The meeting included an extended discussion about the role and procedures for the newly established Community Development Review Committee, a 5-member review panel mandated by the new “form-based” zoning passed a year ago for 22 parcels in West Homewood which dictate the appearance, size and other aesthetic elements of new or redeveloped buildings along Oak Grove Road and Oxmoor Road.
The commissioners for the first time tonight expressed reservations about implementing the ordinance as it was passed, specifically questioning a clause allowing automatic approval of variances after 21 days of panel inaction. Commissioners voted to appoint member James Ponseti to serve as the commission’s representative to the CDRC, with co-chair Mike Brandt as alternate (the ordinance sets forth membership by city office: council member, mayor or his designee, fire marshal, Planning Commission member, and city zoning office representative) However, it put off until another meeting considering changes such as including two citizen members on the committee. Councilman Fred Hawkins recommended that the council make the committee advisory to the BZA.
The discussion is being driven no doubt by the first application submitted under the district–to rebuild and reconfigure an existing EconoLodge motel to a four-story extended stay hotel, and eventually add a mixed-use building and even a new road. Residents were hit with revelations about the plan last moth on the heels of the city’s decision to relocate an electronic billboard to Oxmoor Road without public disclosure.
See more detail under the case, below.
Tonight’s two other cases involved submission of the (Mike and Dianne) Kendrick family subdivision plat for final approval and a change to a development plan for a mixed-use property near the Creative Montessori School.
Members present: Fred Azbik, Billy Higginbotham, chairman, Jeffery Foster, Fred Hawkins, Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill, James Ponseti, and James Riddle.
Members absent: Mike Brandt, vice-chairman, and Mark Woods.
Staff attendance: Donna Bridges, commission secretary; Greg Cobb, manager, Engineering, Planning & Zoning Department.
Audience attendance: 9
All votes were unanimous.
Approved minutes of the April 7, 2015, Planning Commission meeting.
Approved a final property subdivision for city attorney’s family: The commission approved the subdivision of property located at 1051 Columbiana Road owned by Dianne Kendrick, wife of city attorney Mike Kendrick. Mr. Kendrick, who was present, explained that certain setback changes had been approved administratively (met the law) and the Commission had no changes to consider.
During the public hearing, a neighbor raised questions about the setback changes, and Mr. Kendrick indicated those changes on the subdivision map.
This project had come before the Planning Commission during its meeting in July 2014 when the Kendricks were granted waivers of street and curb requirements. The Kendricks plan to use the 2-acre, 3-lot property as a family compound, but there are no restrictions to prevent nonfamily members from purchasing any of the lots in the future.
Approved another change to a mixed-use development plan near Central Avenue: Tonight’s change relates to the development plan for 1659 28th Avenue South, a single lot located near Creative Montessori School. The property owner had plans to build a residence on the front of the property and a retail shop in back. The case has drawn criticism during visits before the Planning Commission and council several, including as recently as October 2014. Tonight the owner asked to reduce business parking from 4 spots to 3 in order allow more green space next to the house.
During the public hearing, a neighbor expressed concern about increased traffic on 28th Avenue, saying there was a problem with speeding and with using the street as a short cut from Central to Valley Avenue. Mr. Hawkins encouraged him to bring the issue to the council’s Public Safety Committee.
Appointed a commission representative and alternate to the West Homewood District’s Community Development Review Committee, etc. The last item tonight was a request to amend the Community Development Review Committee (CDRC) for West Homewood to include two “At-Large Committee members, to be recommended by the Ward 2 Council representatives and approved by City Council, and other amendments.” Most commission members agreed that there were implementation issues relating to the ordinance, which is intended to bring “form based” zoning to 22 parcels in West Homewood.
As was explained in a 2013 informational meeting, a “form-based code” is designed to replace current use-based zoning regulations by providing developers specific building prototypes that would create a more pleasing, uniform and pedestrian-friendly look and function to commercial buildings and areas. The transformation would likely take place over 20 years or more as buildings changed ownership or use.
Although commission members tended to agree that the new goals were desirable, almost all expressed reservations about provisions in the existing ordinance, which was based on model language provided by the Regional Planning Commission. They had concerns about the required closing time for restaurants (9 pm), the provision for automatic approval of applications not acted on in 21 days, and possible confusion about the role of the CDRC versus the roles of staff and the Board of Zoning Adjustments. They agreed that the ordinance needed further study and revision, and they voted to set a special meeting for about two weeks hence, TBA, [this meeting was later set informally for May 19 at 5:30, then canceled when it was learned the meeting wasn’t posted] when they hoped to have more time to discuss the issues and seek input from the city attorney, Engineering, Planning and Zoning Department staff, and a representative of the Regional Planning Commission.
In the interim, they chose Planning Commission member James Ponseti to serve as the Commission’s representative to the CDRC, with co-chair Mike Brandt as an alternate.
Commissioners took no action with respect to amending the CDRC to add two at-large members to be recommended by Ward 2 representatives and chosen by the Council; rather, they discussed recommending that the Council fill those vacancies in the same way that it chooses other Board positions.
*Link to Homewood Star article about the Monday meeting http://thehomewoodstar.com/news/developer-residents-discuss-details-for-econo-lodge-propert-0504/
Adjourned 7:05 pm.