Council postpones vote on zoning text amendment
By Stephanie Johns
The Madison City Council postponed a vote on a zoning text amendment for secondhand or thrift apparel stores in the professional/limited commercial zoning district (P2) at Monday night’s meeting.
Madison City Planner Bryce Jaeck presented the request to the council. He noted that the zone under discussion is “a very mixed zone.”
County Planning Director Chuck Jarrell said the request came from Berry Rainwater, president of Joseph’s Coat.
Joseph’s Coat lost its lease at 1601 Athens Highway, its current location and found a potential location in a county-owned building at 259 N. Second St.
Jarrell said the county thought the store would be an allowed use as the city’s ordinance does allow retail uses in that zone. He added that the county could technically have exempted this use because the county owns the building but chose to come before the city with the request instead.
Councilman Michael Naples asked if “consignment” and “second hand thrift” were synonymous. Jarrell replied that those were not defined in the city’s ordinance. “Retail” was defined, though.
City attorney Joe Reitman recommended they allow two minutes per speaker and a total of 10 minutes per side. Those supporting the amendment spoke first.
Rainwater said Joseph’s Coat is the only place at present to offer clothing and household goods.
“Closing it would mean a financial hardship to customers,” he said. “This text amendment is our last hope.”
James Dale noted that Joseph’s Coat is “a valuable asset” while Charles Baldwin said the amendment seems “very appropriate” because the store fits into the “limited use” as it is only open 18 hours each week.
Jim Howser said he likes the county’s willingness to repurpose the building. He said traffic concerns do not seem legitimate to him because the store’s hours of operation would not conflict with the customers at the nearby bed and breakfast.
Naples said some people have voiced their opposition to Joseph’s Coat moving there.
Kelly Mahoney said he and his family are new to the area. Part of the appeal in moving here was the home’s location one block back from the main street, he said. He added that he already has noticed “a significant problem” with traffic. Allowing Joseph’s Coat to go in close to his new home would increase that problem.
Karen Wibell of the Brady Inn said a change in zoning would negatively impact the value of her bed and breakfast, which she called “a gateway to tourism.” She said the additional traffic would require sidewalks and crosswalks.
“Our business success is contingent upon the atmosphere,” she said.
Mike Conrads questioned the need for a change in zoning.
“This is using a sledge hammer when a tack hammer would do,” he said. He suggested the council consider a variance instead.
Conrads said he spoke to Rainwater about a rent-free place where Rainwater would only have to pay for utilities.
Reitman suggested Conrads and Rainwater take 15 to 20 minutes to discuss this possibility.
Upon their return Rainwater said he and the ladies who volunteer at Joseph’s Coat would look over the potential site Thursday morning before presenting their recommendation to the charity’s board.
Council voted to postpone the vote until Friday, depending on the outcome of Thursday’s visit: if the volunteers approve of the site, no vote will be necessary. If the volunteers do not approve of the site, the council will have to vote regarding the amendment request originally before them Monday night.
Printed in the December 13, 2012 edition