By Nick Nunn staff writer

The Madison City Council voted to approve a letter of intent from the city to the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH) program, indicating that the city will be applying during the 2014 application cycle. The GICH program works with a limited number of cities per year in order to allow a specially selected housing team, comprised of community members, to investigate their city’s housing needs and the resources that might help to meet those needs. Madison Planning Director Monica Callahan said that the GICH program is “selective and competitive,” noting that only five to six cities are chosen per year. She added that the program works to “groom local leaders” and “educate local folks” in order to deal with the housing needs of the city. Callahan said that the team, made up of seven to 15 people, would ideally be comprised of both city and county elected officials and staff, as well as local community leaders and businesspeople. She said that the group would look into a “full spectrum of housing” representing the needs of citizens from many socio-economic situations. Callahan also stated that the program would help to open the city up to “other financing opportunities” related to the development of housing.

According to a GICH description of the program, the result of taking part in the program would be a “realistic and measureable” housing improvement plan based on the needs realities of the community. Callahan stated that a study done by Georgia Power approximately seven years ago listed work-force housing as Madison’s biggest housing need. She said that the GICH program will help the city find out exactly what it needs in order to be able to deal with that shortcoming. Council Member Carrie Peters-Reid described the goals of the program as “awesome” and volunteered to serve on the board if Madison’s application is chosen. The council approved the annexation of a 1-acre parcel a 0 Pennington Road for Cotton Ginnery, LLC, and the rezone of that property from low density residential (R1) to estate lot residential (R). Ricky McGinnis, county resident, expressed concern that the only apparent requirements for annexation are having a property that is contiguous to Madison’s city limits and making an annexation request. He stated that he is opposed to the kind of “domino effect” that such annexation applications could have for properties near Madison. City Attorney Joe Reitman stated that all annexation requests are judged by the city council on a case-by-case basis and that the process is voluntary. McGinnis also suggested that the annexation of property along Pennington Road could foster a past possibility of running a bypass around the west side of Madison along Pennington Road. Callahan stated that McGinnis’ concern was “valid,” but she noted that the number of historic structures along Pennington Road “precludes” the possibility of a bypass going down that particular route. The Madison City Council also approved:

• A text amendment to change the height maximum for residential tennis court lights from 20 feet to 22 feet.

• An amendment to the tour of homes ordinance that would drop the city-mandated insurance requirement for home tour operators.

• A project request letter, asking the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission’s Planning and Government Services staff to work with the City of Madison and Morgan County to develop a bicycling and walking plan.