Planning Commission, Jan. 7, 2014

planning & zoning(1)A vote on tonight’s most time-consuming case — The Exceptional Foundation’s plan to expand down Oxmoor Road–was postponed to the Feb. 4 meeting, but not before neighbors voiced concerns about encroachment and commissioners requested a traffic study and other information about the plan. The non-profit agency is asking to rezone two nearby residential properties from Neighborhood Preservation District (residential) to Institutional I-2 in order to expand the facility and parking. The commission also sought clarification of the the shared parking arrangement between the Foundation and the Homewood Recreation Center.

The Exceptional Foundation is seeking to expand into the adjacent residential area.

The Exceptional Foundation is seeking to expand into the adjacent residential area, left on photo. Click image to open a larger window.

Members present:  Mike Brandt, Joe Falconer, Fred Hawkins, Billy Higginbotham, James Riddle, and Mark Woods.

Members absent: Fred Azbik, James Ponseti.

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

Audience attendance:  20

The meeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m. All votes were unanimous unless noted otherwise.

Approved:  The minutes of the Nov. 5, 2013, meeting were approved as submitted.

Approved:  The commissioners voted in favor of allowing the redrawing of lot lines at 225/227/229 Lucerne Boulevard so that all three lots could be connected to a Jefferson County sewer line.  The three lots had previously contained one house, which has been demolished.  Without approval, the owners could build three houses on the parcel but one of the houses would have to have a septic tank.   The property owners brought the matter before the commission so that lot lines could be redrawn to allow one of the lots to be closer to the county’s main sewer line.

Approved:  Representatives of Samford University came before the commission to amend the development plan to reduce the size of the new Brock School of Business.  (The School in September requested and received BZA approval to add height to the building.)  The Commission approved the amendment.  [Updated details–The university will eliminate the parking deck and one of five floors from the building plan.]

Postponed:  Representatives of the Exceptional Foundation presented conceptual plans for an addition whose primary purpose is to provide a different drop-off location and activity space for school-age clients.  The Foundation has contracted to buy two neighboring houses contingent on the rezoning of the parcels from Neighborhood Preservation District to I-2 Institutional. The property is adjacent to the Homewood Rec Center and is also owned by the city of Homewood.

The Foundation is contemplating a 7,500-square-foot addition (on a higher elevation) with 16 parking spaces and an additional, one-way entrance from Oxmoor Road designed to provide a drop-off location for school-age children.

The architect said the conceptual plans had been presented at a Dec. 19 neighborhood meeting attended by several neighbors.  Three neighbors—two on Oxmoor and one on Hanover Road — expressed concerns about traffic, the loss of residential properties on Oxmoor and resultant declines in property values. One resident noted the difficulty east-bound traffic might have turning left into the facility mid-block, which could force some traffic into residential streets.

Homewood Parks and Recreation superintendent Rusty Holley, who also attended the Dec. 19 meeting, then addressed the commission, pointing out that the drawings had just been received–too late to present to Parks and Recreation Board for review.  It was noted that the Exceptional Foundation and the Homewood Rec Center have been sharing parking areas for some time without a written agreement.

Mr. Falconer stated that some Homewood residents were under the impression that the two houses in question were to be acquired by eminent domain, and he sought—and received—confirmation that the property owners were under no duress to contract with the Foundation.  One property is owned by an elderly man who has moved out of state; the other is rented out.

The director of the Foundation, Tricia Kirk, explained that the agency serves about 470 clients, generally 135 people at a time, and has no plans to expand beyond the scope of what has been presented.  She said even the present expansion plans are preliminary and depend on acquiring the necessary funding (and rezoning).

Although all commission members who spoke praised the Foundation’s work, several felt that no further action should be taken on the rezoning request until a traffic study was conducted and the Foundation and Homewood Rec Center enter a formal agreement regarding the current shared parking and parking lot ingress and egress. The matter was carried over to the Feb. 4 meeting, at which there will be a second public hearing preceding a vote.

Approved:  The Planning Commission meeting calendar for 2014.

Adjourned at 7 pm.

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