Planning Commission, July 7, 2015

 

Sanjay Patel presented his case to the neighborhood for a new 4-story extended stay hotel at the site of the EconoLodge. He's seen here with engineer, hotel developer, and resident Nic Seaborn, acting as moderator.

Sanjay Patel is shown earlier this year presenting his case to the neighborhood for a new 4-story extended stay hotel at the site of the EconoLodge. A change in the zoning status may put an end to those plans.

In a 90-minute discussion on rewording the sometimes tedious details of the West Homewood village regulations, it went virtually unnoticed when the Planning Commission dropped “Lodging” from the document’s permitted uses.

That one-word omission, if allowed to remain in the final ordinance for City Council approval, will effectively end the building plans and long-running uproar over the future of the EconoLodge motel at 195 Oxmoor Road. The proposed $8 million redevelopment into 4-story extended-stay hotel would not be allowed, nor would almost any significant development that extends the motel’s size or life expectancy, according to zoning official, city engineer Vanessa McGrath. “What we’ve said is, We don’t want any motels there,” she said.

Motel owner Sanjay Patel, who was one of 7 West Homewood residents present, had left the meeting before the vote.

The change was just one part of the Planning Commission’s overhaul of the 40-page West Homewood District ordinance, which included handing over the district’s final regulatory authority to the commission, and dissolving the original district’s Community Development Review Committee. The overhaul was first addressed by the commission last month.

Among other changes were firmer limitations on building height, and more generous closing times allowed for bars, taverns and nightclubs (moved from 9 p.m. til 2 a.m.).

More attention by far was paid to the relative benefits of different regulatory processes. As drafted, any future district development application must first pass review by the zoning office. Application denied at the first review could be repeatedly adjusted and resubmitted within time limits until the standards are met. The Planning Commission would act basically as a backstop to this in-house review, as well as conducting a public hearing for each case–although the influence of public opinion at this stage of review would be limited.

Any requested variance would go before the Board of Zoning Adjustments, also with a public hearing.

Voicing some disappointment in the dissolution of the CDRC was resident Mike Higginbotham, who suggested having some type of citizen committee established to advise the Planning Commission.

The City Council will advertise a public meeting at its next meeting and vote in the next several weeks.

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

Members absent: James Ponseti

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

Audience attendance: 16

All votes were unanimous. Rezoning recommendations are advisory only and are subject to City Council approval.

NEW BUSINESS:

A concept image for the new Creative Montessori building.

An Architectureworks concept image for a Creative Montessori school renovation.

Approved on a 6-2 split vote changes to the Creative Montessori development plan: Gone are the days when an entity can build an enormous development in the center of Homewood and not consider parking. That was the conversation that almost spoiled an otherwise positive discussion of Creative Montessori School’s expansion at 1650 28th Court South. The project designer, Architectureworks, presented its plan for a first phase renovation, focusing on the school’s library and preschool.

Architectureworks concept of the new Montessori school library.

Architectureworks concept of Montessori school interior.

The private school currently encompasses three separate buildings housing toddler, preschool and elementary programs. In this first phase of construction, it will renovate its 2,500 square foot library into an administration building and replace its current 11,000 sf preschool building with a new 14,000 sf structure.  Future phases await a fundraising drive. The timeline is:

  • AUG-OCT 2015–Renovation of library and portion of existing elementary building; Construction of new drop-off entrance.
  • NOV 2015 — Demolition of existing preschool building.
  • DEC 2015-AUG 2016 – Construction of new preschool building.

Representatives said the school enrolls 130 in its preschool and maintains a waiting list of 20-25. The expansion will allow another 10 preschoolers to enroll.

Questions focused on construction staging and school traffic when the building is finished. The school hopes to purchase an undisclosed parcel nearby to help with the expansion, but currently has only 20 parking spaces onsite versus 30 that are required. There will be only 14 space left after the expansion, requiring a BZA-approved variance to waive 16 spaces.

Public parking available across the street requires an easement agreement with the city to be used specifically for school and construction staff during the building phase.

Mr. Woods and Mr. Higginbotham both wanted firm parking plans and agreements in place before approving the plan. The final approval was contingent on obtaining variances and parking agreements.

Voting no:  Mr. Azbik and Mr. Foster.

Brookwood's planned Orthopedic pavilion and parking deck will occupy the site originally planned for its woman's health center.

Brookwood’s planned Orthopedic pavilion and parking deck will occupy the site originally planned for its woman’s health center.

Approved combining two lots into one for Brookwood Medical Center’s Neuro/Orthopedic pavillion. The property at 525 Brookwood Boulevard was discussed at a previous Planning Commission meeting. Tonight’s decision was to redraw lot boundaries. 

The vacant former filling station at 187 Oxmoor Road is in the newly created West Homewood redevelopment district. Neighbors have reacted against a proposal by a convicted felon to rezone the property for a car lot.

The vacant former filling station at 187 Oxmoor Road is in the newly created West Homewood redevelopment district. Neighbors have reacted against a proposal by a convicted felon to rezone the property for a car lot. Google Street View.

Carried over a contentious rezoning request for a car lot in the West Homewood District:  A request to zone a parcel out of the newly created West Homewood village district for a used car lot precipitated a lot of early and harsh  protest from the neighborhood. Late this afternoon, applicant Jabari Mosley, of Infinity Investments, asked the city to carry over the request to August, saying he missed a plane flight back into Birmingham.

Paramount Auto Sales

Paramount Auto Sales

Mr. Jabari is owner of the Paramount used car lot in Birmingham and has made news for various arrests and drug seizures. Two residents tonight spoke at the public hearing, which will be continued in August. One resident spoke in opposition to the used car lot as an undesirable development in a neighborhood, making reference to the adjacent motel, as well. Motel owner Sanjay Patel stood up to ask if the plan was to sell new or used cars. Mr. Mosley’s request is to rezone the property at 187 Oxmoor Road from an existing WHD (West Homewood District) to C-3 (Community Business District).

IMG_3894

Developers have removed a 90,000 square foot warehouse from the rear of the old Mazer property. Reasons are unclear, but extra space will be used for parking.

Approved a change increasing parking to the Pep Boys/Ollie’s/Mission Possible property: Chris Hoyt of Dunn Real Estate explained that the company’s plan to demolish half of a rear warehouse was amended because “it was in our best interest” to clear away the whole structure — approximately 90,000 square feet — to make way for better parking, service docks and traffic circulation. The property has been significantly reduced from its approximately 250,000 square feet of building area at purchase. 

It was asked if the new parking area and recently renewed asphalt parking would be subject to the city’s tree ordinance, which calls for islands of landscaping and perimeter plantings in parking lots. The planning commission said no, but will investigate the question further.

Mr. Hoyt said all the space has been leased.

Approved a commission member’s resurvey request:  Fred Hawkins, a city council member and voting council liaison to the Planning Commission, came to the podium with his neighbors tonight to ask for a resurvey of his property at 604 Northmoor Lane. Mr. Hawkins said he had purchased the house from a man who had allowed his neighbors at 612 Northmoor to use a strip of the lot to pave a driveway to the rear of the neighbor’s house. Tonight’s vote officially redrew the lot lines to reflect that earlier agreement.

OLD BUSINESS:

Voted to recommend substantial changes in the content and governance of the West Homewood District ordinance: (See above) The original request was to seat two at-large community members to a committee overseeing the new West Homewood District. The council and eventually the planning commission rejected the committee format itself as too cumbersome and put the district under the rule of the Planning Commission and BZA instead. The final document replaces the CDRC with the Planning Commission, removes “Lodging” as one of the permitted uses, limits the height of buildings to 48 feet, inclusive of attics, elevator bulkheads, clock towers, etc., and removes various redundant language throughout.

The final ordinance will be advertised and open to a public hearing before a vote by the City Council, time to be determined.

The meeting adjourned at 8:20 p.m.

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