By Nick Nunn staff writer

Madison Planning Director Monica Callahan presented reports outlining Madison’s occupancy and construction statistics for the year 2013 and crime statistics for the year 2012 during the Madison City Council’s work session on Friday, April 4.

The report on the number of construction permits and costs showed that the number of permits decreased from 202 in 2012 to 179 in 2013 and that the total cost of construction related to the permits dropped from approximately $7,390,000 to $4,458,000.

During 2013, around $1,017,000 was spent on public construction projects, including the 911/EMS/Fire Station at the Morgan County Public Safety Complex and the erection of a sign at the Morgan County Aquatic Center, and about $3,440,000 was spent on private sector improvements. Callahan stated that, overall, Madison is “running at about 90 percent occupancy citywide,” which is up more than a quarter of a percent from 2012.

The city’s commercial occupancy increased from 81.58 percent in 2012 to a little more than 84 percent in 2013. The industrial occupancy also increased five-hundredths of a percent to 97.78 percent, but the professional occupancy dropped a little more than one percent to 82.54 percent.

The number of residences increased from 1,787 in 2012 to 17,96 in 2013, but the occupancy percentage dropped approximately one-tenth of a percent to 92.2 percent in 2013.

City Attorney Joe Reitman lauded the city’s occupancy rates, saying that “Social Circle would give its right arm” to have Madison’s commercial occupancy percentage.

The crime data report only dealt with crimes reported to the FBI, including violent crime and property crime, up through the end of 2012.

In 2012, there were only 16 violent crimes committed in Madison, down from 17 in 2011, but property crime increased from 172 in 2011 to 207 in 2012.

“Property crime seems to be trending upward,” said Callahan about the increase, while adding that Madison’s number for property crimes is the highest for similarly sized cities in our region.

Greensboro came in closely behind Madison in 2012 with 171 property crimes.

She also noted that Madison’s violent crime numbers only equal around half of those for Eatonton, Greensboro, and Washington.

Callahan noted that all of these numbers were compiled before current Police Chief Bill Ashburn took his position and said that the report is not a reflection of Madison’s police department.

Callahan also presented a proposed amendment to the city’s Urban Renewal Plan (URP), which would revise one of the plan’s areas to accommodate high-density rental housing in the West Washington Gateway.

The amendment would help to clear the way for both Sandy Sanford’s Anchorage development and the proposed senior housing development by Parallel Housing, Inc. on Madison’s North Fifth Street.

Callahan said that the amendment would not “tie” the city council to Parallel Housing’s proposal, but it would create the possibility for the development in the URP when Parallel Housing is prepared to move forward with their plan.

Council Member Chris Hodges voiced her support of the amendment, saying that “there is a… need for rental housing” in Madison.

The city council also discussed introducing the use of a consent agenda for their meetings. The consent agenda would allow the council to combine several non-controversial items into one vote for approval, thus reducing the time required for brining up issues during a meeting and holding a vote on each individually.

Madison City Clerk Mellie Ann Thomas said that she thinks that the use of a consent agenda “would be beneficial for the council.”