A meeting of the Planning Commission Tuesday, at 6 p.m., included 4 requests for zoning changes. Two requests of note were 1) a rezone from NPD (Neighborhood Preservation District) to MXD (Mixed Use District), which was hotly contested by three Rosedale residents, and passed to the City Council without favorable recommendation, and 2) The city’s successful bid to rezone 24 properties in West Homewood from various zonings to WHD (West Homewood District), which received lots of questioning but little opposition by residents. This passed with unanimous approval by the Commission.
Members present: Billy Higginbotham, chairman, Mike Brandt, vice-chairman, James Ponseti, James Riddle, Fred Hawkins (member and council liaison), and Fred Azbik.
Members absent: Mark Woods. NOTE: Joe Falconer resigned without notice from the Planning Commission, effective the day of this meeting, and before a term expiration. Falconer’s vacancy is added to the vacancy created by the recent retirement of Fire Marshal Rusty McCombs.
Staff attendance: Donna Bridges, board secretary, Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath, building, engineering and zoning department.
Audience attendance: 100
The Planning Commission hears zoning and rezoning cases, develops the city’s master plan and oversees development plans. Rezoning cases such as those discussed below are all subject to final approval by the City Council.
Sent to council on a 3-3 tie vote with an unfavorable recommendation: The request from Tim Coker of Coker Holdings to add a business use to one of units in two duplexes in Rosedale and therefore rezone the entire property from NPD (Neighborhood Preservation District) to MXD (mixed use district) at 2756 B.M. Montgomery Street in Rosedale was contested by three neighbors and ultimately divided the commission. The final development plan, however, was approved 4-2 when Mr. Higginbotham switched his vote. The plan includes remodeling one of the duplexes for a graphic design studio.
Three area residents asked questions about potential raised taxes, value of land after improvements, use of property to be developed, and expressed concern about adding business near their homes, and preserving their historical home neighborhood. After much discussion about the exterior and interior changes and the city code, it was determined that the developer would adjust the plan to allow the current siding to remain, making sure there were 10 parking spaces required by city code, and requiring a resurvey on the lot before obtaining a building permit. Any other changes to the exterior or interior would require an amendment to the development plan and a revisit for approval by the Commission.
One neighbor was called out of order by asking if the Planning Commission was intent on approving the development or if he needed to get a petition to stop it. Mr. Brandt explained the Commission’s vote decides whether to send the zoning to the City Council with or without a favorable recommendation. It is the City Council, not the Planning Commission that has the final say following a public hearing. The members then voted 3-3 to send to council with an unfavorable recommendation.
Voting against a motion to send with a favorable recommendation: Higginbotham, Azbik, and Brandt.
Approved on a 4-2 vote a final development plan on the same property: Again, Tim Coker of Coker Holdings received a divided but approving vote for the plan at Montgomery Street. After lots of discussion about exterior and interior changes to the property as noted on the plan submitted, changes were made or required for the design as noted above.
Voting no: Azbik and Brandt.
Approved a minor commercial rezoning change for a Pilates class: Twin Construction asked for an office building at 1628 29th Court South downtown to be rezoned from C-1 (Office Building District) to C-4 (Central Business District), basically to accommodate with proper zoning a Pilates class taught in one of the office suites. The lot had been resurveyed from two separate lots with a C-4 earlier and to change zoning again, the lot will also need to be resurveyed again. No one commented at the hearing and the Commission voted unanimously to recommend the rezoning.
Approved, with some fuss, the West Homewood District (Village) rezonings on 24 properties: With one objection on file from the Waffle House at 185 Oxmoor Road, the Commission approved a city of Homewood request to rezone it and 23 properties on Scott Street, Oxmoor Road and Oak Grove Road to West Homewood (Village) District from various current designations ranging from C-1 to GURD (Green Springs Renewal District) to R-7. (A couple of properties were mis-zoned for their use; the request met with no real disapproval from the large audience.)
These properties are proposed to constitute the initial Village area, one in which city leaders and planners hope can be transformed into a pedestrian-friendly complex of small-scale retail and other businesses. The rezoning, if approved by the city council, will substantially dictate –and hopefully improve–the appearance of new or remodeled businesses and buildings. It is for this reason that the Waffle House earlier filed an objection, saying that the design restrictions were incompatible with the restaurant chain’s prototype and plans to substantially remodel the building. Company representatives were not on hand at the hearing however. They or any other affected property may choose fight the rezoning when it reaches the city council.
A resident contested that his property on Scott Street was included in road changes designated on an ALDOT plan, which is scheduled for construction soon. But, this was unrelated to the zoning issue at hand. About 10 residents spoke out about traffic and other issues on their streets, including several from Cobb Street, with some asking that their specific concerns be taken into account as the village concept takes shape. Ms. McGrath mentioned the future appointment of a “Community Development Review Committee,” including the mayor and Fire Chief, which would help guide the area’s development under the new zoning, which seemed to appease the commenters.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:45.