The short meeting dealt with one variance request after the panel discussed the pending presentation by the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) for the West Homewood Redevelopment Plan (West Homewood Village) including a new name. The plan, which has been amended to include a way for fire vehicles to access the dead-ended Gillon Street, involves redeveloping a distressed commercial area surrounding Patriot Park in which a building code based on aesthetics (form) replaces the traditional zoning code, based on building use. Planners believe this change–and considerable investment by the city and local landowners–will transform the area into a contemporary, pedestrian-friendly shopping village.
Commissioners are under pressure to present the plan and get certain city investments into the upcoming 2014 budget.
All votes were unanimous.
Members present: Billy Higginbotham, chairman, Fred Azbik, Joe Falconer, Battalion Chief McCombs, Fred Hawkins, James Riddle and Mark Woods
Members absent: Mike Brandt, James Ponseti
Staff present: Donna Bridges – secretary; Building, Engineering and Zoning staff Vanessa McGrath and Greg Cobb, department manager
Audience attendance: 4
Approved with one abstention: Minutes of the May 7, 2013 minutes.
Abstaining: Joe Falconer abstained because he was the agent for the property seller in one of the cases.
Approved: Request for a variance for an addition for a roofed screened porch on a residential structure at 100 University Park Drive.
Discussed with urgency for budget reasons: The Regional Planning Commission (RPC) was slated to present changes/amendments to the original plans for the currently named West Homewood Redevelopment Plan (West Homewood Village). However, RPC staff who were talking with commissioners immediately before the official meeting did not stay to make that presentation. The fire safety amendment (apparently presented at the pre-meeting) was the latest change to the plan presented at last month’s commission meeting, when RPC asked commissioners to add their final suggestions and refinements. Battalion Chief McCombs had meanwhile objected to the absence of a fire exit on Gillon Street, which is closed in a dead-end at Oxmoor Road. The RPC’s plan now features movable barriers to close Gillon to through traffic while allowing it to be opened for fire vehicles.
Ms. McGrath urged commissioners to go ahead and submit their suggestions because the owner of property at Oak Grove Road and Raleigh Avenue was interested in a redevelopment and any city infrastructure expenses must be included in the upcoming budget (year beginning Oct. 1). Mr. Higginbotham said all members should let their council representatives know that they “fundamentally agree with the plan pending refinements and final approvals” so that the council will include that funding. A suggestion by Fred Azbik with universal appeal was to change the name of the project from the West Homewood Redevelopment Plan to the Oak Grove Village Development Plan as it was felt this sends a more positive message, uses the original name of the area and reflects the “village” idea that Homewood is trying to incorporate throughout.
Any change to the city’s zoning ordinance, including the adoption of the plan and form-based code, must first go before a public hearing and an approving vote of the City Council.