What happens now? Proposed zoning changes for tourism in residential zones has to be vetted at two formal public hearings: Oct. 24 Planning Commission meeting, 7 p.m., and Nov. 11 City of Madison Council meeting, 5:30 p.m.

By Nick Nunn, Staff Writer

The Madison City Council and Mayor discussed tourism in residential zones during their Sept. 23 work session. The collection of comments that made up the body of the presented zoning changes were then in their fifth draft, the culmination of a nine-month process. The mayor and council gave their input to Madison Planning Director Monica Callahan in order to shape the draft before pubic hearings on the matter, which will take place at the Oct. 24 Planning Commission meeting and the Nov. 11 City of Madison Mayor and Council meeting.

Mayor Bruce Gilbert stated at the outset of the discussion that no public comments on the issue of tourism in residential zones would be heard during the work session, since the meeting had not been advertised as a public hearing.

The draft that Callahan outlined dealt with two main issues: the zoning definition of a historic site/museum and the requirements for the conditional use permit; and an addition of an accessory use for historic tour homes.

According to the staff memo, the definition of a historic site/museum is “a property and/or building of historic significance operated as a permanent, staffed institution and open to the public on a regular schedule.”

Historic sites/museums will be conditional in R, R1, and P2 zones and will be subject to six conditions, including: the property has to be designated as historic, worthy of preservation and of public significance; the incidental sale of goods to be permitted as accessory use; the property should have a minimum of three acres in residential zones, and .25 acres in any non-residential zones; the property should have ample on-site parking and buffering; it must be operated by a nonprofit organization with a board of trustees or directors; in residential zones, no historic site/museum can be located on a property that was formerly a residence.

Council Member Michael Naples had an issue with precluding sites that were formerly residences from obtaining historic site/museum status, but Callahan stated that the restriction means to prevent the possible repurposing of homes from becoming an “intrusion of non-residential uses.”

Callahan asked for the council’s guidance on introducing a limit, which would restrict historic site/museums from being too close to each other. Staff recommended looking at a distancing restriction of either 1,000 or 1,500 feet.

Initially, Gilbert was concerned that a 1,500-foot restriction would be too large in a “tight residential area,” but then suggested placing the 1,500-foot restriction in the comments for now to see what the public’s response will be, saying “nothing [is] written in concrete today.”

The discussion then moved on to adding an accessory use for historic tour homes to the list of five accessory uses that are currently allowed in residential zones.

The definition of a historic tour home, according to the staff memo, is “An owner-occupied single-family dwelling allowing private tours for compensation, operated by the domiciliary, resident, natural person owner with a 50 percent or larger ownership interest, under prescribed conditions of use; the primary use is for a residence as opposed to a business use.”

The accessory use would be conditional use in R and R1 zones, and would have to adhere to a set of minimum requirements.

Those requirements were the subject of most of the debate, beginning with whether or not to allow meal service during tours.

Callahan noted that there had not been “a lot of accord on meal service” prior to work session.

Gilbert stated that he does not see a problem with allowing meal service, and that, if there is a problem in the future, the council can intervene and change the requirements.

Naples noted that 60 people – the initial limit of how many people can be on a single tour – would mean a lot of business to a restaurant in town, but meal service during tours could reduce the number of people per tour that then dine in Madison.

Council Member Whitey Hunt then offered the possibility of box lunches, which have been provided at tours in the past, as long as they are obtained from local businesses.

The consensus after the discussion was that meal service should be allowed, in general, but approved on a case-by-case basis beforehand.

Hunt then took issue with a requirement that would not allow two residences with the historic tour home accessory within 2,000 feet of each other, noting that our historic tour sites are “clustered,” and that foot traffic between them would be hindered with such a separation requirement.

The council then asked Callahan if it wouldn’t be simpler to require tour operator licenses instead of creating a separate historic tour home accessory.

Callahan stated that the process would be “nice and clean that way,” but that she would have to look into the possibility further in order to make sure that there are no unforeseen drawbacks to taking that approach.

Gilbert addressed the limit of 60 guests or the maximum safe occupancy for the residence, and asked that the numerical limit be removed in favor of simply admitting as many guests in the residence as the residence itself will safely allow.

Callahan then asked the council to address how many tour operator licenses it would allow yearly and stated that three licenses had been applied for in the past year, but that only two had been pulled.

Staff also asked for guidance on how many tours each license holder would be able to give per year, suggesting somewhere between four and 12, with the possibility that a lower number may be given automatically but increased on a case-by-case basis.

Hunt and Gilbert both recommended 12 as the starting number, which could be lowered by the council at a later time, should that many become an issue.

Gilbert stated that he doubted that someone would want to do as many as 12 in a year but did not want to restrict anyone who currently does that many.

Finally, Callahan acknowledged that thanks to “very active” public participation and input from the council, they are closing in on a final draft of the changes.

The next step for the zoning changes proposed for tourism in residential zones will be two formal public hearings. The first will take place at the Oct. 24 Planning Commission meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m., and the second will take place at the Nov. 11 City of Madison Mayor and Council meeting, which will be held at the Madison Municipal Complex at 5:30 p.m.