By Nick Nunn
The Madison City Council voted to approve a heavily edited amendment to the Madison City Code Chapter 26 concerning tour operators and small group tours during their regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 9.
The council approved the inclusion of a “preamble” to the amendment, which states that the amendments were meant to “protect the residents of residential neighborhoods” as well as “preserve the aesthetic charm and the quality of life for all residents of the city.”
Further, the preamble states that the ability to conduct paid home tours in a residential setting is “a privilege, not a right.”
The approved amendments define the size of a group tour as the combined capacity of two large buses or less.
The council also agreed to allow five group tour operator licenses to be issued per year, and the maximum number of tours allowed per license was set at 10 tours. Also, a limit of 10 tours per year was given for each residence to prevent a single home being toured repeatedly by multiple operators.
The council also requires that group tour operators “provide for the maintenance of appropriate insurance” for the home that they intend to tour and keep a tour log, which lists the time and date, as well as number of tourists.
Group tours are restricted to daylight hours, but up to three candlelight tours, which may last until 9 p.m., are allowed.
The incidental sale of “homeowner produced or designed goods or those that directly relate to the historic significance of the premises” will be allowed.
The council struck a portion of the amendments that restricted food service to only “light hors d’oeuvres [and] finger food” only retaining the provision that alcoholic beverages not be sold or served.
The remaining portions of the approved amendments mandate that the owner of the premises be on-site during tours, describes the loading and unloading procedures for tour vehicles, and gives the City Manager a procedure for dealing with requirement violations.
Prior to the discussion of the amendments, Madison Mayor Bruce Gilbert addressed the anonymous letter, which had been sent to Madison residents the week before, concerning the amendments. Gilbert stated that it was” disappointing… to get an unsigned letter” and that the letter contained “a lot of untruths.”
Shortly after approving the preamble, the topic of allowing public comment before votes on the amendments was brought up, and Gilbert stated that their would not be public comment because the amendments had been discussed during previous meetings.
Council Member Michael Naples stated that it would be a “real mistake” to refuse to hear from the public, to which Gilbert responded “What can be added? Is there anything new to add?”
Naples said that the fact that changes had been made to the proposed amendments since the last discussion created a reason for allowing new public comments.
City Attorney Joe Reitman stated that allowing public comment is a discretionary measure but told Naples that he could make a motion to allow public comment.
Naples moved to allow public comment, but the motion died due to lack of a second.
Gilbert also announced during the meeting that the city is closing on approximately 20 acres of land, which was donated to the city on behalf of A.B. Pritchard for the purpose of extending Madison’s city cemetery.
Gilbert stated that he is “real proud” of being involved with the project, which will “impact [the] community for years to come.
During the meeting, the city council also voted to:
approve of the alcohol license applications received for 2014.
approve the System of Care contract for the Family Advocate/Nurturing Skills position as well as the contract for the System of Care Administrator.
approve a new agreement with Sandy Sanford concerning the Anchorage Development.
reappoint Scott Campbell to the Morgan County Planning Commission.
appoint Mike Torino to the Downtown Development Authority of Madison.