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District 13

Alder Tag Evers

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Alder Tag Evers

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2329 Keyes Av

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210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Room 417
Madison, WI 53703
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Alder Evers’ Blog

Proposed Changes to the Zoning Ordinance

March 19, 2021 9:15 AM

Hi Everyone,

The proposed changes to the zoning ordinance go before Plan Commission on Monday, March 22.

(See details at the end of this post about how to register and/or view this important meeting.)

Here is an update on the proposed ordinance changes:

As I've indicated in earlier posts, these changes include recommendations found in the City's 2018 Comprehensive Plan to diversify housing types and increase densities. Currently, in several zoning districts, the allowable densities fall below those recommended in the Comp Plan. 

Moreover, the proposed changes are meant to address Madison's tight housing market by focusing on what's called the "Missing Middle" -- small and medium scale housing ranging from duplexes and triplexes up to medium-sized apartment buildings and condos.  Currently, development projects more often than not in our city center around two categories -- single-family housing out toward the periphery and large multi-family housing -- without much in between. The goal of the proposed changes is to activate this space, to incentivize the construction of small to medium infill projects. 

The proposed changes can be supported on the basis of the following considerations: 

  • Infill and density, building up, not out, reduces sprawl and the comcomitant traffic congestion and carbon emissions.
  • Increased density creates local business opportunities, enhancing neighborhood walkability. 
  • Increased density enhances the viability of Madison Metro and Bus Rapid Transit.
  • Increased density, when coupled with ped/bike enhancements, reduces vehicle miles traveled.
  • Reducing barriers to multi-family housing creates the potential for more diversity and equity.

Generally, the amendments include the following:

  • Increase the number of dwelling unit threshold at which a new multi-family or mixed-use building becomes a Conditional Use.
  • Reduce the amount of lot area and Usable Open Space (UOS) required per dwelling unit.
  • Lower the amount of commercial space required in a mixed-use building before a Conditional Use is triggered.
  • Eliminate an automatic Conditional Use for buildings with occupancies of certain sizes.
  • Eliminate dispersion requirement for new development, which required an automatic Conditional use if a new two-family or multi-family building is proposed within 300' of existing two-family or multi-family building.
  • Increases the height of otherwise permissible 5-story buildings to 78' (up from 68', consistent with what we have seen since 2013).

A few of the relevant definitions to understand when reviewing these amendments:

  • Lot Area . The area of a horizontal plane bounded by the front, side and rear lot lines, excluding any wetland area or any area dedicated or reserved by easement to the public for stormwater management.
  • Usable Open Space . That portion of a zoning lot, outside of a required front or corner side yard, as extended to the rear lot line, that is available to all occupants for outdoor use.
  • Usable open space shall not include areas occupied by buildings, driveways, drive aisles, off-street parking, paving and sidewalks, except that paved paths no wider than five (5) feet, and pervious pavement may be included in usable open space.
  • Usable open space may include balconies and roof decks where specified in this ordinance. Also, a mixed-use building is a building comprised of commercial space on the first floor and residential space above. 
  • Also, a mixed-use building is a building comprised of commercial space on the first floor and residential space above.

Which Zoning Districts Will Be Impacted?

There are seven zoning districts in District 13, and fourteen citywide, that will change should the proposed changes be enacted.

Impacted Residential Zoning Districts in D13:

  • SR-V2 (single to multi-famiily)
  • TR-V1 (single, two and 3-family)
  • TR-V2 (single to multi-family)
  • TR-U1 (single to multi-family)

Impacted Mixed-Use Districts in D13:

  • NMX  (neighborhood mixed use)
  • TSS   (traditional shopping street)
  • CC-T  (commercial corridor - transitional)

District 13 forms a crescent shape covering Neighborhood Associations plus the Triangle. Here are three images. The first includes Dudgeon-Monroe, the second includes Bay Creek, and the third includes Vilas, Greenbush and Monona Bay.


Bay Creek

Vilas Greenbush Monona Bay

(For more information, go to the interactive map available by clicking here.  You may navigate the map  by clicking on the stacked paper image in the upper right hand corner.)

The proposed changes will tweak the current zoning district requirements and specifications, but no parcels will change to a different zoning district.

Many of the proposed changes are slight and will be imperceptible, but concerns have been raised about the reduced opportunities for residents to weigh in on proposed development projects.

How Could Neighborhood Input Change?

Residents often give feedback on proposed developments through their neighborhood associations or as individuals at Plan Commission meetings, or to their alder. In a few circumstances, some of those opportunities to weigh in on a development proposal may decrease because the thresholds for requiring a Conditional Use Permit will be relaxed, but I believe that other safeguards, city processes, and community engagement will be retained when needed. For instance, in the circumstances when a Conditional Use Permit is no longer required, there could still be opportunities for public input, including these possibilities:

  • Demolition permits (Plan Commission and Landmarks Commission)
  • Urban Design Commission (when required, which wouldn't change)
  • Change to a Different Zoning District (Plan Commission and Common Council)
  • Adjacent to a Local Landmark (Landmarks Commission)
  • In a Local Historic District (Landmarks Commission)

I have raised the issue of neighborhood input with staff.  It's clear to me that such input is critically important, given that the role voice plays in participatory democracy. Projects often end up improved by the suggestions and critiques offered by residents. However, it's also true that resident input can be obstructive and impose costly delays or even kill otherwise quality projects in the name of preserving neighborhood character.  

I have asked staff to address this by requiring notification of the alder and neighborhood association with the expectation that a public information meeting would be held for mixed use projects newly enfranchised with permitted uses. We must create the expectation, if not the requirement, that developers meet with the neighbors most impacted by a proposed project.

Specific Proposed Changes

Here are three tables detailing the proposed changes per zoning district:



Plan Commission meeting March 22 at 5:30

Please note - the meeting starts at 5:30, however this item is 13th on the agenda, second to last; it is on agenda as legistar # 63902

Important information

Info regarding how to listen to or watch and participate in this meeting:  

1. WRITTEN COMMENTS: You can send comments on agenda items to:

(Comments received after 3:00 p.m. on the day of the meeting may not be added to the public record until after the meeting.)

2. REGISTER BUT DO NOT SPEAK: You can register your support, opposition, or neither support or opposition to an agenda item without speaking at:\MeetingRegistration

3. REGISTER TO SPEAK or TO ANSWER QUESTIONS: If you wish to speak to an agenda item at the virtual meeting in support, opposition, or neither support or opposition, you MUST register.

You can register at:

When you register to speak OR answer questions, you will be prompted to provide contact information so that you can be sent an email with the information you will need to join the virtual meeting.

4. WATCH THE MEETING: You can listen to or watch the Plan Commission meeting in several ways:

• Livestream on the Madison City Channel website:

• Livestream on the City of Madison YouTube Channel:

• Television: Watch live on Charter Digital 994 and AT&T U-Verse 99

• Listen to audio via phone: (877) 853-5257 (Toll Free) | Webinar ID: 926 4639 3472

I encourage you to participate!

Take care and stay safe,


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