Planning & Zoning Identifies Madison Opportunity Zones, May Designate This Year
A decision to approve the use of so-called “floating zones,” which drew some pushback from residents back in 2019, is moving forward slowly this year as the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) has identified a dozen or so properties around town that potentially have the opportunity to override underlying residential zoning regulations through an “opportunity zone.”
Uses that are explicitly mentioned in the town’s zoning codes as being permitted in opportunity zones include medical offices, wineries and breweries, restaurants, and hotels. Explicitly disallowed uses include auto mechanic shops, tattoo or massage parlors, storage facilities, and manufacturing.
Town Planner Dave Anderson said the process is in its earliest stages and will require an amendment to the Plan of Conservation & Development, winding its way through a handful of public hearings and consideration by the Board of Selectmen (BOS). Officials will first reach out to property owners to see if they are even interested in the possibilities that an opportunity zone presents, according to Anderson.
None of these properties would have any “as of right” development opportunities; everything would still have to go through an approval and public hearing process, Anderson said.
“It doesn’t give them the right to do anything other than apply to the [PZC] for a potential project,” Anderson said. “There’s nothing that automatically gives the property owner the ability to do anything different.”
When the original regulation was approved in summer 2019, the concerns that were raised focused mostly on a single property that has already been designated an opportunity zone: 155 New Road, where a developer hoped to sell to a biotech company to use as its headquarters.
That project fell through, Anderson told the BOS in December, though the developer still is hoping to see a commercial office complex built there. Movement on that potential project is also on hold due to the pandemic, Anderson said, though he predicted it could still be “positively impactful” to the community in the near future.
But the regulation allows the PZC to approve other lots as opportunity zones, focused on underdeveloped areas. While the town does not need a property owner’s “express permission” to alter the zone, Anderson said the PZC has chosen not to include anyone who has no interest in taking advantage of what an opportunity zone allows.
As the town reaches out to these identified properties, Anderson said the PZC would have a public hearing to get “preliminary feedback” before moving forward with the formal process, which includes more public hearings and BOS referral.
“There’s a lot of road ahead of us before we formally do anything,” he said.
But he added that it was probably true the process would play out within 2021 if the PZC decides to go forward.
Adjoining and abutting property owners will also be notified later on down the road, if one of these zones is likely to move forward, according to Anderson.
From the town’s perspective, Anderson said these zones can help “redevelopment” of currently non-conforming commercial properties and help them be “more compatible” with adjoining residential use.
The designation also could allow more flexibility for residential properties, including multi-family housing and accessory structures added on to existing residences, according to Anderson.