Planning & Zoning

Land Use Planning

Several types of short- and long-range land use plans guide the development of the City of Madison. Most of these land use plans are adopted by the Plan Commission and Common Council as a part of the City’s “master plan.” Land use plans for relatively large areas (such as the whole City) tend to be more general, cover a longer time period, and address primarily physical development issues, such as recommended land use and transportation facilities. Plans for relatively small areas (such as a neighborhood) tend to be more detailed, cover a shorter planning period, and often address local social or economic concerns as well.

Madison Land Use Plan

The Madison Land Use Plan was first adopted in 1977 and has been updated periodically since that time. The Land Use Plan includes general land use policies and recommendations for the entire City as well as specific geographic areas ranging in size from a few parcels to many blocks. The use and density recommendations (for example, “medium density residential-mixed housing types”) are considered general guidelines for the defined area rather than an absolute limit on the use of any particular parcel. The Land Use Plan’s general development recommendations are used to guide preparation of more detailed neighborhood or project plans, and also serve as a guide for the City’s review of zoning and development proposals when no more detailed plan is available. 

Peripheral Area Development Plan

The Peripheral Area Development Plan (PADP), adopted in 1990 as an amendment to the Land Use Plan, addresses issues related to urban growth at Madison’s edge. The PADP identifies the highest priority locations for future City expansion and regional open space preservation. Based on policies adopted in the PADP, the City of Madison does not allow new development to begin in an area until a detailed Neighborhood Development Plan (NDP) for the area has been adopted.

Neighborhood Development Plans

Neighborhood Development Plans (NDPs) are prepared to guide the future urban development of vacant and agricultural lands at the City’s edge. NDPs are primarily physical plans that include detailed recommendations regarding future land uses, the location of future streets and other transportation facilities, and the location of public facilities such as parks and schools. NDPs also make recommendations regarding development staging and the efficient extension of public services such as sanitary sewer, public water, police and fire protection, refuse collection, and public transit. Residents, property owners, and other stakeholders in the planning area participate in the planning process through public meetings and individual consultation with project staff. Once development of the area begins, proposed subdivisions (which create streets and building lots) and zoning amendments (which determine what land uses will be allowed) are reviewed against the NDP to ensure that the proposed arrangement of streets, location of parks and other public facilities, and general pattern of land uses and densities is consistent with the NDP’s recommendations.

Neighborhood Plans

Neighborhood Plans address planning issues in older areas of the City where urban land uses are already established. While NDPs are initiated by the City, the planning process in an established neighborhood often begins with a request by a neighborhood association, the business community, or a group of concerned residents. Neighborhood plans are sometimes developed in response to resident concerns about neighborhood conditions or trends. In other cases, neighborhood plans are developed as a means to further enhance a neighborhood with which most residents are quite satisfied. Neighborhood plan recommendations may include proposed changes in zoning to protect existing uses or facilitate development of desired types of alternative uses; strategies to reduce the negative impacts of traffic through the neighborhood; or improved neighborhood amenities such as street trees, benches, and neighborhood identification signs. Enhancing the sense of neighborhood identity and developing programs and activities to address the needs of residents are often important neighborhood planning issues. Active participation by residents and shared direction of the planning process is essential to the successful development of a neighborhood plan. 

Contact:

Planning Division

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4635 Fax: 267-8739

e-mail: planning@cityofmadison.com 

Rezonings, Conditional Uses, and Variances

The City Zoning Code identifies permitted and conditionally permitted land uses for each zoning district in the City. The Zoning Code is based on City land use plans including the City of Madison Land Use Plan, the Peripheral Area Development Plan, Neighborhood Development Plans, and neighborhood plans. The Zoning Code identifies residential, office, commercial, manufacturing, flood plain, conservancy, agricultural, wetland, and other special land use zoning districts. Land use proposals are reviewed by the Planning Unit, the Zoning Section, and other appropriate City Agencies, Boards and Commissions to ensure consistency with City ordinances including the City Zoning Code.

For three kinds of land use proposals – rezoning, conditional use, and variance proposals – the City review process includes built-in opportunities for neighborhood associations to submit comments to decision-makers. When a proposal for rezoning, conditional use, or variance is submitted, notifications about the proposal and public input opportunities are mailed to all residents and property owners within 200 feet of the property as well as the district Alderperson(s) and registered neighborhood association(s). Neighborhood associations should develop an ongoing dialogue with all of the parties involved in the review process for rezonings, conditional uses, and zoning variances – including Alderpersons; City staff; property owners and developers; neighborhood residents; neighborhood association officers and board members; and appropriate City Board/Commission members. Land use proposals are similar to many neighborhood improvement projects in that cooperation among all of these parties leads to the best results.

Rezoning Proposals

A use of a property that is not permitted by its current zoning classification requires a rezoning ordinance approved by the Common Council and signed by the Mayor. When a rezoning proposal is submitted, notifications about the proposal and public input opportunities are mailed to all residents and property owners within 200 feet of the property as well as the district Alderperson(s) and registered neighborhood association(s). 

How to Get Started:

v     Discuss the rezoning proposal with Planning Unit and/or Zoning Section staff. Planning Unit and Zoning Section staff are available to discuss rezoning proposals, including information on pertinent landscaping, traffic, building design, and land use issues. 

v     Contact the property owner/ developer applying for the rezoning. The City advises rezoning applicants to discuss their proposal with appropriate neighborhood associations prior to submitting an application. Neighborhood associations should develop a continuing dialogue with the applicant throughout the proposal review process. Ask the applicant to meet with your neighborhood association and neighborhood residents to discuss the proposal. 

v     Contact your district Alderperson. Contact your district Alderperson to discuss the proposal. 

v     Discuss the proposal with neighborhood association officers, board, and membership. Based on the information obtained from City staff, the district Alderperson, and the applicant, your neighborhood association may wish to prepare a written statement in favor of or in opposition to the proposed rezoning. It is prudent to obtain input from association officers, board representatives, and membership in the preparation of a written statement.

v     Submit written comments to the Planning Unit or the Plan Commission. Prior to the Plan Commission public hearing on the rezoning proposal, neighborhood associations may submit written comments to: 1) the Planning Unit (at least one day prior to the scheduled hearing) or 2) the Secretary of the Plan Commission (prior to or at the time of the hearing). Written comments become part of the official record.

v     Speak at the Plan Commission hearing. The Plan Commission accepts oral as well as written statements on rezoning proposals. Speakers must arrive several minutes prior to the meeting in order to register to speak. Public hearing comments become part of the official record.

v     Review the Plan Commission’s recommendation. The Plan Commission will recommend that the Common Council either approve, conditionally approve, or deny the rezoning proposal. Prior to the Common Council decision, neighborhood associations can continue discussions of the proposal with appropriate parties.

v     Submit written comments to the City Clerk’s Office or the Common Council. Prior to the Common Council public hearing on the rezoning proposal, neighborhood associations may submit written comments to: 1) the City Clerk’s Office (at least one day prior to the scheduled hearing) or 2) the Secretary of the Common Council (at the time of the hearing). All written comments become part of the official record.

v     Speak at the Common Council hearing. The Common Council accepts oral as well as written statements on rezoning proposals. Speakers must arrive several minutes prior to the meeting in order to register to speak. All public hearing comments become part of the official record.

v     Discuss Common Council decision with Planning Unit staff. Planning Unit staff are available to clarify Common Council decisions on rezoning proposals.

Commonly Asked Questions:

Successful Implementation: Creation of Homestead Shoppes

When the gas station/convenience store on the corner of Island Drive and Mineral Point Road closed in 1995, many Faircrest neighborhood residents were concerned about the future use of the site. A 19th century farmhouse (with a gift and flower shop in it) located in the middle of the site was a landmark that neighborhood residents wanted to preserve. Local developer John Flad, of Flad Development and Investment Corp., was proposing to redevelop the property that included the farmhouse and the former gas station for neighborhood specialty retail shops (Homestead Shoppes). Faircrest Neighborhood Association (FNA) was concerned about the proposed rezoning of the site from C1 (Neighborhood Commercial) to C2 (General Commercial), which would allow several specialty retail uses that are not permitted by C1 zoning. Joe Boucher, FNA President, recalls that many neighborhood residents were initially concerned about the proposal because they had limited information about it. “The key,” says Boucher, “was giving residents the opportunity to learn the specifics of the proposal.” FNA and Alderperson Steve Holtzman organized a neighborhood meeting for Flad to describe his site plans and the reasons for the proposed rezoning. Flad showed with artist renderings that the proposed building design and materials would complement the farmhouse’s historic character. Neighborhood residents explained that they were also concerned about the kinds of future site uses that a rezoning from C1 to C2 would allow. Over the following weeks, Flad, FNA, Holtzman, and City Planning staff worked together to develop an agreement to address these concerns. Flad and the seller of the property reached a deed restriction agreement that allowed many specialty retail uses but restricted several uses normally permitted under C2 zoning (such as car washes and hotels). Flad also agreed to work with FNA to ensure neighborhood involvement in future plans for the site. “Working with neighborhood associations,” says Flad, “is the prudent thing to do when submitting land use proposals. Faircrest Neighborhood Association and I enjoyed a candid working relationship that ensured the success of Homestead Shoppes.”

Q:  Can rezoning decisions be appealed? 

A:  In some cases where the Plan Commission recommends approval of a rezoning proposal, a zoning amendment protest may be submitted prior to Common Council consideration of the proposed rezoning. Properly filed petitions (which may warrant legal assistance) require the Common Council to approve the rezoning by a three-fourths majority as opposed to the normal one-half majority. For more information, contact the Zoning Section and request a “Zoning Amendment Protests Informational Pamphlet.”

Q:  What is a Planned Unit Development (PUD)? 

A:  A Planned Unit Development (PUD) is a type of rezoning that allows creative projects that don’t “fit” into standard zoning categories.

Contact:

Planning Division

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4635 Fax: 267-8739

e-mail: planning@cityofmadison.com 

 

Zoning Section

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI, 53703

Phone: 266-4569 Fax: 261-9654

e-mail: bldginspect@cityofmadison.com 

 

City Clerk’s Office

City-County Building, Rm. 103

210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. 

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4601 Fax: 266-4666

e-mail: clerk@cityofmadison.com 

Conditional Use Proposals

A conditional use is a use of a property that is not permitted outright in a zoning district but may be allowed if ordinance standards as well as requirements specified through the review process are met. When a conditional use proposal is submitted, notifications about the proposal and public input opportunities are mailed to all residents and property owners within 200 feet of the property as well as the district Alderperson(s) and registered neighborhood association(s). 

How to Get Started:

v     Discuss the conditional use proposal with Planning Unit and/or Zoning Section staff. Planning Unit and Zoning Section staff are available to discuss the contents of conditional use proposals, including information on pertinent landscaping, traffic, building design, and land use issues. 

v     Contact the property owner/developer applying for the conditional use. The City advises conditional use applicants to discuss their proposal with appropriate neighborhood associations prior to submitting an application. Neighborhood associations should develop a continuing dialogue with the applicant throughout the proposal review process. Ask the applicant to meet with your neighborhood association and neighborhood residents to discuss the proposal. 

v     Contact your District Alderperson. Contact your district Alderperson to discuss the proposal. 

v     Discuss the proposal with neighborhood association officers, board, and membership. Based on the information obtained from City staff, the district Alderperson, and the applicant, your neighborhood association may wish to prepare a written statement in favor of or in opposition to the proposed conditional use. It is prudent to obtain input from association officers, board representatives, and membership in the preparation of a written statement. 

v     Submit written comments to the Planning Unit or the Plan Commission. Prior to the Plan Commission public hearing on the conditional use proposal, neighborhood associations may submit written comments to: 1) the Planning Unit (at least one day prior to the scheduled hearing) or 2) the Secretary of the Plan Commission (at the time of the hearing). All written comments become part of the official record.

v     Speak at the Plan Commission hearing. The Plan Commission accepts oral as well as written statements on conditional use proposals. Speakers must arrive several minutes prior to the meeting in order to register to speak. Public hearing comments become part of the official record.

v     Discuss the Plan Commission’s decision with Planning Unit and/or Zoning Section staff. Planning Unit and Zoning Section staff are available to clarify Plan Commission decisions on conditional use proposals. 

Contact:

Planning Division

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4635 Fax: 267-8739

e-mail: planning@cityofmadison.com 

 

Zoning Section

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4569 Fax: 261-9654

e-mail: bldginspect@cityofmadison.com 

Zoning Variance Proposals

A property owner can apply for a zoning variance if the property owner wants to demonstrate that meeting the zoning requirements (such as yard size, setback, or number of parking spaces) would require a hardship or practical difficulty due to the physical surrounding, shape, or topography of the property. When a zoning variance proposal is submitted, notifications about the proposal and public input opportunities are mailed to all residents and property owners within 200 feet of the property as well as the district Alderperson(s) and registered neighborhood association(s). 

How to Get Started:

v     Discuss variance proposal with Zoning Section staff. Zoning Section staff are available to discuss the contents of variance proposals, including information on pertinent landscaping, traffic, building design, and land use issues. 

v     Contact the property owner/developer applying for the variance. The City advises zoning variance applicants to discuss their proposal with appropriate neighborhood associations prior to submitting an application. Neighborhood associations should develop a continuing dialogue with the applicant throughout the proposal review process. Ask the applicant to meet with your neighborhood association and neighborhood residents to discuss the proposal. 

v     Contact your district Alderperson. Contact your district Alderperson to discuss the proposal. 

v     Discuss proposal with neighborhood association officers, board, and membership. Based on the information obtained from City staff, the district Alderperson, and the applicant, your neighborhood association may wish to prepare a written statement in favor of or in opposition to the proposed variance. It is prudent to obtain input from association officers, board representatives, and membership in the preparation of a written statement. 

v     Submit written comments to the Zoning Section or the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Prior to the ZBA public hearing on the variance proposal, neighborhood associations may submit written comments to: 1) the Zoning Section (at least one day prior to the scheduled hearing) or 2) the Secretary of the ZBA (at the time of the hearing). All written comments become part of the official record.

v     Speak at the ZBA hearing. The ZBA accepts oral as well as written statements on variance proposals. Speakers must arrive several minutes prior to the meeting in order to register to speak. Public hearing comments become part of the official record.

v     Discuss the ZBA decision with Zoning Section staff. Zoning Section staff are available to clarify ZBA decisions on variance proposals. 

Commonly Asked Question:

Q:  How can neighborhood associations obtain more general information on the review process for proposed rezonings, conditional uses, and zoning variances? 

A:  Sources of general information on the review process for land use proposals include: 1) City staff in the Planning Unit and/or Zoning Section; 2) your district Alderperson; and 3) members of the Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Plan Commission and ZBA membership and meeting schedule information is available from the City Clerk’s Office. Rezoning, conditional use, and variance proposals under City consideration are listed in the agenda for upcoming meetings/hearings of the Plan Commission, ZBA, and Common Council. Meeting agenda and minutes are available from the City Clerk’s Office. Meeting agenda are also posted outside the County Clerk’s Office in the City-County Building, and are on the internet on the City’s home page at http://www.cityofmadison.com

Contact:

Zoning Section

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI, 53703

Phone: 266-4569 Fax: 261-9654

e-mail: bldginspect@cityofmadison.com 

Neighborhood Plans

The City of Madison encourages neighborhood associations to develop neighborhood plans. A neighborhood plan is an organized set of recommendations on how to enhance a given geographic area. The process of developing a neighborhood plan is a great way to bring residents together to discuss ideas and share concerns. A neighborhood plan can serve both as a marketing tool to describe your neighborhood and as a vital resource for decision-makers to identify neighborhood priorities. A neighborhood plan can cover a range of issues – including land use, housing, traffic and pedestrian safety, community services, public safety, and aesthetics – or focus on a specific planning issue that is of particular importance. 

In preparing an effective neighborhood plan, it is vital to ensure ongoing input from residents as well as institutions and community-based groups. Developing a plan built on resident participation and consensus requires organizing a series of neighborhood meetings over several months.

How to Get Started:

v     Identify planning area boundaries. The first step is to define the geographic area that will be the focus of your plan. Since participation is a key element of your plan, make sure that you invite participation from all residents, community-based groups, and businesses in the identified area.

v     Develop a planning framework, outreach strategy, and timeline. At the beginning of your planning process, determine the scope of your plan and a planning timeline. Specify the steps in your planning process and the responsibilities of participants in a flow chart. An important element of a representative plan is to encourage broad participation by neighborhood residents, organizations, institutions, and other stakeholders at all stages of plan development. Post meeting notices at public places and frequented businesses (with owner’s permission), in neighborhood publications, and in city newspapers. Recruit one volunteer per block to go door-to-door and extend personal meeting invitations.

v     Contact your district Alderperson and other stakeholders. At the onset of your planning process, contact your district Alderperson, City staff, and other key stakeholders to inform them of your neighborhood planning initiative and to identify technical, reference, and/or other resources that may be available.

v     Collect information. Neighborhood planning should begin with an understanding of neighborhood characteristics and trends affecting your neighborhood. Important categories of information may include: population, housing, land use, parks and open space, aesthetics, traffic, crime, business, employment, public infrastructure, and neighborhood history. Inquire about information from appropriate City agencies, such as Planning, Transportation, Police, Community Services, and Parks.

v     Identify neighborhood assets and planning issues. One of the keys to a successful plan is to focus on neighborhood assets as well as current or future planning issues. Building upon the neighborhood’s assets, or strengths, will help ensure that the features that make your neighborhood a good place to live will be maintained and enhanced. After identifying assets, identify the issue(s) on which your neighborhood plan will focus. Creating a list of issues and voting on priorities is an excellent way to establish a framework for your planning process as well as the plan document itself. You may decide to begin with priority issues and work your way down the list or you may decide to narrow your focus.

v     Establish goals, formulate strategies, and articulate recommendations. Establish goals that specifically describe what needs to be accomplished in order to address the identified issues. There are often several alternative ways to meet goals. Identifying and evaluating these alternatives is required before making specific recommendations. Recommendations describe specific actions to be taken in order to meet identified goals.

v     Present your neighborhood plan to neighborhood residents and other stakeholders. When you have drafted a preliminary plan, present it to neighborhood residents, businesses, institutions, and other stakeholders. Comments from these stakeholders will help you identify ways to improve your plan.

v     Develop implementation plan. Plan recommendations should be accompanied by implementation strategies. What are the potential implementing agencies for each recommendation (i.e., your neighborhood association, neighborhood residents, non-profits, and/or City agencies)? What resources, such as funding, will be required? What are your priority recommendations? Contact your district Alderperson, City agencies, and local community-based groups to discuss ways to advocate for your plan recommendations.

v     Monitor, evaluate, and update plan. You should review your plan on an annual basis to identify the recommendations that have been implemented, recommendations that may need modification, or planning issues which need further attention given events and trends since development of the plan.

Commonly Asked Questions:

Q:  Where can neighborhood associations obtain examples of existing neighborhood plans? 

A:  Existing neighborhood plans are available at local public library branches and the Department of Planning and Development.

Q:  Where can citizens and neighborhood associations obtain information on neighborhood history and population, housing, land use, and traffic conditions?

A:  Extensive housing and demographic information can be found in U.S. Census data, available from many sources including a summary document (data organized by census tract) available from the Department of Planning and Development (266-4635). Land use maps are available from the Zoning counter in the Department of Planning and Development (266-4560). Traffic data information is available from the Traffic Engineering Division (266-4761). Neighborhood history information is available from the Preservation Planner in the Planning Unit (266-6552).  

Q:  Where can neighborhood associations obtain additional information and assistance on how to develop neighborhood plans?

A:  The City’s Neighborhood Planner in the Planning Unit can refer you to many reference sources on creating neighborhood plans, facilitating meetings, conducting neighborhood surveys, and other neighborhood planning topics. In addition, you may wish to contact planning consulting firms, local non-profit groups, or university departments.

Contact:

Jule Stroick, Neighborhood Planner

Planning Division

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 267-8744 Fax: 267-8739

e-mail: jstroick@cityofmadison.com 

Planning Documents Available From the Department of Planning and Development

CDBG Neighborhood Plans

CDBG neighborhood plans are developed by neighborhood residents with assistance from the Department of Planning and Development and the Community Development Block Grant Office. These plans describe 3-5 year strategies to address the challenges facing Madison’s older, built-up neighborhoods.

Allied-Dunn’s Marsh Neighborhood Plan & Brochure (1990)

Bay Creek Neighborhood Plan & Brochure (1991)

Brentwood Village-Packers-Sherman Neighborhood Plan (1996)

Brittingham-Vilas Neighborhood Plan & Brochure (1989)

Broadway-Simpson-Waunona Way Neighborhood Plan (1986)

Emerson-Burr Jones-Eken Park Neighborhood Plan (1984)

Emerson East-Eken Park Neighborhood Plan (1998)

Fourth District Neighborhood Plan (1983)

Hawthorne-Truax Neighborhood Plan (2001)

Hiestand Neighborhood Plan (2006)

Marquette Neighborhood Plan (1982)

Marquette-Schenk-Atwood Neighborhood Plan & Brochure (1994)

Northport-Warner Park Neighborhood Plan & Brochure (1992)

Regent Street - South Campus (2008)

Schenk’s-Atwood Neighborhood Plan (1985)

Schenk-Atwood/Starkweather/Worthington Park Neighborhood Plan (2000)

South Madison Neighborhood  Plan ( 2005)

Southwest Neighborhood Plan (2008)

Spring Harbor Neighborhood Plan (2006)

Tenney-Lapham (2008)

Neighborhood Development Plans

Neighborhood Developments Plans are prepared by the Department of Planning and Development to guide the future urban development of vacant and agricultural lands at the City’s edge.

Blackhawk Neighborhood Development Plan (1994)

Cottage Grove Neighborhood Development Plan (1992)

Cross Country Neighborhood Development Plan (1993)

East Towne/Burke Heights Development Plan (1987)

Elderberrry Neighborhood Development Plan (2002)

Felland Neighborhood Development Plan (2002)

Hanson Road Neighborhood Development Plan (2000)

High Point-Raymond Neighborhood Development Plan (1997)

Junction Neighborhood Development Plan (1990)

Marsh Road Neighborhood Development Plan (1999)

Mid-Town Neighborhood Development Plan (1999)

Nelson Neighborhood Development Plan (1992)

Pioneer Neighborhood Development Plan (2004)

Rattman Neighborhood Development Plan (1992)

Sprecher Neighborhood Development Plan (1998)

Neighborhood Initiated Plans

In some cases, neighborhood associations develop neighborhood plans with private resources in conjunction with assistance from City agencies, non-profit groups, university departments, and/or consulting firms.

Bassett (1997)
First Settlement (1995)

Ridgewood (2002)

Schenk-Atwood (2000)

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