Planning Commission, Feb. 7, 2017

Planning Commission pre-meeting.

Planning Commission pre-meeting. Both of Thursday’s cases were eventually carried over.

Two important cases scheduled Thursday were postponed to allow more preparation. In one, a gated subdivision addition approved seven years ago but never completed has been revived to widespread concern of surrounding homeowners about potential blasting, damage control, runoff and incomplete plans to provide fire protection. The plan to redraw four lots into six in the Devonshire subdivision on Shades Mountain will go back to the drawing board to answer significant questions. Meanwhile, a request to divide a Green Springs commercial parcel and open it to Columbiana Road was put on hold while owners investigated the legality of the plan.

Members present: Billy Higginbotham, chair, Jeffrey Foster, James Riddle, Brady Wilson, and Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.

Absent: Mike Brandt, vice chair, Britt Thames, Fred Azbik, and Mark Woods.

Staff present: Donna Bridges, board clerk, Fred Goodwin, planner, and Vanessa McGrath, building, engineering and zoning department.

Audience attendance: 16

Minutes: January 2016 minutes were approved.



The map shows the extent of the Devonshire subdivision, including two built lots (lower and upper left shaded areas) and the 4-lot addition approved in 2010. New owner/developer Kadco Homes is proposing to redraw the addition into six lots and extend sewer and water lines and make other changes. Adjacent Homewood residents have objected to a host of potential problems; the development also abuts the Vestavia line on the south.

Carried over a preliminary plat and construction plans for a 6-lot subdivision near Berry Road: With significant issues such as drainage and fire protection still unanswered and six households either opposing or expressing important concerns, the commission advised Wade Lowery of the Engineering Design Group to carry over the request or risk a denial. EDG took the advice on behalf of owner/developer Kadco Homes, LLC (Charles Kessler).

The project:

The project is a continuation of the 2010 Devonshire subdivision, which had been envisioned in 2007 by a former councilman as an exclusive gated community of six large houses on estate-sized lots, two of which were his own residence and that of his mother’s, both now sold and occupied by others. Those two current homeowners at #1 and #2 Abbey Lane, who were among the speakers on Thursday, also comprise the membership of the “homeowners association” and co-own a private wall, gate and drive accessing their property.

Original division of the Devonshire property into four lots. The developer plans to re-divide into six.

Original division of the Devonshire addition into four lots. The developer plans to redivide this portion into six.

The new development team has proposed dividing the four vacant lots approved in 2010 into six lots, extending a sanitary sewer (as opposed to using septic systems) and bringing an extended water main to supply a fire hydrant. Undecided plans for fire protection and stormwater drainage from the remote site were of particular concern to the commission. The fire hydrant on the plan has not been thought out or approved and there were concerns raised in the pre-meeting about the ability to gain adequate pressure for the hydrant. Also of concern was the status of a 2010 proffer from the preceding owner to furnish sprinklers in the new houses in the absence of a hydrant, and other relevant covenants on the land. These problems and others raised by residents in the public hearing contributed to the postponement.

Opposing or concerned speakers: 

  • A man speaking on behalf of his mother living on Berry said he  objected to the new plan because of surface water drainage downhill to Berry. He had relied on the 2010 approval for four lots and was worried the additional houses and construction required for sewer and water would disturb the natural buffer that was to remain in the original plan.
  • A Berry resident echoed the concern about drainage downhill to her house.
  • A Mt. Gap resident was concerned about potential damage from blasting and asked if Abbey Lane would be connected through to Mt. Gap (no, the Abbey Lane drive will be extended to a planned turnaround).
  • A Mt. Gap Drive resident whose property abuts the development on two sides was also concerned about a through road, proximity of construction work and equipment to her property, and potential damage from blasting a rock outcropping.
  • The homeowner at 1 Abbey Lane, a current homeowners association member who bought his house in 2014, was concerned about drainage problems, making the street a through road, and asked for guarantees to repair any damage to the communal gate, wall and drive. “There are only two of us, but we are a gated community and the purpose of the gate is defeated if the road will be continued,” he said. “When we bought this property in 2014, we did so with the knowledge of four lots and four larger houses. Now that value will change.”
  • The homeowner at 2 Abbey Lane echoed the same concerns, adding he wanted to be part of any change to the current covenants.

The engineer and commission respond:

The engineer admitted the project may require blasting and if so would comply with the relevant regulations. As to drainage, he mentioned for the first time that drainage channels and a detention pond would be added to the plans. He did  not object to arranging a construction easement on the private communal property controlled under HOA ownership.

Nevertheless, Mr. Higginbotham said he could not cast a vote on plans with so many questions left unanswered. The engineer agreed and the case was continued to next month.

819 Green Springs Highway

Property owners want to redevelop three buildings (yellow shading) housing the former Captain D’s, a seafood shop and car customizing business. But a questionable lot division proposed with access from residential Columbiana Road forced a postponement.

Carried over a Green Springs plan to divide commercial property with an entrance on Old Columbiana Road.  Owners of a large commercial tract at 819 Green Springs Highway want to divide the property into two lots, raze three buildings and redevelop the portion facing Green Springs and open an access point onto Columbiana Road for the new lot. Mr. Higginbotham told the family ownership in a pre-meeting that he suspected covenants on the land guaranteed a 30-foot buffer between the commercial lot and the street, which is residential. He doubted the legality of disturbing that buffer with a commercial entrance, he said. Adjacent Columbiana Road property being developed with 10 townhouses had no such covenants, Mr. Higginbotham said. Owners organized as F.R.Z. LLC asked how to investigate the covenants and were told to consult a lawyer or surveyor.


Google Maps aerial showing tree buffer along rear of former Captain D’s property.

(pictured) Columbiana residents were upset when the owners cleared trees behind the property without a permit or advance notice. To add to the buffer, visible bordering the rear of the property (on the right), the city also planted a dozen small evergreen trees, which have not survived.


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