By Nick Nunn staff writer

The Morgan County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve an application to rezone the property at 555 Fifth Street, which is being proposed as the site of a senior housing development by Parallel Housing, Inc., from Limited Commercial/Professional (P2) to Planned Residential District (PRD). The commission’s recommendation was conditional on the Madison City Council’s adoption of a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) ordinance in the West Washington Gateway, since TDRs factor into the proposal’s plan to obtain the correct housing density on the property. Parallel Housing is proposing that a 44-unit residential development at 555 Fifth Street. The residential units, which will be both single and double rooms, will be considered senior affordable housing, and Parallel Housing is applying to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTCP) in order to move forward on the project.

Madison planning staff recommended four conditions for recommendation of the proposed amendment, including that the property revert to the original zoning if Parallel Housing’s application to the LIHTCP is not successful, that the property revert to the original zoning if sufficient TDRs are not obtained before construction is to begin, that the property be removed from the Historic Preservation Overlay District prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy.

Madison Planner Bryce Jaeck stated that Parallel’s application addressed “a lot of the targets of the comprehensive site plan.” Commission Member Connie Booth asked whether the development would fall under multi-family housing ordinances once the density gets high enough. Jaeck described PRD zones as the city’s “special animal,” saying that the conditions for PRDs are approved based on whether their benefits sufficiently make up for their deficiencies in terms of other zoning measures. “At the end of the day, it meets a lot of these other goals,” said Bryce. Gregg Bayard represented Parallel Housing at the meeting, and Dennis Blackburn represented Parallel Housing’s partner, The Woda Group, Inc. Booth asked Blackburn if the Woda Group would be setting up onsite management for the proposed development. Blackburn said that they typically do not have resident managers at senior housing developments, but he said that they were willing to hire an onsite manager if necessary.

He added that Parallel Housing and the Woda Group will be responsible for the property for up to 30 years if they receive Low Income Housing Credits, so it is in their best interest to make sure that the development will be properly maintained. Commission Member Dennis Meyers asked if they would attempt to hire local businesses for subcontracting work.

Bayard said that Parallel Housing puts an “emphasis” on making the “most impact on the community,” which would include attempting to hire local subcontractors. Monica Callahan, speaking as a representative of the Downtown Development Authority of Madison (DDA), said that she was “thrilled” about the proposed housing development and said that the TDR ordinance will be a “progressive” way to “legislate both growth and greenspace” in Madison. She said that the city council plans to vote on the TDR ordinance during their May 2 called meeting.

DDA Member Everett Royal described the senior housing development at the “single most important thing for the city of Madison” in the coming years. He also said that it would be the DDA’s responsibility to procure the necessary TDRs for Parallel Housing, should the ordinance be approved by the city council. Booth said that she felt that the Planning Commission was being “pushed” into deciding on an application that involved TDRs and that she was “very uncomfortable” making a decision on them before they were acted on by the city council. Commission Member Scott Campbell said that he doesn’t think that TDRs were the Planning Commission’s “charge” and that the “TDRs will take care of themselves.”

Campbell suggested that the commission place a condition on their approval, saying that it is contingent on the Madison city council passing the ordinance. “I feel like this is a good fit,” said Campbell about the development proposal as a whole. Planning Commission Chair Brian Lehman agreed, saying that the current application is like “day and night” compared to Parallel Housing’s previous applications.