Planning Commission meeting, April 2, 2013

planning & zoning(1)In just a little over a half hour the planning commission approved two cases, a preliminary Development Plan and rezoning for the ambitious Board of Education transformation of the Magnolia Apartments property, now cleared, and an unusual case in which a West Homewood house, zoned commercial for more than 20 years but always used as a residence, was rezoned back to residential. Click here for link to the school board’s preliminary development plan.

Members present:  Billy Higginbotham, chairman, Mike Brandt, vice chairman, Fred Azbik, Joe Falconer, Homewood Battalion Chief McCombs, Fred Hawkins, James Ponseti, and James Riddle.

Members absent:  Mark Woods

Staff present:  Donna Bridges, commission secretary, and Vanessa McGrath and Greg Cobb, engineers, city planning and zoning department.

Audience attendance:  14

All votes are unanimous unless noted otherwise.  Zoning cases receiving commission approval (favorable recommendation) go before the city council for a final vote.

Approved:  Minutes of the March 5, 2013, meeting.

Approved:  A house at 101 Gillon Drive in West Homewood was rezoned from commercial to residential, its current use  A real estate agent representing homeowners Adam and Elizabeth Scheeter asked that the house be rezoned in order to obtain an appraisal and close on a sale.  No one commented at the public hearing, but a neighbor’s letter in support was put into the record.  Ms. McGrath said the house had been rezoned from residential to C-2 in 1986, but she didn’t know why except the house is at the end of a dead-end street and in line with two commercial properties. Mr. Falconer said the house adjoins the rear of The Briary property (on Oak Grove Road), whose former owner also owned the house and was successful in having it rezoned for a future business, which never materialized.

Approved: The commission approved the preliminary plan for the redevelopment of the former Magnolia Apartments into athletic fields, tracks and a community garden, and relocation of the board’s central office.  Mr. Kyle Kirkwood of Williams Blackstock Architects gave a summary of plans with reference to a map of the 62-acre property, showing a relocated 200 meter track, a storage building, a cross-country trail, improved but limited access from Valley Avenue to parking for tennis courts and baseball fields, which entails a new “curb cut.”  The drive to parking will be gated and only opened during athletic events. The apartments have been demolished, but slabs, platform surfaces and retaining walls remain and will be re-graded.

Mr. Kirkwood said there were also plans–for which the board is working on a separate grant–to construct a wide, landscaped “greenway” across the entire property fronting Valley. The property will be fenced in its entirety, with the Valley Avenue side employing non-chainlink fencing.

One resident from 312 Clermont Drive spoke in favor of the plan, but with questions about retaining a buffer between residents’ back yards and the property’s east side, which is bounded by a closed alley. The representative said the plan would preserve as many trees as possible, although those details weren’t part of the preliminary plan. Other residents on Clermont continued the discussion about a tree buffer with Mr. Kirkwood after the meeting ended.

Mr. McCombs asked about parking. There will be between 50-75 parking spots available. People using the community gardens may be able to park on Grace Street, which runs on the south side of the property, or even use the central office parking. Mr. Kirkwood said those details have not been worked out.  Although there was no discussion of cost, earlier reports set the cost of purchasing the apartment property at $10 million and central office construction at $3 million.

Approved:  The commission approved the request to rezone the Magnolia Apartment property from R-5 to I-2 (institutional) for use as a board of education campus.

The meeting adjourned a little after 6:30 p.m.

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