A conversation with Reeves on Madison planning, zoning

John Reeves, an attorney in Jackson, is the planning and zoning commission chairman for the city of Madison. Reeves was appointed to the commission in 2010 and made chairman in 2012. Sun Staff Writer Megan Phillips spoke with Reeves about the cases the commission receives and the factors it uses in deciding on them.


What all goes before the commission?

“Requests to construct new subdivisions, requests for variances as to uses of property. For example, there might be a property zoned residential, but (the applicant) might want a variance to use it in a manner other than residential. Or the applicant may want a variance to reduce the size of their home from what’s required or to reduce the size of the lot, the yard, setbacks. Also, what comes before us are requests for development of commercial ventures, like shopping centers for example. Requests to place churches in various areas.”


What is the most common type of case that comes before the planning and zoning commission?

“The most common kind of case would be the development of commercial properties.”


When is the commission unable to approve a case that comes before it?

“Well, it’s up to the commissioners to approve or not approve. There’s no requirement that they approve anything or that they disapprove anything. It’s a discretionary vote. For example, if the one seeking approval hasn’t complied with all the zoning laws and other ordinances, that can be grounds for a denial or a request that they go back and comply before they get approved. Sometimes there are cases where we could approve but because of strong neighborhood opposition we don’t.”


When approving something, is there a certain feel that the commission is trying to provide for the city?

“Yes. What I’m looking for is development that is attractive, in compliance with all the laws, and that will add to the long-term vibrancy of the city of Madison.”


Have the applications changed over the years? Do you see more residential versus commercial applications, or are they about equal?

“Here lately there have been a lot more commercial requests, but I’d say through the years it’s been about even because we’ve approved many new subdivisions within the city.”


Does Madison have a land use plan?



How old is it?

“We’ve adopted the latest version within the last three years. It’s fairly new. We had a hearing for it and everything. So we generally stick by the land use plan.”


Can you summarize what the land use plan requires for the city of Madison?

“The land use plan lays out a long-term vision for use of land within the city generally for commercial or residential or a mix of that, parks, streets, things like that. It’s designed to promote the orderly and attract development to the city long-term.”


Where is the growth, based on the cases you have recently seen and approved?

“Residential growth is everywhere. We’ve approved new subdivisions in every part of the city within the last two or three years. Big ones, nice ones. It’s dispersed all throughout. Commercial growth is now mainly centered in the Grandview area. A lot of growth there.”


What has been the most controversial zoning petition you have seen in your time as commission chairman?

“Well, about three or four years ago, the developers of Reunion had a proposal to do some things out there. And the Reunion residents were solemnly against it, and we held several public hearings. I think one of them attracted over 300 people. We eventually worked it out to the satisfaction of everybody. That was a big one.”


What all was involved in the proposal?

“One issue involved whether or not to reduce the green space on the original PUD, street width, home size, things like that. But again, through working with all parties, we were able to reach a consensus that satisfied everybody, which I’m real proud of.”


How often does the commission meet?

“Once a month. We meet every second Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the justice center in the auditorium.”


How long do meetings usually take?

“We’ve got some meetings that’ll last three or four hours. Generally our business is completed within an hour and a half, unless there’re citizens that come to speak. We certainly allow anyone to speak at any time, and that can take longer.”


How does someone qualify to be on the commission? 

“The mayor (Mary Hawkins Butler) and  board of aldermen appoint the people. There are no formal qualifications. All the people on (the commission) are very good and qualified, diligent people.”


How many people are on the commission? 

“There are 12 available positions, with nine currently filled. Members retired or left for mainly business reasons, and the mayor will fill them in due course.”


Are appointments re-evaluated?

“Members serve until they decide to retire from it. Anyone that has gotten off the commission has done so voluntarily.”






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