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Rezoning and Smart Growth


This is the first part in a blog series about the rezoning ordinances that were passed at the last city council meeting. As part of our efforts to encourage more participation in local government, I Vote Madison is learning more about the issues that are important to residents and providing information and resources to the community. I Vote Madison neither supported nor opposed the rezoning ordinances that were voted on and passed at the city council meeting on December 28, 2020.

How blessed are we to be in a situation where people want to come here. They want to come to our schools. They want to build here. The fact that we can have a conversation about how do we want to grow and not what school we need to close or what building building are we gonna condemn.
Councilperson Seifert

Growth in Madison is an issue of continual focus, and it is one that residents have been speaking up about at city council meetings. The residents and council members we have heard from acknowledge that city growth is inevitable and welcome. People differ, however, about how the city grows and at what rate.

We have to plan ahead and we have to preserve commercial property.
Councilperson Spears

Our newly elected and returning city council members started their terms having to decide whether to approve not one, but two rezoning ordinances that would allow two new residential developments. The final votes on both ordinances were 4-3 in favor. Opposing arguments from council members and citizens included the following concerns:

-The need for more commercial development

-Overcrowding of our school system

-Adequate infrastructure


-Emergency medical services response time

We must also be cautious to preserve land for purposes that generate revenue and provide fiscal balance. There is an argument that a portion of the land may not be ideal for commercial use. That’s a fair question but debatable, and there is no compelling argument to remove the land from our inventory of potential revenue streams. In addition to storefronts, there are many further productive commercial and other uses for the spacious property, including small industry, medical services, research facilities, park and recreation space, or simply keeping it as it is currently zoned agricultural.
Mike Sheehy, Resident

Below are various sources of information related to these two rezoning ordinances. Included are meeting agendas and minutes, videos of public hearings, and slide presentations. The discussions about these ordinances that have taken place in council chambers between November and the vote on December 28 have residents and council members alike questioning whether growth and economic development plans need to be updated. This is a lengthy post, but we hope the materials we have provided help the community's understanding of the issues related to growth, how the city government process works, and and how our city council representatives make decisions for Madison.

You may read the full content of the rezoning ordinances here:

The process for developers to build their development in the city of Madison starts by them submitting an application to the Planning and Economic Development Department. To learn more about this including the schedule and review process you can visit here.

The first time the public gets to see a proposed rezoning ordinance is at the Planning Commission meeting. The Planning Commission reviews the rezoning request and development plan to determine whether it meets the certain standards set in place by the different growth plans for the city. Madison has separate growth plans for the the western, southern, eastern, and northern areas of the city. The public is given time during the Planning Commission meeting to offer their questions and comments.

If the rezoning request passes the Planning Commission it goes to City Council for a vote.

November 23, 2020 City Council Meeting

The first time City Council had an opportunity to vote on these two ordinances was at the City Council meeting held on 11/23/20.

During the 11/23/20 meeting, residents spoke out against the approval of the two rezoning ordinances. One of those residents was Michael Sheehy, a Madison resident who has participated in council meetings for several years to talk about city growth. Full text and presentation slides of Michael Sheehy's address to council. I Vote Madison does not have recorded council meetings prior to December 14, 2020.

Effectively managing Madison’s growth, “Smart Growth”, is a strategic imperative. Every current elected official except for two of you campaigned on a platform priority of smart growth management, and those two individuals campaigned for improved road and traffic infrastructure, fiscal viability, and sustaining our schools. You all advocated for the very issues that citizens most care about.
Mike Sheehy, Resident

City Council members, at the request of the newly-elected members, decided to postpone the vote and hold a work session prior to the next city council meeting on 12/14/20. The purpose of the work session was to give council members a chance to get a better understanding of each rezoning request from the developers. The public was invited to the work session but was not allowed to speak, so all questions from the public were emailed to respective council representatives so that they could read them aloud during the session.

December 14, 2020 City Council Meeting

I have asked a lot of questions and I am trying to get the answers so we can move forward, so we have a vision for this city that is based on knowledge, data, and also looking forward to what are needs are going to be.
Councilperson Denzine

Citizens of Madison spoke out against the approval of the two rezoning ordinances stating that they didn't fall in line with the smart growth standards the city had set in place. Some of those citizens who spoke out included Michael Sheehy, longtime Madison resident who has a history of being involved in city council meetings; Jocelyn Broer, former candidate for City Council District 4; and LeAnne McGee, longtime Madison resident with four children who attend Madison City Schools. Other residents who spoke include Marc Highsmith, Jennifer Lear, Bebe Oetjen, Marc Jacobson, Grant Carodine, Donnie Spencer and Tara Bailey.

To view the video of Michael Sheehy addressing council please see the video below.

I remind too that Triana’s residential growth is not regulated, is increasing dramatically, and is defeating our growth policy goals. We must consider that enormous influx when making our own decisions.
Mike Sheehy, Resident

Jocelyn Broer addresses Madison City Council during public comments during the Madison City Council Meeting on 12/14/20.

More rooftops mean more traffic and crowded schools. There are safety issues involved, fire and police services that need to be added and dangerous roads not yet ready for the influx of cars and people. It does not mean we should not grow. We should and we will grow. Let's just grow in a smart way and make sure the costs are shared fairly with those profiting and those paying the taxes.
Jocelyn Broer, Resident

LeAnne McGee addresses Madison City Council during public comments during the Madison City Council Meeting on 12/14/20.

I'm not against development, but for all the years that I've ever been coming to city council meetings and even been involved in city PTA, which is about 10 years or more, I told you guys this last time too, it's just the same thing that keeps coming up over and over again. I actually looked in my emails today of the ones I've actually sent to my councilperson and then the one who held the position beforehand, and it's like I could literally write those same words today with the same thing, saying please make a smart plan that allows us to keep our schools as great as they are...
LeAnne McGee, Resident

Grant Carodine addresses Madison City Council during public comments during the Madison City Council Meeting on 12/14/20.

If there is this much concern, regardless of the amount of time that has passed that the council has actively been working on this, or the city has, with the number of new council people that there are, and the response, again, from the citizens that have spoken, I don't see any harm in pushing this [back]. Developers will still want to come to Madison, and I think that us being thoughtful, and pushing this out for a purpose, not just for appeasement, makes a lot of sense.
Grant Carodine, Resident

Teddy Powell (District 3) and John Seifert (District 7) were not present at the meeting due to COVID-19. The City Council Members discussed the rezoning ordinances and whether or not a vote should be taken that night. After much debate a decision was made to postpone the vote until the meeting on 12/28/20 with the hopes that the vote could be taken via Zoom. The video below shows the discussion that occurred prior to the decision to postpone the vote.

Video time stamps of interest:

0:00-5:16 This video begins with the discussion of what council should do since the two council representatives were not present. The meeting started with discussion around how to move forward.

5:17-16:00 Council woman Bartlett made clear that she heard some questions that were specific to the developments with one being the legalities surrounding enforcement of the age restricted portion of the Barnett project. There was a lengthy discussion around the developer agreement and the HOA.

16:05 - 20:37 Councilwoman Bartlett asked about how many rooftops were in Madison and keep track of them. She wanted to understand where we are now and how many these developments will add to them.

20:38 - 30:00 Councilwoman Spears brought up a discussion she had with Madison City Schools Superintendent Ed Nichols. There was confusion expressed by Council President Shaw as to what the schools were communicating to him. The Mayor asked, "Where are the schools."

30:01-36:44 Councilwoman Denzine brought up the affects such as traffic and congestion construction will have on the people living in the area where these will be built. 36:45 Councilwoman Denzine discussed the what this area should have been used for back in the day...

38:35 - 42:11 Councilwoman Denzine said she puts herself in those developments and wanted to know what was being done regarding noise reduction as these age restricted condos we near the railroad tracks.

42:12 - 43:28 Councilwoman Bartlett states that it's not fair to say "Where are the schools tonight?"

43:29 - 49:17 Councilwoman Denzine asks questions about the walking trail. The development agreement says they have to have a minimum of a half a mile greenway around the development. The public can access it by driving into the subdivision and parking to walk on it.

49:18 - 1:03:00 Discussion around whether to approve the continuation to the 28th or not. It was decided to continue the ordinance vote to the 28th.

December 28, 2020 City Council Meeting

Superintendent Nichols spoke at the council meeting to share what the school district's perspective was on growth and how the approval of the two rezoning ordinances could affect the schools. I Vote Madison felt these comments deserved their own blog post. We will be releasing that soon.

I think we should be grateful that developers want to work with us, specifically on different products. If we have the same products over and over and over, that are family homes, that invite families, that's what we're gonna get. So if we don't divide it up some, then we are gonna wind up with a perpetual growth issue.
Councilperson Powell

Michael Sheehy offered public comments and those made during the public hearings for the two rezoning ordinances from 12/28/20 meeting.

Jocelyn Broer offers public comments and those made during the public hearings for the two rezoning ordinances from 12/28/20 meeting.

Grant Carodine offers public comments and those made during the public hearings for the two rezoning ordinances from 12/28/20 meeting.

I think it is our responsibility as citizens, and your responsibility as our officials, to not wait until the elephant is sitting in your room for something to matter. If you have a decision about what should happen here, I think you gotta ask yourself did you think about the other side at all, step into their shoes and really take off your glasses and look at what the consequences of your actions tonight and the way that you vote will be before that elephant is in the room.
Grant Carodine, Resident

12/28/20 Rezoning Ordinance No. 2020-271 Barnett Vote

This video includes the public hearing, city council remarks and final vote.

We have to work with Dr. Nichols. He said tonight they are about to engage in a strategic plan in January... They are surveying their parents. We should be doing the same thing, because they cannot possibly plan for the growth of the school system if we can't tell them what we want to look like when we grow up.
Councilperson Bartlett

The vote was taken to adopt Ordinance No. 2020-271 and recorded as follows:

Council Member Maura Wroblewski Aye

Council Member Connie Spears Nay

Council Member Teddy Powell Aye

Council Member Greg Shaw Aye

Council Member Ranae Bartlett Nay

Council Member Karen Denzine Nay

Council Member John Seifert Aye

Motion carried.

We are open [for business], and yes we are growing, and we're growing smartly. These developments that we're looking at today are very intentional. They've been vetted by the planning department. First by the planning commission, and they've been brought to us as an opportunity to increase our property tax base, to provide amenities...
Councilperson Wroblewski

12/28/20 Rezoning Ordinance No. 2020-273 Bellawoods Vote

This video includes the public hearing, city council remarks and final vote.

I also met with Chief Jernigan and Chief Bailey--fire and police. What is the current status in their respective departments? What are the effects of future growth on staffing and equipment needs? We know there's gonna be a need for two additional fire stations fairly soon. So I'm just saying there are a lot of moving pieces that involve the whole city.
Councilperson Denzine

The vote was taken to adopt Ordinance No. 2020-273 and recorded as follows:

Council Member Maura Wroblewski Aye

Council Member Connie Spears Nay

Council Member Teddy Powell Aye

Council Member Greg Shaw Aye

Council Member Ranae Bartlett Nay

Council Member Karen Denzine Nay

Council Member John Seifert Aye

Motion carried.

During the discussions in council chambers about these rezoning ordinances, many spoke about the need to revisit comprehensive growth and the need to work together and communicate. I Vote Madison has addressed these over the last two months as well. When we formally introduced our organization, we suggested to council and Mayor Finley that the city, with the input of residents, develop a motto and a vision statement. We want the citizens of Madison to feel pride and ownership in their city. An established, overarching vision statement would guide a comprehensive plan as well as help foster identity, community, and a sense of place among residents.

We have spoken to the mayor and council about citizen engagement, accessibility, and transparency as well. We have requested that the city record the YouTube livestream so that residents can watch council meetings at their convenience. Everyone is not able to be present on Monday evenings. We want the city to continue to offer a teleconferencing option, such as Zoom, even beyond the pandemic so that the public has additional ways to participate.

We think efforts should be made to reach out to all residents. Every single voice matters. I Vote Madison is looking into ways other cities are engaging with their citizens--how council members can engage constituents to proactively learn about their concerns, opinions, and wishes so that there can be more positive engagement.

They mayor and council announced at the meeting this week that they are scheduling a special work session to focus on economic development and communication. We think a discussion about a master growth plan for the city will be discussed and maybe even a vision statement. We do know that the city's communications coordinator is preparing a presentation that will walk the community through how to utilize the city's website.

Our next blog post will focus on the superintendent's statements from December 28th about city growth and how it relates to the school district.

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