Members present: Fred Azbik, Mike Brandt, Jeffrey Foster, Chairman Billy Higginbotham, James Riddle, Fred Hawkins, Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.
Members absent: Mark Woods.
Vacancy: Jamie Ponseti resigned following the November meeting. Mr. Ponseti filled the “mayor’s designee” spot on the commission. The mayor or a new designee can be named to fill the vacancy.
Staff attendance: Donna Bridges, commission secretary, Fred Goodwin, Greg Cobb, city Building, Engineering and Zoning Department, and Vanessa McGrath, city engineer/zoning.
Audience attendance: 14
Recommended rezoning the following five Citation Court properties annexed last year by legislative act: The warehouse and office-warehouse properties on Citation Court were annexed last year as part of a campaign to take in pockets of unincorporated Jefferson County that might otherwise be developed under much laxer Jefferson County regulations. That is exactly what happened in March 2015 when a digital billboard advertiser erected a colossal double-screen board at the Circle K on Lakeshore Drive, almost exactly 300 feet from Homewood residences–the minimum clearance under county rules. The sign was later moved to Homewood property facing I-65 behind K-Mart, but not before talk of closing up county-zoned gaps got underway. One such property on Green Springs, home to a now-illegal fireworks business owned by Adamsville mayor, is in dispute and not being re-zoned (or issued a business license). The properties on Citation Court owned by Bobby Ward or his company were processed tonight after being carried over from last month. Ward, who owns 4 of 5 of the parcels, claimed through his attorney that he wasn’t made aware of the annexations and wanted to study the new zoning further. That allowed, he was not present tonight for the commission’s vote to recommend rezoning 129, 159, 167 and 137 Citation Court from Jefferson County Light Industrial to Homewood M-1, light manufacturing. The fifth property, at 209 Citation Court, is owned by Henry Tyler and was recommended for the same rezoning. The recommendations will go for a vote before the city council before the decisions are final. The annexations, however, were completed last year.
Allowed a resurvey dividing one lot into two on Hambaugh Avenue: Twin Properties is asking to divide the lot at 411 Hambaugh into two lots for two new houses. There was no opposition. The lots resulting from the division will be 50 feet X 140 feet, within city code for lot area.
Allowed a resurvey on Woodfern Court dividing one lot into two: The house at 2605 Woodfern Court is on a large lot on a cul-de-sac. Neighbors at 2615 and 2601 spoke at the hearing, saying they had seen the plans for the proposed new houses and were in favor of the request. The resident at 2609 asked to see any plans of what the owner and his builder planned for the property. Although he was shown a sketch of a two-story house in a modified “craftsman style,” the proposed design isn’t binding. Mr. Brandt cautioned spectators that the commission’s power rested only with the property division, not what was going to be built on it.
Allowed a resurvey dividing a large lot in Lakeridge over the objections of neighbors: The owner of 1769 South Lakeshore Drive was granted his request to divide the large property into two smaller lots, despite the polite opposition of three neighbors, who said they represented other opposing neighbors who just weren’t as vocal. The homeowner at 1830 Lake Ridge Road said she was opposed to the division in a neighborhood of estate-sized (1 acre and over) lots, and that it would set a bad precedent. Her lot is larger than 2 acres, she said. A neighbor at 1837 Lake Ridge echoed that feeling, adding that granting the lot division would attract others to do the same, bringing more people and traffic to an area already congested because of the new soccer fields. A third neighbor, who lives on a lot larger than 2 acres directly next door was also opposed, and for the same reasons. The city’s BZA last year denied a similar request for a property at 1802 Lake Ridge in April 2015.
At this point, Ms. McGrath said that Neighborhood Preservation District property (residential) used a formula of averaging local lots to determine minimum lot sizes in a given area. In this case, the divided lots would both be larger than the 20,469-square -foot minimum computed by the formula. That minimum area was smaller than expected because it was the average of large lots on one side of the street and dramatically smaller lots on the other side.
Mr. Higginbotham said a more permanent solution to preserving large lots would be to establish a new zoning designation for estate lots.
Here, noting the objectors in the audience, Mr. Higginbotham implied that the commission couldn’t reasonably deny the request because the resulting lots would fit within the NPD district without requiring further variances. One neighbor challenged that assertion, asking if the commission believed it must grant the request for that reason. Ms. McGrath intervened at this point, saying it was not required, but that the numbers made it difficult for the commission to refuse.
And they did not. The property division passed unanimously.