Planning Commission, Jan. 6, 2015

The former K-Mart, former Mazer’s, former Furniture Liquidators and current tractor-trailer lot on Green Springs is still under consideration for a new tenant. Developers aren’t revealing any names, but plan to demolish more of the main building than originally planned to make way for multiple tenants.

The Islamic Academy, two Bagby office buildings, and a Grace Street extension all get approved, but not unanimously.

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

Members absent: Fred Azbik

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

Audience attendance: 18

All votes were unanimous unless otherwise noted. For rezoning cases, the Planning Commission’s votes are advisory only; the City Council has the final say after conducting its own public hearing on each case.

ISLAMIC

Islamic Academy school, in Rosedale

Approved an amended development plan for the Islamic Academy: The Islamic Academy at 1810 25th Court South, in Rosedale, purchased 4+ acres of steeply inclined wooded land west and adjacent to the school building, with plans — for the moment — to add only parking and a play area. The acreage crosses an unused or “paper” city right of way for an extension of 18th Street, which the city has indicated it will surrender, for $5,000.

The Islamic Academy must remove unsuitable fill dirt and repair damage to the public right-of-way when it attempted to build an unauthorized parking lot.

The Islamic Academy was accused of destabilizing the steep slope along 18th Street in the process of building an  unauthorized parking lot next to the school. Engineers hired by the school say the work wasn’t the cause of the slope damage.

The planning commission approved the new development plan, but any action on it must await city council approval of the rezoning and right-of-way surrender and sale. The council, however, has postponed any decision until the Academy can show that it has either repaired damage done to the slope next to the school, or that its previous non-permitted work to clear a parking area there wasn’t the cause of the slope failure. Commissioner Mark Woods expressed concern about the possibility of increased stormwater runoff resulting from paving a parking lot, and the engineering staff explained that final plans would not be approved unless it can be shown that runoff after development would not exceed pre-construction runoff.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 2.24.28 PM

The Bagby office buildings were once part of a telephone company building complex.

Approved 6-2 a rezoning of two empty office buildings in West Homewood: The case involves a request from applicant Burr & Forman to rezone West Homewood buildings #55 and #65 on Bagby Drive and Goodwin Crest Road from C-1 (Office Building District) to C-5 (General Business District) in order to sell one of the buildings to be converted to an interior-access storage facility similar to iStore on Montclair Road.

In the only controversial case of the evening, a Homewood resident, Bill Smith of Poinciana Road, said he had invested $1 million to rehabilitate the #85 building on Bagby and had increased occupancy from 40% to 80%. He said the owners of other office buildings should do likewise instead of seeking a broader rezoning that would just contribute to the area’s decline. He added that relaxing the permitted use also ran contrary to the city’s general goals for revitalizing West Homewood. The case was nevertheless approved 6-2.

A related resurvey of the property was carried forward pending resolution of some issues with Jefferson County.

Voting no: Mr. Ponseti and Mr. Woods.

Remember this?

Remember this?

Approved an amended development plan for the old Mazer’s property: Real estate developer Chris Hoyt asked to change the development plan of the site to allow demolition of a 50,000 square feet of the existing structure to make the building more attractive for multiple tenants, and allow better delivery access, traffic flow and Dumpster placement. The planned demolition is a larger portion of the central storage building than was originally approved in March 2013. 

Pep Boys followed a much debated down-zoning of the Green Springs renewal district to allow another auto service business.

Pep Boys followed a much debated down-zoning of the Green Springs renewal district to allow another auto service business.

The former Mazer’s and K-Mart building at 800 Green Springs Highway was partially redeveloped to accommodate a Pep Boys auto service and parts store after the city council amended the Green Springs renewal zoning three years ago to allow it. A Sticks ‘N Stuff furniture liquidators business occupied the front building for some time, incurring citations for signage violations before it was moved it to the rear of the property. The main structure was then stripped of its facade and siding.

In response to a question about tractor-trailers parking in the front parking lot, Mr. Hoyt said their presence wasn’t authorized and that property management was asking rig drivers to leave. He said his goal was to improve the appearance of the property as soon as possible. Although he didn’t reveal details, he said he was close to closing a lease deal with a Pennsylvania-based  company.

GRACESTREET

A rudimentary extension of Grace Street will be allowed to access and build on a wooded lot.

Waived street regulations to allow a Grace Street  extension to vacant land: Grace Street, which runs for two blocks in front of the former Homewood Middle School property, now the Community Garden, will be extended west to access a land-locked, undeveloped lot at 1006 Grace Street. The approved waivers apply to requiring or regulating curbs, sidewalks, shoulders and cul-de-sac turnarounds. In other words, there won’t be any.

Carried over a “Request to Review Changes to Zoning Book:” Ms. McGrath asked that the request be carried over for further study. The Planning Commission decided to try to address the issues through the use of a subcommittee, with scheduled meetings to be announced.

The meeting adjourned at 6:50 pm.

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