EconoLodge redevelopment review, Aug. 24, 2015


Under one roof. A survey of the EconoLodge’s square footage, measured under continuous rooflines, may help determine if the proposed redevelopment exceeds 50 percent of the property, thereby bringing the entire motel to the new “Village” standards.

The Community Development Review Committee this afternoon postponed a  decision on a West Homewood EconoLodge redevelopment question.

Motel owner Sanjay Patel has proposed demolishing a portion of the building complex on Oxmoor Road and rebuilding a re-branded, extended stay hotel in its place. The new building must be permitted under new West Homewood “Village” codes, while Mr. Patel plans to operate the remaining buildings, which are grandfathered under existing zoning, under the current EconoLodge banner.

Central to the question today was whether the renovations contemplated affect more than 50 percent of the existing property, thereby triggering a rule that would require bringing the entire property up to the Village code. The committee on July 30 already denied two requested variances to the village standards. The 50 percent rule represents a third variance, and one which Mr. Patel could probably not afford to lose.

The fate of the 1970s-era motel is up against substantial opposition from residents and, it appears, the city itself. A hotel across the street was shut down a year ago as a public nuisance for sheltering criminal behavior and remains closed. Homewood, at 8 square miles in area, has 20 motels already, most of them concentrated at two Interstate exits west of Green Springs Highway. A campaign to limit hotels in Wildwood failed some years ago; residents don’t want to gamble on adding another so close to a residential neighborhood and school.

Sanjay Patel presented his case to the neighborhood for a new 4-story extended stay hotel at the site of the EconoLodge. He's seen here with engineer, hotel developer, and resident Nic Seaborn, acting as moderator.

This spring, Sanjay Patel presented his case to the neighborhood for a new 4-story extended stay hotel at the site of the EconoLodge. The proposal has been altered substantially to meet “Village” standards, and is still under review.

At this afternoon’s meeting, the panel spent 40 minutes discussing how to apply the 50 percent rule, whether it involved total square footage, square footage of the buildings to be demolished and those to be built, or some combination. The village zoning code considers any area under one roof to be one building, even if it contains open areas. He wanted to know the roof-line measurements and whether or not the combined roofline parameters for what is being torn down and what is being built equaled more than 50%. He also wondered if the swimming pool, which Mr. Patel filled with concrete, would be included.

After discussion, and with no formal vote taken, the panel called for a new survey that includes the square footage inclusive of all the walkways, awnings, and overhangs. They will meet again in two weeks or less to resolve the 50 percent question.

CDRC members and their offices: Mayor Scott McBrayer, Vance Moody, Ward 2 council member Vance Moody (Ward 2 council member Fred Hawkins substituted at the last review meeting), James Ponseti, Planning Commission member and committee chairman, Nickolas Hill, Fire Marshal, and Vanessa McGrath, city Building, Engineering and Zoning staff (Greg Cobb from the same department substituted for Ms. McGrath at the last meeting).

Audience attendance: 10

City Council meeting, Aug. 24, 2015


Will a new anti-tethering law help this Homewood resident on 25th Terrace South? The city’s animal control officer asked for this and other measures to support better treatment of animals and prevent creation of “vicious dogs.” The practice of tying up dogs is now essentially outlawed.








The most momentous ruling tonight was the mayor’s postponement of his FY2016 budget proposal. But for a mercifully small number of Homewood dogs, the passage of an anti-tethering law was the most important vote taken. The city’s animal control officer told a council committee two weeks ago that the words “inhumane” in the current animal ordinance was not a clear enough term to stop owners from tying out dogs, some whose entire lives are lived on the end of a chain. With precise language outlawing tethering for any longer than an hour in any 8-hour period, enforcement should follow quickly.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Walter Jones, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Richard Laws, Peter Wright (arriving after several votes, see below), and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Peter Wright arrived mid-way through the meeting.

Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, Melody Salter, finance director, and Greg Cobb, city Building, Engineering and Zoning staff.

Audience attendance: 15

Approved minutes of the July 27, 2015 meeting.


Dropped an idea to build a playground on public property in Lakeshore Estates: The Public Safety Committee recommended dropping the item after a negative report from Parks and Recreation chief Berkley Squires. A similar report from Mr. Squires helped kill a movement to create a park on a triangle traffic island and a vacant lot off Broadway and Short Saulter Road.


This photo-edited image shows what the No Parking signs would look like, if merchants are granted a variance. The council has asked for time to find a less-imposing solution to parking concerns.

Downtown merchants dropped, for now, their support of prominent no-parking signs facing Linden Avenue while a committee discusses parking solutions.

Dropped a request for prominent NO PARKING signs on the back parking lots of downtown businesses from Cahaba Cycle to Shaia’s: Merchants were angered by the council’s passage, over their objections, of a rezoning measure that allowed a building on Linden Avenue to be used for a nonprofit church business. Asking for the oversized signs at the last meeting, merchants agreed to see the results of an ad hoc parking committee meeting. The committee’s meeting last week apparently persuaded those merchants to agree to dropping their request.

Approved a request to use public property to build a parking pad for a house on Whitehall: The request carried over from last meeting involves using concrete or stone pavers to establish a parking pad parallel and adjacent to the street at 3107 Whitehall Road. Although the council has denied recent driveway variances for similar parking pads, it approved this one because the area had already been leveled, either as a former parking place or flower bed, and covered with gravel. The homeowner plans to use separate pavers to construct the parking place.

Approved, with one exception, the 2015 editions of building and fire codes: The council approved all but one section of the 2015 building codes. The section removed in its entirety any requirement for single-family houses to be furnished with automatic sprinklers. The city attorney said the state legislature had ruled it an overreach of state government to require residential sprinklers under any condition. Passed otherwise were the 2015 editions of the International Building Code, Residential Code, Plumbing Code, Mechanical Code, Fuel Gas Code, Existing Building Code, Property Maintenance Code, Energy Conservation Code and the 2014 edition of National Electrical Code / NFPA 70 and the 2015 edition of the International Fire Code and all Appendices.

Allowed a variance for a driveway on Yorkshire Drive: The city code requires a variance for driveways constructed of any material beside asphalt or concrete. The driveway at 105 Yorkshire Drive would be lined with a particular kind of gravel that doesn’t scatter, but allows water drainage, mitigating stormwater runoff and flooding problems in the hilly Hollywood section.

Mr. Wright arrived during the discussion of Yorkshire Drive.

Anti-tethering laws are gaining ground in cities across the country. Homewood joined their ranks tonight. From the Humane Society of the United States website.

Anti-tethering laws are gaining ground in cities across the country. Homewood joined their ranks tonight.
From the Humane Society of the United States website.


Approved a law against tying/chaining dogs for extended periods: The essentially humane animal treatment law passed tonight is all that was salvaged from an ambitious proposal by Mr. Hawkins that would have regulated almost every aspect of dog ownership from mandated microchipping to a separate city pet licensing program, tiered system of fines for biting dogs, special fencing and restraints for certain dogs deemed dangerous, and even jail time for repeat leash-law offenders. An organized protest against any breed specific legislation stopped the momentum. The remaining law addresses the creation of “vicious dogs” by tying and isolating them in ways now considered inhumane.

Specifically, the law prohibits tethering for any more than one hour during any 8-hour period. The rule applies to both dogs and cats.

Approved resurfacing a part of Columbiana Road: The vote authorizes the mayor to enter into an agreement with the state Department of Transportation for this project.

Approved funding of remaining $9,000 owed ClasTran: ClasTran provides public shuttle transportation for elderly, low-income and other special needs populations, underwritten by local and federal dollars. This vote funds the remaining $9,000 of a yearly $15,000 bill for service in Homewood.

Renewed a Pitney Bowes mailing system contract:
The vote authorizes the mayor to sign a lease agreement with Pitney Bowes, Inc. for a new mailing system. No cost provided.

Approved budget amendments for current year: Passed unspecified amendments to the current budget in the General, Capital, Debt and Special Revenue Funds.

A sparse crowd.

The Community Development Review Committee heard its first case–a motel redevelopment–July 30. The committee and much of the original West Homewood District regulations may be abolished or changed in September.

Continued setting a Sept. 14, 2015, hearing before voting on zoning changes to the West Homewood District: A public hearing is set before the council votes whether to make substantial recommended changes to the West Homewood District regulations, including abolishing a review panel that is in the process of ruling on a major redevelopment request by the EconoLodge on Oxmoor Road.


To Finance – To consider 1) Fixing Lee Center parking lot drainage problems; 2) Finalizing a contract with Volkert Engineering, Inc., for a federal/local funded pavement management contract ongoing since 2014; 3) Declaring street department fleet equipment surplus and due to be sold, including oil burning heaters, a sandblaster part, pneumatic lift jack, and Street Sweeper; and 4) Reviewing the Mayor’s proposed FY2016 budget.

To Public Safety -To consider 1) Discussing traffic-calming measures in West Homewood; 2) Establishing a crosswalk at the intersection of Central Avenue and Reese Street; and 3) Closing Oak Grove Road in coming months for a neighborhood celebration.

To Special Issues – To consider sign ordinance variances at 600 Brookwood Mall.


Mayor’s FY2016 budget presentation postponed:

Gave local approval for a beer and wine license for new restaurant on Oak Grove Road: The owner of Oak and Raleigh, at 705 Oak Grove Road, said the business is having a “soft opening” this coming weekend from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday, with formal opening set for Sept. 2. 

Set a Sept. 14 public hearing for a Brookwood mall sign variance: See committee referral item, above.

Paid the bills: The council approved payment of invoices for the period Aug. 10-Aug. 21, 2015.

City Council, Aug. 10, 2015

Agrieved merchants representing ownership of L-R Pure Barre, Soca's, Homewood Toy and Hobby Shop, Sam's Super Samwiches and Shaia's are determined to stop free-parkers from a newly rezoned church program satellite from invading their private customer parking lots.

Aggrieved merchants representing ownership of L-R Pure Barre, Soca’s, Homewood Toy and Hobby Shop, Sam’s Super Samwiches and Shaia’s objected to rezoning a Linden building for a church program satellite. Now they’re aligned to protect their private customer parking lots.

Merchants whose opposition to rezoning for a Church of the Advent satellite on Linden are back, this time asking for conspicuous No Parking signs to prevent church attendees from straying into their lots. Mr. Busenlehner, founder of Homewood Toy & Hobby Shop, pointed out the law already allows him to post individual signs at each of his privately owned spaces–something he says he doesn’t want to resort to. The council urged patience to give an ad hoc parking committee time to study the problem first. Merchants representing the core of the city’s downtown shops, from Cahaba Cycles to Sam’s Super Samwiches sat stern-faced in the audience as their representative pitched the request in the most positive way he could–the signs will prevent cars from being towed, the Fravert representative said. They list who MAY park here, not who can’t.

While merchants agreed to wait on results from the committee, they are planning to resurface the lots in September, and want a swift resolution.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Richard Laws, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh.

Members absent: Vance Moody and Walter Jones. Also absent was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, Melody Salter, finance director, and Greg Cobb, city Building, Engineering and Zoning staff.

Audience attendance: 15

Approved minutes of the July 13, 2015 meeting.

CONSENT AGENDA-dropping two items

Dropped consideration of alternate designs for sidewalks/pedestrian improvements at Columbiana Road and Sterrett Avenue: The project is underway.

Dropped consideration of repaving an alley behind East Edgewood Drive: The resident hasn’t pursued this question. 



Three such signs would be posted at the entrances to parking on Linden behind downtown Homewood shops.

Carried over a no-parking sign variance request from downtown merchants: A contingent of downtown business- and property-owners who fought unsuccessfully to stop a church from zoning onto Linden Avenue property were back tonight asking permission to post larger-than-allowed No Parking signs on the privately owned lots behind 2800-2836 18th Street South. The properties represent businesses such as Cahaba Cycle, Homewood Toy & Hobby Shop, Pure Barre, Soca Apparel, Shaia’s, and Sam’s Super Samwiches. Many, if not most, had staunchly opposed the rezoning of a Linden building for the Church of the Advent, saying church attendees would use their parking and crowd out paying customers. The council’s vote in favor of rezoning was the catalyst for tonight’s request to post large and even imposing No Parking signs at each of the parking entrances along Linden.

The proposed signs would be each 12 square feet compared to the 4 square feet allowed. The Fravert Sign representative pointed out that signs the same size had been posted in other places with no city objection.

This photo-edited image shows what the No Parking signs would look like, if merchants are granted a variance. The council has asked for time to find a less-imposing solution to parking concerns.

This photo-edited image shows what the No Parking signs would look like on Linden, if merchants are granted a variance. The council has asked for time to find a less-imposing solution to parking concerns.

In discussion, Mr. Wright asked if the merchants would hold their request until an ad hoc parking committee headed by Mr. Thames could start meeting. The group had met once already. Toy & Hobby Shop founder Walter Busenlehner said none of the merchants were invited to that meeting and Mr. Thames said Steve Thomas, head of the Downtown Merchants Association, was notified and sent out an email about it to the members. However, Mr. Thames said it was only a brief organizational meeting and promised to call a meeting of the full membership before the next council meeting. Merchants agreed to wait.

Agreed to support a state retail beer and wine license for the Red Pearl restaurant and market: The restaurant at 243 West Valley Avenue has been recently remodeled.


The house at 222 Devon Drive received setback exemptions at an October 2014 Board of Zoning Adjustments hearing.

Approved work in the right-of-way for a residential parking pad and wall: Mr. Laws wasn’t inclined to approve the project, in which a resident is cutting a paved parking pad into the front of his residence at 222 Devon Drive, and using city right-of-way as a staging area. A long discussion followed on the justification of the work; other such requests have been presented — and rejected–as exemptions from driveway regulations. See similar case, next. The house was before another city board in October 2014.

Carried over a request to cut a paved parking pad into the property a narrow driveway: The homeowner at 3107 Whitehall Road agreed to bring drawings and a survey to the next council meeting, so members could visualize the request, which will require working in the city’s right-of-way. The Public Works Committee had not voted to recommend the project.

Set a Sept. 14 public hearing before voting whether to make substantial changes to the West Homewood District ordinance: The ordinance laying out the regulations and governance of an experimental redevelopment district in West Homewood has come under much scrutiny after an unpopular motel expansion become the first applicant under the new regulations. While the application of the EconoLodge is being reviewed under the original regulations passed more than a year ago, new amendments would abolish that panel and eliminate “Lodging” from permitted uses in the district. Pages of red-lined changes will be the subject of the vote following September’s public hearing.

Set an August 24 public hearing before voting whether to adopt 2015 building and fire codes: Under consideration are the 2015 editions of the International Building Code, Residential Code,Plumbing Code, Mechanical Code, Fuel Gas Code, Existing Building Code, International Property Maintenance Code, Energy Conservation Code, and the 2014 edition of National Electrical Code / NFPA 70 and the 2015 edition of the International Fire Code and all Appendices. Read carefully; last year’s adoption became an issue.


To Finance -To consider 1) Entering into a new mailing contract with Pitney Bowes; 2) Hearing an Alabama Power Col, Economic Development presentation; 3) Granting a cable franchise to Charter Communications; and 4) Amendments to the current budget.

Street trees may present the next battle to be waged on Homewood's crowded, over-built, and hard-to-manage  downtown strip.

Street trees may present the next battle to be waged on Homewood’s crowded, over-built, and hard-to-manage downtown strip.

To Planning and Development – To consider building a playground on city right-of-way in Lakeshore Estates.

To Public Works -To consider 1) Entering into an agreement with the state highway department to resurface a portion of Columbiana Road; and 2) Investigating a parking area drainage problem at the Lee Community Center.

To Special Issues -To consider problems with 1) Street trees growing on the downtown’s main street; and 2) a driveway variance requested at 105 Yorkshire Drive.


Paid the bills: The invoices for the period July 27-August 7, 2015 were approved to be paid.

Park Board meeting, Aug. 6, 2015


An annual ballroom dance marathon will celebrate is 11th year in January, the third year benefiting the Exceptional Foundation. But park and rec folks aren’t looking forward to it.

AUGUST MEETING: Summer camp enrollment is growing, and so is the ill will between the park board and neighbor, the Exceptional Foundation. The board this month discussed its inclination to deny parking privileges for most of the 11th Annual Ballroom Dance Marathon, a 3-day fundraiser held in January that will benefit the Foundation. That discussion will be ongoing. However, the board did deny parking for a Memorial Day family reunion whose members planned to lease indoor space at the Exceptional Foundation and possibly a pavilion at Central Park.

Members present: Keith Stansell, Tom Black, Jody Brant, Marjorie Trimm, Tyler Vail, and Chris Meeks, chairman.

Members absent: Becky Morton, Paula Smalley, and Michael Murray. Also absent was council liaison Richard Laws.

Staff present: Berkley Squires, public service superintendent.

Audience attendance: 1

Approved minutes of the July 7, 2015, meeting.

Chairman’s comments: Mr. Meeks said the board would establish a nominating committee for park board appointments. The budget, which was already approved, would be followed up with meetings with the mayor later this month.

Agreed to approve parking for only one day of  the Exceptional Foundation’s three-day annual fundraiser: Members discussed the Exceptional Foundation’s proposed January Dance Marathon at length, saying last year’s event was a parking fiasco and suggesting they might even ask the foundation to hold the fundraiser at Rose Hall, the Senior Center, or another location. They said the Foundation has already posted the event [clarification–the Foundation is the beneficiary only, not the producer of the event.] and plans are to offer parking and a shuttle service from the Our Lady of Sorrows parking lot.

The fundraising weekend and estimated attendance:

  1. OK FOR PARKING- Fri., Jan. 8, 6:30-11:30 p.m., 200-250 attending
  2. REC CENTER PARKING IN DOUBT – Sat., Jan. 9, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., workshops, 130 attending
  3. REC CENTER PARKING IN DOUBT – Sat., Jan. 9, 6:30-11:30 p.m., dance, 200 attending
  4. REC CENTER PARKING IN DOUBT – Sun., Jan. 10, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., dance competition, 150 attending

Board members went on to say that Saturday was a busy time, with too many basketball kids being dropped off, to share parking for a big event.

Denied parking for a family reunion next May: Nearly year in advance, a Wheeler family’s reunion on Saturday, May 28, 2016, with 100 people expected, was refused parking on the grounds that it is Memorial Day weekend and opening day for the pool. The request sparked a conversation about the difficulties of enforcing pavilion reservations in general, and of possibly prohibiting any pavilion rentals on holiday weekends or placing holiday use on a first-come, first-served basis. The Wheeler family had planned to rent the outdoor pavilion and also use Exceptional Foundation indoor facilities.

Approved a People-to-People reunion party for later this month: The event will be held at 1:30-3:30 p.m., Sun., Aug. 30, at Central Park, and use about 20 parking spaces.

The meeting adjourned.

Board of Zoning Adjustments, Aug. 6, 2015

A homeowner who proceeded building after discovering he needed a variance got what he wanted--but not unanimously.

A homeowner who proceeded building after discovering he needed a variance got what he wanted–but not unanimously.

Samford University was allowed to install an above ground tank at a new facilities area below the new parking deck on the rear of campus behind Windsor Boulevard. One member disagreed with the exemption. A parade of seven residential additions and rebuilds followed, with Ms. LeBoeuf being the lone dissent in two of them.

Members present: All–Hope Cannon, Brian Jarmon, Jeffrey Foster (s), Beverly LeBoeuf, Lauren Gwaltney, and Ty Cole.

Vacancy: A supernumerary vacancy exists after Ms. Askew was removed from the board for excessive absences. Foster is the other super.; voting only when there are absences requiring it.

Staff present: Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath, Building, Engineering, and Zoning Department; Donna Bridges, board secretary.

Audience attendance: 30


Carried over until September variances requested at 307 Broadway. 


915 Shades Road

915 Shades Road

Approved a variance for a deck on Shades Road: The homeowners want to build and screen in a deck at the rear of the property at 915 Shades Road, which narrows toward the rear, creating a hardship to build within the setbacks. The approval for a 5-foot left setback variance includes a binding proffer from the homeowners not to fully enclose the deck. A carport is also planned in the rear, but will not encroach into the setback.

109 Havenwood Court

109 Havenwood Court

Approved variances allowing an addition on Havenwood Court: The homeowners want to build a rear addition at 109 Havenwood Court for a second bathroom and washer/dryer, now located in the basement. No hardship was mentioned, but the applicant said houses on either side extend farther than his addition will, when complete. The board approved a 4-foot rear building setback variance, after making sure it would not occupy more than 30 percent of the back yard.

Very approximate location of Samford's facilities area and planned above-ground gasoline storage tank.

Very approximate location of Samford’s facilities area and planned above-ground gasoline storage tank.

On a 4-1 split vote, granted a variance to allow a 2,000 gal. above-ground gasoline storage tank on the Samford campus: With one dissenter, the board passed the variance allowing Samford University to install a new, 2,000-gallon fuel tank at a facilities area in the rear of the campus below the newest parking deck and backing up to Windsor Boulevard. The tank will serve Samford vehicles, be protected by bollards, and will be screened by what the Samford representative called a dense buffer of foliage. Many questions from the board related to whether the tank would be visible, or fenced, or secured from vandals. Ms. Cannon asked if the decision was based on cost, but the representative said it was motivated more by safety from undiscovered leaks. It replaces a 500-gallon tank that has been removed from a different location. City code doesn’t allow above-ground tanks without a variance.

Voting no: Ms. LeBoeuf.

513 Devon Drive

513 Devon Drive

Allowed, 4-1, variances for a house already under construction on Devon: The homeowner at 513 Devon Drive said he and his wife were planning their retirement and adding three bedrooms for visits from their adult children. The building had already been demolished and plans drawn when the homeowner realized he needed a variance at the right front corner–not only for the ground floor but for the second floor, which should be stepped in according to code. The homeowner, who said the variance “appeared not too challenging to get,” was correct in this case. He was granted a 1.8-foot right building setback variance (already existing) for the ground floor and the second story.

Voting no: Ms. LeBoeuf.

223 Crest Drive

223 Crest Drive

Approved a variance for a new front porch on Crest: A new front porch will extend 8 feet into the front yard at 223 Crest Drive, and still stay within an imaginary line drawn from the fronts of his two next door neighbors’ houses, he said. The homeowner’s hardship was a backyard that was on a steep downward incline. The plan requires a 6.5-foot variance, which was granted.

IMG_5752Allowed variances for a tear-down and rebuild on Ridge Road: The house at 104 Ridge Road sits alongside an easement that provides distance between the house and neighbor. The homeowner explored purchasing the right-of-way for expansion room, but discovered it was occupied by a county sewer main. Neighbors in either side had no objection to the project. The board approved a 4.2-foot right building variance.

IMG_5748Approved small variances for a Melrose Place addition: There were no objections from neighbors on either side of 1420 Melrose Place, where homeowners plan a master bedroom addition in the rear. They were granted a 1-foot variance on the right and left sides.

1516 Valley

1516 Valley Place (Google image)

Approved an addition variance for a Valley Place house: Like applicants before her, the homeowner at 1516 Valley Place is planning a master bath addition at the rear to contain a washer-dryer. The board allowed building 2.7-feet into the left building setback.

101 East Edgewood Drive

101 East Edgewood Drive

Allowed variances for a new house near an Oxmoor commercialized area: The homeowner at 101 East Edgewood Drive is trying to minimize the effects of his proximity to commercialized property on Oxmoor Road. The current house sits almost on the left side alleyway; he plans to rebuild further from the alley, but still within the setback, requiring a 5-foot left variance. He plans to put up a privacy fence as well on that side. A neighbor to the right was present, but satisfied when he learned the new house will not be built closer to his own property.

Planning Commission, Aug. 4, 2015


Lumpkin Development will expand its Metro Mini Storage buildings into vacant property it purchased from Grainger.

Members took time before hearing straightforward resurvey case to discuss tricky procedural questions related to the ongoing review of the EconoLodge property, whose owner is asking for code exemptions to build a new and controversial motel on the site. A two-week extension granted at the July 30 review seemed to set the next hearing within the next 7 days, but a misunderstanding ensued on whether the 14 days should be added from the July 30 meeting or to the 21-day deadline extending from the application filing on  July 17.

The extension was granted while review officials decided if the proposed renovations would force the entire EconoLodge property to be rebuilt to the new and dramatically different appearance standards of the West Homewood District. Confusion over procedure, deadlines, and code regulations have been the norm since the EconoLodge application was filed. Significant amendments have already been proposed by the commission; the city attorney has added more changes this week.

Members present: Mike Brandt, Billy Higginbotham, chairman, Jeffery Foster, Fred Hawkins, Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill, and James Riddle.

Members absent: Fred Azbik, James Ponseti, and Mark Woods.

Staff attendance: Donna Bridges, commission secretary; Greg Cobb, manager, Engineering, Planning & Zoning Department, and city engineer and zoning staff Vanessa McGrath,

Audience attendance: 2

Carried over minutes of the June 2, 2015 meeting: Mr. Riddle hadn’t gotten his emailed copy.


The commission allowed new owner Lumpkin Development to subdivide a portion of Lot 2 it purchased for an expansion.

Approved a lot resurvey for a mini-storage facility expansion on Oxmoor Road. Lumpkin Development, which owns and manages industrial park and storage properties in Jefferson and Shelby counties, is purchasing vacant land from Grainger Industrial Supply at 185 West Oxmoor Road with plans to add more units to its adjacent Metro Mini-storage facility, at 175 Oxmoor Road. In discussion, Lumpkin representative Jonathan Denton said he is asking for a property line to be moved to reflect the enlarged lot. The purchased property would allow the storage business an access point off Snow Drive. There are no plans to bring water or sewer service to the property, Mr. Denton said.

West Homewood District motel proposal, July 30, 2015

A sparse crowd.

Considering the emotional lead-up, a sparse crowd attended today’s review of a proposed new hotel in West Homewood. Perhaps it was the 3 p.m. meeting time and short notice.

A new West Homewood zoning district intended to encourage retail, modernize and improve building forms was tested for the first time today from an unlikely source–a proposed redevelopment of a 1970s EconoLodge motel, which residents think is misplaced in a neighborhood poised for renewal. A first round review of the proposal scored two denials of code exemptions requested by motel owner Sanjay Patel. An extended review over the next 14 days could conclude that the entire Oxmoor Road property must be brought under the new code–a costly requirement that could end Mr. Patel’s quest to build a new hotel on the site.

CDRC members and their offices: Mayor Scott McBrayer, Fred Hawkins, Ward 2 council member, James Ponseti, planning commission member and elected committee chairman, Greg Cobb, city Building, Engineering and Zoning staff, and Nickolas Hill, Fire Marshal.

Audience attendance: 22

The first redevelopment under the new West Homewood Village District regulations could be another hotel on the currently EconoLodge property. This sketch is taken from the application to be reviewed by a district committee on July 30.

The first redevelopment under the new West Homewood Village District regulations could be another hotel on the currently EconoLodge property. This sketch is taken from the application under review today.

A 2 1/2 hour review of a proposed hotel and exemptions to a new West Homewood District building code ended in defeat for EconoLodge owner Sanjay Patel, at least temporarily. The review panel rejected two code exemptions Mr. Patel asked for, to reduce first-floor window glass and narrow the width of building off-sets or “jogs” along the front from 50 feet to 20 feet. It also granted a 14-day extension of the review period to examine whether the substantial redevelopment on part of the property triggers a rule that would subject the entire motel property to the new building code.

Those decisions will be decided in a future meeting at the end of the extension period.


Sanjay Patel presented his case to the neighborhood for a new 4-story extended stay hotel at the site of the EconoLodge. He's seen here with engineer, hotel developer, and resident Nic Seaborn, acting as moderator.

Sanjay Patel presented his case to the neighborhood for a new 4-story extended stay hotel at the site of the EconoLodge. He’s seen here with engineer, hotel developer, and resident Nic Seaborn, acting as moderator.

Mr. Patel purchased the motel property at 195 Oxmoor Road in 2012 as the city was poised to create a new district where a village form would be imposed on new developments. His original proposal — to build a four-story extended stay hotel on part of the property and a road encircling the property between Scott and Cobb streets– drew heated opposition at a public forum earlier this spring. This time, Mr. Patel returned with a formal application that stayed within the new district’s 3-floor limit and met much of the district’s “village” look and scale.

The road and other plans for the property will be aired in later “phases,” he has said.

The review

The EconoLodge on Oxmoor and Cobb Street has proposed redeveloping a portion of the property as a four-story extended-stay hotel, requiring several variances under the new West Homewood District village form. Revelations about the plan, and its extent, have created a furor in the surrounding neighborhood.

Mr. Patel’s first proposal is shown in this rough overlay that started a firestorm of protest when it came to light earlier this year. The proposal shows a road connecting Scott and Cobb streets, an office building and the outline of other structures and parking areas extending close to houses.

Nearly two hours into this afternoon’s meeting, the committee asked if the redevelopment was extensive enough to invoke a so-called 50 percent rule, where a property grandfathered under an old zoning ordinance must be brought up to code if renovations affect more than 50% of the square footage.

According to the committee’s calculations, the present EconoLodge complex is 32,875 square feet. Mr. Patel is proposing to remove two buildings totaling 15,694 square feet, or less than 50% of the area. However, committee members asked whether the 50% rule applied solely to the amount of square footage left intact, or if it should also include the square footage of the new building. Mr. Patel representatives discussed partitioning the property to sidestep the code, a maneuver that might create other legal or business problems, however.

The committee’s vote for a two-week extension allows time to research the 50 percent question. Meanwhile, four residents spoke in the public portion of the meeting before taking a vote on the exemptions.

Public hearing

Three residents said granting the shop window glass exemption would break the spirit of the new code, which encouraged retail and ground-level shops. Mr. Patel’s intent is to put guest rooms on the first floor. Another resident was concerned about the effect of the remaining, old motel on the neighborhood. Mr. Patel said it was his intent eventually to renovate the entire property. He offered to sell the remaining buildings to his city for retail redevelopment once his new hotel is up and running.

Earlier in the review, Mayor McBrayer said he wanted to make sure the city got the first renovation in the new village area executed properly to be a leader for the rest of the 22-parcel district. The final vote for the exemptions was 3-2 against each one separately, with Mayor McBrayer, Mr. Hawkins and Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill voting to deny and Mr. Cobb and Mr. Ponseti voting in favor.

A follow-up meeting will be scheduled for two weeks from today.