect the historic businesses and residential buildings in the town. The overlay would include all of the properties fronting Main Street as well as a few properties on Church Street and Washington Street including the sheriff’s office and the Early House. Structures would be considered contributing or non-contributing resources. Both types would be treated the same under the ordinance, with the sole exception being that contributing resources have to receive board approval for a demolition permit. Contributing resources are those with cultural, historical or architectural significance. They include the John Richard Gooding House and old schoolhouse at 319 N. Main Street and the cottage at the rear of the George Harrison House at 215 Church Street. The ordinance would also add 21 buildings to the list of contributing resources including the Madison County Administrative Building at 414 N. Main Street and the War Memorial Building at 2. S. Main Street.

The ordinance would create a five-person board of architectural review. The board would consist of one member of the planning commission, one town resident, a licensed architect or architectural historian, a building contractor of landscaping professional and a town business or property owner. The first two would be town residents, the remaining three would be found among the local area if not found within the town. Once established, the board would create design guidelines for the properties located within the overlay district. In the meantime, the town’s current design guidelines would serve as temporary guidelines. The town’s current design guidelines, which were approved in 1998, restrict building styles and design standards of awnings, windows, signs, lighting and right-of-way. They include having building design and color facades reflecting and augmenting the identity and visual character of the town. They also building materials for new buildings, roof styles, awning styles, signage and require street furnishings to follow a consistent design theme. Street furnishings include benches, bicycle racks, trash containers, street lights, hanging baskets and more.

The board would need to issue a certificate of appropriateness for the proposed demolition, encapsulation or moving of a contributing building or structure; any proposed changes to a structure’s exterior including the painting of currently unpainted brick or stone and replacements of rooves, windows, doors or siding; new construction requiring a building permit including residential additions; and fences or structures exceeding 3.5 feet in height located in the front yard. The board would issue the certificate providing changes are using the same design or material, fences or structures are equal or less than 3.5 feet tall and minor changes provided for in adopted guidelines. Certificates would remain valid for 12 months or as long as a building permit is maintain or open. Work cannot be stopped for more than 60 days. A six-month extension could be requested for certificates.

It’s the design standards that are likely causing the most heartburn among town residents and business owners. Property owner Zane Byram said an architectural review board could prevent people from doing something with their property. He said he’d like to see the same amount of energy put into making people create something good for Madison. He pointed to several items in a document that he had seen which would place restrictions on fencing and landscaping.

Town attorney Maynard Sipe said the ordinance is meant to be encouraging. He said it sets up the framework and architectural review boards are weighted in favor of the owner. He said the ordinance protects property owners.

“If you invest in one of these houses, this gives comfort and security that your neighbor isn’t going to muck it up,” he said.

Sipe said painting an existing building would not be prevented under the guidelines, except for the painting of unpainted brick. He said windows and doors would be easily approved providing they’re the same style currently on the structure.

Byram said he doesn’t want the reputation to precede the town, and “when people hear too many regulations, they don’t want to come here.”

Planning commissioner Shannon Johnson said the idea is to protect property values and keep the character of the town.

“I don’t want the language to hold people back,” Byram said.

The existing design standards, which Sipe admitted most residents probably don’t know about, are typically triggered by building permits. Previously, those wishing to build or amend an existing structure in the town would speak with former town clerk Barbara Roach about the requirements. Sipe said there will need to be some education once new standards are established for the overlay district.

Sipe said he hopes people will come to the public hearing with an open mind and questions. He said the council may vote to approve the ordinance that night, or delay a vote to continue to work on it. The public hearing will be held Thursday, March 5 at 7 p.m. in the town office at 23 Washington Circle. Copies of the draft ordinance are available at the town office Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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