Planning Commission, Sept. 2, 2014

This vacant lot opposite Hall Kent Elementary, characterized as an "overgrown eyesore" by one commissioner, has been approved for four, two-story houses with driveways long enough to discourage any off-street parking.

This vacant lot opposite Hall Kent Elementary, characterized as an “overgrown eyesore” by one commissioner, has been approved for four, two-story houses with driveways long enough to discourage any off-street parking. Click image for a larger view.

After hearing more objections from neighbors, the Planning Commission tonight gave Twin Construction approval on a final development plan to build four houses on a lot opposite Hall Kent Elementary school, but with lengthened driveways to discourage off-street parking near school traffic. It also voted to recommend rezoning from commercial to institutional a 4+ acre wooded parcel the Islamic Academy of Alabama recently purchased adjacent to its school in Rosedale. The property–which lies adjacent to the school and between a Walgreen’s and the Embassy Suites parking lot–was originally purchased by a developer who abandoned his plan to build condominiums there.

Members present: Billy Higginbotham, chairman, Mike Brandt, vice-chairman, Fred Azbik, Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill, James Riddle, and Mark Woods.

Members absent: James Ponseti and Fred Hawkins (member and council liaison).

Commission vacancies: One seat.

Staff attendance: Donna Bridges, commission secretary; Greg Cobb, manager, Engineering, Planning & Zoning Department; and Vanessa McGrath, engineer, Engineering, Planning and Zoning Department.

Audience attendance: 11 (including several Boy Scouts working on a Citizenship badge).

All votes were unanimous. The City Council has the final vote on rezoning requests following a separate public hearing.

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The blue outline shows the three parcels and angled roadway purchased by the Islamic Academy and adjacent to its Rosedale campus. The school is asking to rezone the property from commercial to institutional, but has not yet made public any development plans. Click image for a larger view.

Voted to recommend rezoning land purchased by the Islamic Academy (pre-K-HS) in Rosedale: The commission’s vote tonight recommends that land acquired in April adjacent to the Islamic Academy of Alabama be changed from C-1 (Office District) to I-2 (Institutional District), and that a city right-of-way crossing the land be vacated. The property includes three parcels and an unused public road that the city will be asked to vacate.

Speaking on behalf of the school was engineer Joe Miller, who had originally been hired by a developer interested in putting condominiums next to the school. With that plan abandoned due to topography and access problems, the school bought the land but has not indicated any formal plans for it except for parking and a playground. Detailed plans will be forthcoming if the rezoning is approved.

During the public hearing a question came from homewoodatlarge about the applicability of the city’s tree preservation ordinance to any project developed on the acquired land. Mr. Cobb said that cutting trees is permitted for construction as long as a property ends up with a certain minimum number of trees per acre. (A review of the ordinance shows the tree density requirement is based on parcel size, or for parcels 1-5 acres, leaving at least 20 trees per acre.)

After the rezoning vote, the commission also approved combining the parcels into one parcel / lot (to include the city right of way), subject to favorable action on the road and rezoning from the City Council.

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The Final Development Plan approved tonight adds lengthened driveways to the four houses already slated for a shallow lot on Cobb Street. The change hopefully will discourage off-street parking by the school’s busy parking lot and loading area. Click image for a larger view.

Approved a final development plan for new housing construction on Cobb Street: This decision allows Twin Construction to build four houses at 816 Cobb Street, opposite Hall Kent Elementary school. The preliminary plan had been approved In July over the objection of several neighbors concerned about the number of houses on such a shallow lot. The final plan provides for longer driveways to allow two cars instead of one to be parked at each house, satisfying city planners’ parking concerns, but not those of some neighbors.

During the public hearing, Bill Lavender, facilities director for Homewood City Schools, stated that the driveways would be directly opposite the car access areas for Hall Kent and expressed concern about interference with traffic flow during car pool hours. An adjacent homeowner also spoke with reservations about the shallow setbacks for the proposed houses, the number of houses to be located on the property, and the possible (lack of) construction quality and appearance of the homes.

Mr. Higginbotham clarified that, indeed, the houses would be 15 feet closer to the street than those to their right and 10 feet closer to the street than the house to their left. In response to Mr. Lavender, Mr. Siegel said that the houses would have only three bedrooms (master suite downstairs, Jack and Jill bedrooms upstairs) and that parking was adequate. He also said he had confidence that the architect, Joe Ellis, was designing houses that would be attractive and complementary without having a cookie-cutter appearance.

Mr. Woods, the commissioner who also lives nearby the development, said he had spoken with both David and William Siegel of Twin Construction and was satisfied this latest project would be an improvement over the “overgrown eyesore” now found at the site. [The current plan benefits from comparison to that of the previous owner, who clear-cut the wooded lot three years ago with plans to build six houses, then moved a damaged house onto one end and started to dig a foundation before work was stopped by the city. The house was removed months later.]

Mr. Brandt thanked the commenters, but reminded them that the preliminary plan had already been approved and tonight’s decision related only to those changes on the final plan, i.e., lengthening of the driveways to accommodate more cars.

The commission also voted to approve the division of one tax parcel (and subdivision lot) at 816 Cobb Street into four parcels/lots.

With cases decided, the commission ended the meeting by voting to retain Mr. Higginbotham as chairman and Mr. Brandt as vice-chairman.

The meeting adjourned at 6:27.

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