A public hearing and proposed rezone of two duplexes in Rosedale apparently drove the night’s meeting to two hours and drew 60+ people to the proceedings, many in opposition. But a vote on the sensitive issue–which the planning commission forwarded with an unfavorable recommendation–was ultimately postponed to June, avoiding a threatened no vote for “unanimous consent” that would have postponed it anyway. Also drawing spectators–perhaps–was the final vote passing into zoning law the West Homewood (Village) District. The council adopted again this year a back-to-schools sales tax holiday for later this summer.
Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Walter Jones, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer
Members absent: Patrick McClusky, Jenifer Champ Wallis.
Staff present: Linda Cook, city clerk, Mike Kendrick, city attorney, J. J. Bischoff, mayor’s chief of staff, and Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath, Building, Engineering, and Zoning Department staff.
Audience attendance: 70+
Approved minutes of the March 3, 2014 meeting.
Announced board vacancies/interviews: Five Ward 2 residents will be interviewed for a school board position on May 13, beginning at 5 p.m. Jill Kimbrell, Don Little, Bernard Mays, Jr., Kirk Mills and Gina Squires. Mr. Limbaugh said four applicants need to be interviewed for the Economic Development Board, to be scheduled in June.
Carried over once again: The council carried over until June 9 the terms of a lease it will strike with the Exceptional Foundation. The Foundation will close by the end of May on two adjacent residential properties on Oxmoor Road, which it will demolish for a building expansion after a fundraising drive. The Foundation will eventually transfer ownership of the property to the city, which owns the ground the current building occupies. By law, the facility can’t be expanding across a parcel under different ownership.
Dropped a request to remove two trees for a resident: Two trees on a city alley behind 1411 Primrose Place were deemed not in danger of falling on the property, as a homeowner claimed. The request to have the city remove them was dropped.
Delayed a motion to rezone Rosedale residential property after an hour’s public hearing: The Rosedale request to rezone residential (Neighborhood Preservation District) property at 2756 B. M. Montgomery Street to MXD (Mixed Use District) was sent to the council on an unfavorable recommendation from a Planning Commission split vote 3-3 to approve the request last month. Opposition to the request has focused on halting the encroachment of a zoning conversion of residential property, rather than problems with the redevelopment plan itself. Monday’s hearing brought eight residents to the podium to speak against the measure and also chide developers for moving forward with their plans before involving the community residents. The opposition engaged the council for an hour before the city attorney gave a first reading of the proposed rezoning ordinance. Mr. Hawkins’ immediate motion to approve (with Ms. Reid seconding) was interrupted by Mr. Moody, who suggested carrying over the measure to June 9 to allow more conversation with the neighborhood. (It was apparent that the required unanimous consent vote would not have passed the first councilman on the roll call, Michael Hallman.)
Preceding the decision, Mr. Limbaugh passed out drawings of the development plan, asking co-owners Tim Coker and Terry Slaughter of Vestavia to elaborate. Coker and Slaughter are partners in a venture to buy-up and rehabilitate/redevelop properties in the historically black neighborhood of Rosedale, with Mr. Slaughter working also on behalf of the Simon of Cyrene faith-based nonprofit (a helping mWesinistry so named after the Bible figure who helped Christ carry the cross). In an interview before the meeting, Mr. Slaughter said the partnership has so far bought about 10 Rosedale properties which it hoped to redevelop one day into affordable housing in the spirit of “new urbanism” or mixing work and living spaces in neighborhoods built to promote diverse people, income levels and building types. The property in question on Monday includes rezoning two dilapidated duplexes into a Mixed Use District, to be used as housing for students of urban planning, seminary, architecture, etc., who want to study the nonprofit’s Rosedale experiment. The MXD would accommodate converting one of the four living units into a studio workspace for the students. The partnership also plans to build a one-story office on an adjacent lot, which is already zoned commercial.
Mr. Coker noted the development plans were approved by the Planning Commission and cited two benefits of his proposed project: 1) Traffic will go to the back of the street, reducing traffic on B.M. Montgomery, and 2) Placing an MXD property there will halt commercial development creeping north from Central Avenue, as commercial cannot cross MXD, he said.
Mr. Slaughter said his intent is to move his headquarters to Rosedale and spend two days a week there working in the public gardens and conducting Bible study. He said there are other investors beside the two partners, and the partnership had invested $600,000 already in the Rosedale area. Slaughter spoke about his desire to continue to pursue his dream of a mixed-use urban renewal in the community, including a previous plan called “Moving Forward” published years ago with input from residents. One resident acknowledged she had worked with Slaughter on this. At one point, however, responded angrily to hearing continued opposition to the plan, first voiced at the Planning Commission meeting, saying he was trying to improve “crappy” structures in the area.
The opposition: A resident at 1705 West Terrace presented 65 signatures on a petition saying residents want that street to remain residential. He cited traffic and parking problems, having limited space for the six employees at the Slaughter office.
Others felt the development showed a lack of concern for Rosedale residents. A resident of Court South expressed concern about the fate of the remaining NPD zone, saying houses should not be compromised (with mixed commercial use). Two residents asked Mr. Slaughter to work with the community first before taking plans to the council. Several talked about the encroachment of commercial development; a man spoke about the “chipping away” of Rosedale neighborhoods from 900 black families on 110 acres to now 25 acres of a remaining home community. An 81 year-old-woman raised in Rosedale said elderly residents opposed the proposed changes that she thought would put them out of their houses. Finally, a former council member of twelve years, Mr. Thomas Hamner, spoke about previous city promises to not develop any further commercial property in Rosedale.
Mr. Limbaugh said there would be restrictions on height and any future changes to a rezoned property would have to be approved again. Mr. Jones and Mr. Wright seemed to approve the plan, saying that mixed use blocks the neighborhood from full commercial zoning expansion.
At the end of the hearing, and following a first reading of the ordinance, Mr. Hawkins moved to approve the rezone, seconded by Ms. Reid. However, Mr. Moody suggested a delay and the first motion was rescinded. It was decided to carry the item over until the June 9th meeting to give developers more time to work with residents on the project.
Approved rezoning a downtown building: The council approved on the first reading a rezoning of an office building at 1628 29th Court South, from C-1, office property, to C-4, Central Business District use. The public hearing elicited no comment. The change was to allow a Pilates class to be taught in one of the suites.
Approved the West Homewood District rezoning. The council passed the rezoning of 24 commercial properties (some previously mis-zoned and including at least one house being used as a residence) to create the West Homewood District. Mr. Hawkins asked Ms. McGrath to clarify that: 1) No roadway changes by ALDOT were in consideration within this plan; 2) That so-called “form-based” building codes were meant to unify the look and placement of buildings to resemble a walkable village, and 3) A grandfather clause would allow buildings to be remodeled up to 50% of their value or allow up to seven years of accumulated improvements before falling under the WHD. However, adding any square footage would bring the property under the WHD regulations.
Public comment: Three residents from the same family on Gillon Drive asked about the intent of the city to develop at a cul-de-sac created where Gillon formerly exited onto Oxmoor Road. One person asked about keeping the trees on the property, and parking off her street. Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Moody stated that there was no agenda to make the cul-de-sac a through road (although this had been discussed previously). Mr. Kendrick said it was unlikely it would be opened again, although that was a possibility.
Committee Referral Agenda approved: To come.
Set two June 9 public hearings for rezoning requests: The council will consider rezoning a vacant house at 3006 Cook Street from C-1 (Office) to C-2 (Neighborhood Shopping District), and will consider a 15-foot set-back variance for a fence at 1619 Roseland Drive.
Approved an Aug. 1-3 sales tax holiday: The sales tax holiday exempts certain items from the municipal 3-cent sales tax.
Paid the bills: The council authorized payment of invoices May 5-May 9, 2014.