Planning Commission, June 6, 2017

Not the biggest case by any means, but certainly the most unusual was the case of the improperly zoned Pilates instructor and the city’s efforts to help the landlord, at all costs  Over the course of two meetings, with at least two more still to come, property owner John Page sought to rezone his office-zoned lot next to Mayfair Circle to a higher retail category to allow a Pilates studio. Beaten back by neighborhood opposition last month, the zoning staff and commission this week agreed to recommend adding the category Personal Fitness Studio to the uses allowed in the office district. The case must go before the council for approval. Mr. Page was delighted with outcome

Members present: All – Billy Higginbotham, chair, Britt Thames, Jeffrey Foster, James Riddle, Brady Wilson, John Krontiras, Mark Woods, and Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.

Absent: None

Staff present: Donna Bridges, board clerk, and Fred Goodwin, planner, Vanessa McGrath and Greg Cobb, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience attendance: 19

*Rezoning cases must be approved by a vote of the city council, which follows a separate public hearing.

OLD BUSINESS:

Jefferson County map showing the Devonshire subdivision

Carried over the preliminary plat approval for 1 & 4 Abbey Lane, with many questions still unanswered: Developer Charles Kessler’s project to revive the abandoned Devonshire gated subdivision development atop Shades Mountain was carried over in February pending answers to a host of objections by two current property owners and nearby homeowners worried about blasting, stormwater runoff,  legal questions about covenants and adequate fire protection, to name a few. Tonight the case got no further under questioning and engineer Joe Schefano of Engineering Design Group opted to carry it over again rather than risk a denial.

According to discussion, developer Steve Chambers had subdivided the property seven years ago into four lots, of which two were built and occupied occupied, forming the very small Homeowners Association. Kessler, of KADCO Homes LLC, wants to redraw the four lots into six and place them on a sanitary sewer line rather than septic systems, as was planned originally. Tonight, the engineer heard the same objections raised in February: A man who objected to runoff down the slope to his mother’s house on Berry Road returned to ask about a detention pond drawn onto the latest plans. Mr. Schefano said the pond would slow the calculated additional runoff from the new houses to match the current runoff, going from 10.5 cubic feet/second currently to 10.4 cf/sec after construction. The man was also concerned that sewer construction would clear vegetation on the slope, which he’d been assured wouldn’t be disturbed. The city’s stormwater system was overtaxed already, he said, with water pooling by a drain on Berry after today’s rain.

The Battalion Chief said the required fire hydrant, discussed in February, wasn’t the right capacity as drawn on the plans;

Another neighbor who owns undeveloped land abutting the subdivision claimed his deed and others sold at the same time had covenants that didn’t allow any dwellings on the property. He said four additional houses would ruin his view of the valley.

Finally, one of the two current homeowners spoke, saying they still hadn’t settled questions with Mr. Kessler about an easement for staging construction, re-writing some of the covenants, or setting up the Homeowners Association. With that, Mr. Hill said wanted those questions answered first and Mr. Higginbotham  advised the engineer to come back with issues settled — including researching whether the land was clear of any outstanding covenants. With that agreed, the case was postponed to next month.

The rezone would apply to the building on the right, which abuts the Mayfair Circle subdivision

Dropped a request to rezone an Oxmoor Road property in order to rewrite the current zoning to allow a new business: John Page, a Homewood resident and restaurant owner, was back tonight after residents of Mayfair Circle unanimously opposed his plan to rezone adjacent property at 1743 Oxmoor Road from C-1, office use, to C-2, which allows a broad range of retail. Despite the protests last month, Mr. Higginbotham had suggested he carry the case over and talk to neighbors about accepting a  “conditional” C-2 zoning, in which the lot would be rezoned, but only to allow the Pilates studio tenant he would be renting to. One month later, and with neighbors remaining adamantly opposed to C-2 under any conditions, Ms. McGrath offered as a solution changing the C-1 zone to include a “Personal Fitness Studio,” which closely describes the kind of “professional” one-on-one instruction that the Pilates business advertised. She said this use would be consistent with an office zoning. Ms. McGrath said the new category would apply to practitioners who hold “some sort of professional certificate,” and would not allow outdoor activity or music, such as group fitness classes sometimes do.

Mr. Krontiras, pointing out how much effort had gone into the case so far, asked, “Have you not considered finding another tenant?” But with no objection from the Mayfair group, and after some discussion to clarify the next steps, Mr. Page agreed to drop his current case and allow the commission to recommend the new zoning use directly to the council. That vote taken and passed, the case will likely come to before the council after being discussed in committee and advertised, probably July 26. If passed, the new use will be available to any business in the C-1 zone. 

NEW BUSINESS:

Circled is the 2,263 square foot “Hybrid Operating Room” addition planned to Brookwood hospital’s massive Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery pavilion project

Approved an amended plan at Brookwood Medical center to allow a “hybrid operating room” addition: In the shortest case of the night, applicant Gonzalez Strength & Associates requested an amended development plan at 2010 Medical Center Drive to allow Brookwood hospital to add a “hybrid operating room” at its planned Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery Pavilion. The facility, which is built where the hospital originally proposed a women’s health center, went through rezoning and development plan approvals in 2015, with some opposition. The common definition of a hybrid OR is an operating room that provides regular surgical facilities along with the imaging equipment necessary for less invasive procedures, such as vascular and endoscopic surgery

Sketch from a 1997 proposal to carry a sidewalk along the north side of Mayfair from U.S. 31 to Huntington, via Roxbury. The intersection was the focus of tonight’s review.

Approved changes to the much argued sidewalk at Mayfair Drive and Roxbury Drive intersection: For reasons not explained by Mr. Higginbotham, this case and the one following, were advertised and presented to the Planning Commission, but with no public comment period allowed. One opponent, who has been vocal and strident in his objections since the project was first renewed last spring, was in the audience, but left.

In the Mayfair-Roxbury case, the city is constructing a sidewalk on the north side of Mayfair Drive from U.S. 31 to a three-way stop intersection at Roxbury Road. From there, the sidewalk will cross Roxbury and extend north on the west side of that street to Huntington Road. Tonight’s case focused on the removal of a concrete triangle at the intersection and creation of a grass-covered island behind the curb, with a decorative streetlight. The homeowner at that location has agreed to maintain the grass.

Background: The case is the culmination of a sidewalk dispute among Mayfair neighbors dating back to the mid-1990s and renewed by residents over a year ago, which was hashed out in a series of council committee meetings last year. On one side are  residents claiming that a majority of their neighbors want a sidewalk along Mayfair as a basic amenity and safety measure for children. On the other side, objectors said the sidewalk section from U.S. 31 and up Roxbury would have an estimated pricetag of over $100,000 and remove nearly a dozen mature trees and other permanent fixtures. At least one resident said the costs would be paid to please young residents who very likely would move out of the neighborhood in a few years anyway.

The city council has since approved the project and received a construction bid of a little over $69,000. The addition of a section extending the sidewalk all the way to Ridge Road on Mayfair has been discussed but not approved. After the meeting, city zoning engineer Greg Cobb said the city did indeed remove four trees on Mayfair to make way for the sidewalk.

Angled parking and street islands should slow down traffic and help unify the look of one of the roughest looking thoroughfares in Homewood

Approve improvements to Central Avenue: Greg Cobb presented a plan to implement a Skipper Traffic Consultant suggestion (shown) for adding parking and unifying the appearance of the Central  Avenue curve by Iron Tribe and Little Donkey. The plan would place islands in the street to slow traffic and put Central on a further “road diet” by flanking each side with angled parking. There will be 35 new spaces in all, including 24 directly on Central Avenue. Mr. Cobb said it would bring the appearance of a plan to a “sea of asphalt and concrete” that is Central. He and others on the commission gave credit to the owner of the new Calibre outfitter shop for coming up with the idea. Mr. Krontiras said Reese Street should also be made one-way, an idea Mr. Thames, the council liaison, agreed should be revisited.

There being no further cases, the commission ended the meeting by electing Jeffrey Foster as vice chairman, to replace the retired vice chair Mike Brandt, whose last meeting was in May. Mr. Foster was the vice chair on the BZA until he served his final meeting last week, hitting a term limit.

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