FYI, Planning and Development Committee, Oct. 6, 2014

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The angled area between the parcels outlined in blue is an “unopened” right-of-way extension of 18th Street, owned by the city. The Islamic Academy is asking the city to surrender that section and to rezone the entire area from C-1 (office) to institutional use. However, the school’s previous attempt to build a new parking lot (seen in the cleared areas) without benefit of building permits brought in unsuitable fill material and damaged the highway department’s right-of-way. There will likely be no action taken by the city on any school request until the site is under remediation.

The Planning & Development Committee tonight postponed until its next meeting a request to vacate, or surrender, unopened right-of-way running through wooded property the Islamic Academy recently purchased next to its Rosedale school. It will go ahead and hold Monday’s public hearing to rezone the property from commercial to institutional uses, although it will assuredly be referred back to committee, chairman Peter Wright said.

Why? First a little history.  The 4 acres +/- adjacent to and west of the Islamic Academy has been the subject of a long-running and recently dismissed lawsuit filed against the city by Kent Campbell, principal of Cubed LLC, a building firm which planned to develop some type of housing on the property several years ago. The Planning Commission having recommended the rezoning from C-1 to residential, the council at the time nevertheless voted not to rezone, prompting said lawsuit. The merits and arguments of the suit were not discussed tonight, but suffice it to say, Mr. Campbell gave up the fight and sold the property to the Islamic Academy.

Meanwhile, the story goes, and on property next to Mr. Campbell’s but already owned by the Islamic Academy, the school attempted to build a parking lot expansion without the benefit of obtaining city building permits, and even going so far as to excavate and truck in unsuitable fill dirt. That construction project in turn not only upset the city of Homewood Inspection Department, but damaged the elevated rock cliff along 18th Street, highly upsetting the Alabama Department of Transportation, which owned the right-of-way.

Fast forward to tonight, where the Planning & Development Committee huddled to sort out the matters with surveyor and applicant for the school Joseph Miller. Mr. Wyeth, head of the city’s inspection department, had already stepped in to explain that the city and ALDOT are working together to put the pieces back together again. The school is working with an engineering firm and a geotechnical firm to correct the situation, but Mr. Wyeth said he has not seen a contract yet.

Mr. Wright said the council would certainly not want to vote on the rezoning or right-of-way vacation requests on Monday, but would go ahead and take public comment before referring it back to committee. He advised Mr. Miller to ask the school to please have representatives on hand Monday to answer questions.

One positive from the lawsuit, however, is that the city has an appraised value for the property–$5,000–which it will most likely charge the school in exchange for vacating the property.

Asked what plans the school had for the entire property it now owns, Mr. Miller said a development plan hasn’t been produced.

The shaded area indicates excavation staging areas for a basement in this most recent plan of the Exceptional Foundation expansion.

The shaded area indicates excavation staging areas for a basement in this most recent plan of the Exceptional Foundation expansion. Click to enlarge

Tonight’s P&D Committee followed a Finance Committee meeting in which at least two members, Mr. Wright and Mr. Walter, said they were unaware of changes in the Exceptional Foundation’s plan that had been aired last Thursday at the park board meeting. The committee discussed possibly delaying action on lending paperwork requested by the Exceptional Foundation to expedite the project, and finish construction before the June summer camps. No decision was made however.

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