First test of the new West Homewood District
Last month the council was reminded that it must empanel a design review committee to oversee a redevelopment application in the new West Homewood District. The new district, passed by the planning commission a year ago and ratified by the council in May, includes 24 mainly commercial parcels on Oak Grove Road and Oxmoor Road where any future development must be built to new appearance standards resembling the form of a neighborhood village, with walkable, easy-to-access storefronts and small businesses.
Existing buildings are of course grandfathered. Now, however, the EconoLodge on the corner of Cobb Street and Oxmoor Road has proposed a sweeping multi-phase expansion and redevelopment starting with a proposed four-story extended stay hotel fronting Oxmoor. Engineering drawings also indicate the reappearance of the city’s earlier proposal to build a new two-lane road connecting Cobb Street to Oxmoor Boulevard via an extension of Scott Street. Interestingly, the latest drawing closely resembles a 2013 drawing from an early draft of the West Homewood District plan. More on that later.
Public hearing for establishing review committee and by-laws
It is the first phase application of this redevelopment that prompted the city last month to begin activating the mandated Community Development Review Committee and to adopt the CDRC’s operating procedures–all of which will first get a public hearing on Monday, April 13, at the 6 p.m. council meeting.
The motel plans are not part of this hearing, but will be presented to the new CDRC once members are seated.
The CDRC –not the Planning Commission–will be the governing body for the new district because its new form-based regulations supplant traditional zoning rules. By ordinance, the CDRC is composed of the mayor, a city council member, a Planning Commission member, the city engineer (Vanessa McGrath) and Fire Marshal. (unfavorable decisions by the CDRC can be appealed to the city’s BZA, and then to Jefferson County circuit court.)
Then and now
2013 The extension of Scott Street through the neighborhood appeared in a 2013 draft of the West Homewood District plan, where it would mesh with an extensive ALDOT road improvement project scheduled for Oxmoor Road. It was eliminated from the revised version passed in 2014.
ALDOT later discarded the roundabout at Scott Street shown in this Regional Planning Commission’s drawing.
2014 The Scott Street extension did not appear in the drawing for the final district plan, adopted in 2014.
In gathering information about the motel’s plan, city staff initially said the motel’s engineering drawing wasn’t public until the application was complete. That decision was later reversed, allowing these cell phone pictures to serve as a first look at how the new West Homewood “Village” District might unfold.
City officials offer these points, and cautions about the EconoLodge’s plans:
- The motel’s application wasn’t complete as of one week ago, and much of the drawing is subject to change;
- The application being submitted only includes changes planned to the motel–not the expanded parking, road, or office building development.
- The motel’s request for four stories exceeds district height regulations without a special waiver.
- The proposed Scott Street extension would provide a left turn alternative from Cobb Street onto Oxmoor, which the ALDOT project will eliminate at the existing intersection. The road would come before the Planning Commission, not the CDRC.
- It is the opinion of city staff that the neighborhood would love having a new road that would bring in traffic off Oxmoor. City staff believe the road will also create a clear dividing line between commercial zoning and houses on Gillon Drive.