Category Archives: Planning Commission

Planning Commission, Dec. 5, 2017

The Bell Center

The commission heard and approved the Bell Center request to combine two parcels into one for a future rebuilding of the early intervention/special education center north of Central Avenue.

 

 

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

Absent: John Krontiras, and Britt Thames

Staff present: Donna Bridges, board clerk, and Fred Goodwin, planner, and

Audience attendance: 3

*Rezoning and final development plan cases (Mixed Use Districts only) are advisory and must receive final approval from the city council.

NEW BUSINESS

The Bell Center, with shaded portion showing the parcel acquired for expansion. Both structures will be torn down to rebuild a new, larger Center, subject to rezoning the combined parcels from commercial to institutional use.

Approved a request to combine a new parcel with existing property for a future Bell Center expansion: Walter Schoel engineering spoke at a brief hearing, saying the Bell Center (1700 29th Court South) had acquired an adjacent parcel (1708) that it wanted to combine with its existing property. With no speakers coming forward, the hearing was closed and Mr. Higginbotham explained that the resurvey was the first in a multi-step expansion process for the organization. The center had purchased the adjacent property, on which there stands a 50-year-old house, and plans to demolish both buildings and rebuild a new facility in their place. The steps also involve rezoning both properties, which are, oddly enough, both zoned commercial: C-1 for the current Center, and C-4 for the house, which Mr. Goodwin later explained was at one time a catering business.

Although the rezoning and resurvey requests could have been combined, they were not. The applicant will return in February with its request to rezone the parcels to Institutional use.

Before adjourning the commission approved the 2018 calendar. Next meeting will be on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.

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Planning Commission called meeting, Parks & Rec, Nov. 14, 2017

Rosedale resident Mary Edwards scolded the council last winter for not including Rosedale in the tax and bond spending windfall. Tonight, Ms. Edwards reminded officials about the needs of Spring Park during hearings for the $30 M sports facility expansion in West Homewood.

Nine residents spoke tonight at special called hearings on expansion of ball fields and other sports facilities, and relocation of an outdoor pool by the Senior Center. As expected, concerns focused on retaining landscaping and buffering noise, traffic and other nuisances from neighborhoods. Several residents made the trip this evening to be assured the city plans renovations at Spring Park in Rosedale as well. Those plans are being discussed now, with $350,000 budgeted to rebuild the park from scratch.

Members present: Britt Thames, Billy Higginbotham, chair, Jeffrey Foster, James Riddle, Mark Woods, and Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill

Absent: John Krontiras and Brady Wilson

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

Audience attendance: 16

NEW BUSINESS:

Plan for new pool and related structures, and 120-space parking lot off Oak Grove Road.

Approved changes to the Park and Rec. board’s final development plan of Patriot Park, to add a swimming pool: Two residents with little  knowledge of the year-long planning process for the Senior Center pool addition spoke at tonight’s hearing for the property’s amended development plan. The plan, presented by Curtis Eatman of LBYD engineering firm, involves building a swimming pool, concession area, pool building and 120-space parking lot into the lawn at 816 Oak Grove Road, between the existing Senior Center and Patriot park. A resident at 725 Hillmoor Lane, behind the development, asked if the plan was a revision of a former discussion years to add a year-round swimming pool as part of the Senior Center facility and dedicated for use by center members. A second speaker, from the Hollywood neighborhood, asked if the Senior Center was going to be demolished to make way for the pool. He also asked if and when improvements would be made to the Spring Park in Rosedale. 

Commissioners and staff explained that the new pool is being built to replace the pool eliminated for more field space in West Homewood Park. It will be  located next to the Senior Center but will not otherwise affect that facility. The pool will be outdoors and open only during the summer months, with completion scheduled for May 2019.

As for Spring Park, the city has budgeted $350,000 for a top-to-bottom renovation and replacement of that facility in Rosedale.

There being no other questions, the commission unanimously approved the amendments to the development plan.

Final development plan approved for the combined recreational facilities of West Homewood Park and Mason Corporation properties.

Approved a final development plan to include and combine new acreage added to the West Homewood Park sports fields: Mr. Eatman presented an overview of the final development plan, which involves renovating existing fields and the addition of 15 acres from the Mason Corporation, whose building will be demolished to make way for two multi-purpose soccer-sized fields with artificial turf, an indoor basketball courts, covered batting cages in the same structure, and additional parking. Parking will also be added along the edge of the drive now connecting West Oxmoor to the Six Acre field, which also will be converted to artificial turf.

The Weygand Field gravel parking lot will be paved.

Residents express concerns: 

  • A resident from Parkside Circle, which backs up to the park, asked if the final plan had reduced parking areas to be built along the park drive, and behind the neighborhood. Mr. Eatman said plans had been changed closer to the segment of the drive near West Oxmoor. The parking area would be where people now park on the grass. A 10-foot tree buffer is required in the project, but no details have been decided. Mr. Foster asked if a landscape plan would be submitted, but zoning staff said the trees and landscaping indicated on the drawing was sufficient. No details have been decided on landscaping. Mr. Woods said repeatedly that tree height would have to remain low because of the power lines.
  • A second Parkside Circle resident asked about plans to modify traffic and traffic noise. There are no such plans.
  • Delcris Road resident asked if there would be any passive park areas worked into the plan or if the entire space was dedicated to organized sports. “Will there be a place for a family to gather, or to throw a Frisbee?” she asked. “Central Park is busy and now so is Patriot Park. I want a place to just take my grandchildren.” Mr. Eatman said it was planned as a sports facility, but Mr. Woods said the pavilion and lawn area by the creek would still remain for gatherings.
  • A resident on Cobb Street (reporting) asked what trees and wooded areas would be eliminated and which would remain. Mr. Eastman said a strip of woods 45 feet X 350 feet behind the Mason Corporation would be removed, and the rest would remain, under the current plan. Approximately 10% of the trees by the former pool area would be removed as well, he said. Trees by the entrance and tennis courts would remain.
  • A business owner at 140 West Oxmoor asked if the entrance would be signalized or if traffic would be affected along Snow Drive. Mr. Eatman said a right turn lane exiting the park would be added, but no signal. Traffic should not be an issue on Snow Drive.
  • A resident n 27th Avenue South took the opportunity to ask if a water feature could be added to the Spring Park renovation. Mr. Thames, who represents that ward, referred her and another Rosedale resident to the park board. Plans for Spring Park are being sketched out now, he said.
  • A resident from Sherbrooke Drive, behind the park, asked if there would be fencing along the neighborhood perimeter to block out noise and light. There is no fence planned. Mr. Woods said modern public lighting is much improved with LED lights and downward facing fixtures.

The questions answered, the commission voted unanimously to accept the final development plan, conditioned on council approval of the rezoning, to follow. 

Voted to recommend uniform institutional rezoning for combined West Homewood and Mason Corp. property addition: The separate parcels comprising the new West Homewood sports facilities are zoned I-1 (Institutional), and M-1 (Manufacturing). The recommendation passed tonight would rezone all the parcels into the I-3 institutional designation. With no objection or discussion from the audience, the commission voted unanimously to recommend the rezoning, which is subject to final council approval and separate public hearing. 

(#1-3)West Homewood parcels zoned I-1, and Mason Corp. parcels to be rezoned I-3:

 

Current ball field area

 

 

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Planning Commission, Nov. 7, 2017

A residential subdivision over Berry Road gets approved after a record 9 months of postponements. Ditto a restaurant planned after a decade of vacancy on the old Mountain Brook Inn site. But without any objections the commission approves a new police complex and renames Billy Higginbotham as chair for another year. A special meeting is called next Tuesday for park board projects.

Members present: Billy Higginbotham, chair, James Riddle, Brady Wilson, Mark Woods, and Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill

Absent: Jeffrey Foster, John Krontiras, and Britt Thames

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

Audience attendance: 19

*Rezoning and final development plan cases are advisory only and must be approved by the city council.

OLD BUSINESS:

Devonshire development as redrawn for a total of 8 lots

After nearly a year, approved a preliminary plat and construction plans for an 8-lot subdivision above Berry: Speaking tonight was Engineer Joe Schefano of Engineering Design Group for a project by developer Charles Kessler, KADCO Homes, to redraw four vacant residential lots into six lots on the private Abbey Road above Berry Road. The case first came before the Planning Commission in February and has been carried over ever since to resolve a laundry list of legal concerns, mainly a dispute over the private road. 

The property was originally subdivided into four lots by developer Stephen Chambers, who abandoned the venture years ago after two lots were sold and built. Kessler seeks to re-divide the remaining four lots into six lots and create a unified 8-lot subdivision. Since the last hearing, in July, the two homeowners and Kessler struck an agreement to re-divide the private drive and dedicate it to the future Homeowners Association when all the lots are built. That and questions about water erosion controls and fire protection were also answered.

Property layout for renewed “Devonshire” gated subdivision above Berry Road

Since the original development, Kessler has added plans for sanitary sewer connections instead of septic tanks and a fire hydrant and fire engine turn-around, avoiding the need to furnish the houses with sprinklers. Utilities will be extended from Mt. Gap Road, meaning a temporary opening will be made in the buffer to excavate and convey utilities, which will lay inside a permanent 20-foot easement. The easement will be replanted by the developer and then maintained by the county, the engineer said.

Objectors in the past had included Berry homeowners concerned about stormwater runoff, residents on Mt. Gap Circle and other surrounding residents concerned about construction damage and blasting, some of whom claimed covenants prohibited building houses on the property. That claim was dismissed tonight, and although one objector returned from the last hearing, three speakers tonight brought concerns for the first time.

Two residents from Mt. Gap Circle expressed concern about construction damage to their foundations, particularly the possibility of loosing large boulders or rocks, and claims that the property lies on a fault line. One asked why utilities couldn’t be extended from Berry Road instead of Mt. Gap. The answer was to avoid tearing up the private drive that is already paved. 

In discussion, Mr. Schefano said the developer would build around rock outcroppings and boulders where possible. There would be no interruption of any utility service, he said.

Part of the 10-month delay had been researching covenants and reaching an agreement over ownership of the private road. The signed agreement presented tonight redivides the road, as extended, to all future homeowners and holds harmless the current homeowners from any loss due to construction.

There being no objections, the commission approved both requests in separate votes.

NEW BUSINESS:

Site plan for new public safety building on Bagby and West Valley Avenue.

Approved a preliminary development plan and combined 3 parcels into one for a new police complex off Bagby Drive: The two separate requests were heard simultaneously and approved before hearing a third request, for rezoning recommendation, on the same property.

The case involves the preliminary development plan for 68, 70, and 90 Bagby Drive, the site within a larger complex of former phone company office buildings, some now city-owned and used for the shop and Streets and Sanitation location, which will remain. A derelict building at one of the addresses (facing West Valley Avenue) was demolished 5 years ago, with talk of using it as a remote parking area for the Brown-Mackie college building down the street. That plan didn’t materialize and Brown-Mackie later closed down. 

Detail of public safety building plans. Existing city shop and other facilities are on the left.

Presenting the case tonight was engineer Cale Smith, who discussed how the parcels would be combined to accommodate a three-story police and court administration building with a jail on the third floor. The building would be set into the steep slope, which drops 75 feet from rear to front line, and will be fronted by an 84-space parking lot for the general public.  A  fenced, 95-space limited access parking lot will be located behind the main building for police and official vehicles. Access to the jail’s sally port in the rear of the building is within the limited access area and close to the third level due to the elevation change. The back lot and building would be connected by a pedestrian bridge, he said.

Billy Morace of CMH Architecture addressed the building interior organization. As planned, the ground floor would house courts, detective desks, and 911 dispatch. The second floor would house administrative staff, patrol officer area and a training room. The third floor would house the tactical squad and a jail to hold up to 32 inmates.

Questions from the public: Two speakers from a condominium homeowners association across the Birmingham city line raised questions about proximity to inmates. Although city jails will temporarily house inmates arrested or charged with a felony, those offenders are transported to the county jail. Planning commissioners and staff said the jail didn’t meet the definition of a “residence” prohibited to sex offenders or other felons within a certain distance of a school or daycare. Ms. McGrath said an existing 10-foot buffer would remain between the development and residences.

The preliminary plan and resurvey were approved.

Voted to recommend rezoning Bagby Drive and Goodwin Crest Drive properties for use as a police complex: The rezoning recommendation included a site at 255 Goodwin Crest Drive that isn’t currently part of the redevelopment but is included as a matter of convenience, according to Ms. McGrath. The rezoning request from C-1 Office Building District to I-2 received no objections and the recommendation passed, subject to council approval.

The 2014 plan that didn’t materialize, above, included a 10-story office building, hotel and 5-level parking deck, with zoning changes to allow a fast-food business in the office building.

Approved a final development plan for a restaurant on the former Mt. Brook Inn location: The “Bricktops” restaurant is planned for a portion of the former Mountain Brook Inn site  at 2800 U.S. 280, which was subdivided into two lots and backs up closely to the Hollywood neighborhood. Two Hollywood area residents tonight raised concerns about building lighting, a tree buffer, and especially about round-the-clock noise over the last two weeks produced by a Birmingham Water Works pump. Project representative Henry Graham said the owners had allowed the BWWB to stage the work on the property. He didn’t realize it was a nuisance, he said, and offered the name Doug Stockham as a BWWB contact.

Vacant parking lot and buffer between proposed restaurant and Hollywood residences.

The lot was purchased by these owners in 2006 and a 2014 attempt to build a 10-story office building, parking deck and hotel brought out lots of neighborhood opposition. The lot division case heard earlier this year got attention, but was overshadowed by the same night hearing for the proposed Curio hotel.

Tonight’s speakers were concerned about parking lot lights invading the neighborhood or that the buffer would be inadequate to screen out noise and light. Mr. Graham said lights would be directed downward and kept at a minimum after closing hours, for security purposes. Mr. Higginbotham said there had been vast improvements in lighting since the last commercial development on that site.

There being no further objections, the commission voted to approve the plan.

Final plans are subject to approval by the city council.

Re-elected Mr. Higginbotham chairman for 2018: Mr. Riddle nominated Mr. Higginbotham to resume as chair of the commission, with the approval of other members. Mr. Higginbotham accepted and was voted in unanimously. 

Announced a called meeting of the planning commission next Tuesday, Nov. 14,  at 6 p.m. to hear rezoning and development plans for Patriot Park (pool relocation) and West Homewood athletic fields. 

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Planning Commission, Oct. 3, 2017

532 Broadway
Lot will be divided for two houses

One lot divided and lots of discussion of downtown planning, carriage-house size limits, and resuming work on the tree ordinance.

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

Absent: Britt Thames and Mark Woods

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

Audience attendance: 12

*Rezoning and final development plan cases are advisory only and must be approved by the city council.

Old Business:

Carried over for the seventh time a preliminary plat on a mountaintop subdivision above Berry Road: This was the month to finally hear the case of the Devonshire subdivision being developed by Charles Kessler, KADCO Homes, LLC, which had been carried over the better part of a year for plans to be completed to commission satisfaction. The new developer wants to create 6 lots out of the current 4-lot arrangement to revive the decade-old project. Ms. McGrath last month said the case at #1 and #4 Abby Lane would definitely be ready to hear this month after a conflict had been resolved over how to handle ownership of the road, among other things. There has been significant opposition from neighbors expressed at two recent hearings: February hearing.   July hearing.  This month, the problem was getting all the updated paperwork submitted to the zoning office in time for the meeting. “They really wanted to be here,” Ms. McGrath said.

NEW BUSINESS:

Approved a request to divide a residential lot on Broadway (pictured): Applicant Matthew Feld of Homewood (listed as co-owner with Trevor Cobb) said he purchased the property at 532 Broadway Street to divide and build two houses. The resulting lots would be 160 feet deep and 50 feet wide facing Broadway. There were speakers from two addresses at the hearing.

The first speaker, from 526 Broadway, asked to see any plans proposed for the lots. Mr. Higginbotham said that wasn’t a requirement for approval, and the resident said that was still her question.

The second speakers, from 527 Cliff Place, behind the property, wanted to know what the required setbacks were, and if those would be maintained when the new houses were built. He asked where the driveways would be, since the property sits up on a ledge, and asked about construction vehicles blocking the rear alley, which accesses his own house. After the hearing, Ms. McGrath said the rear setback for this lot is a 20-foot minimum with side setbacks of 5 and 9 feet respectively. The height limit is 29 feet from threshold to rooftop, and front setbacks could not be ahead of existing houses within 250 feet centered on the new house. The minimum is 25-feet written on the survey. To Mr. Foster’s question about requesting future setback variances, Mr. Feld said there wouldn’t be any. As for parking, he said it would be accessed probably from the alley. There was no discussion of maintaining alley clearance during construction.

The public portion over and there being no further questions, the division was unanimously approved.

Agreed to present a nominee for chair at the next meeting:  The planning commission is supposed to elect a chair annually. Mr. Higginbotham said he’d be happy to continue as chair if elected. The other members will nominate a choice in November.

A page from the downtown master planning website at heartofhomewoodplan.com

Discussed the Downtown Master Planning process, proposed changes affecting secondary structures (carriage houses, etc.) and imminent movement on the tree preservation ordinance: Mr. Foster asked for a report on the Sept. 26 kick-off event on the downtown master plan, hosted by the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham. He said he is still not getting email notifications. Ms. McGrath explained there were two sessions that day, with section maps and aerial photographs posted for people to mark with their suggested improvements. Residents can do the same on a special interactive map on the RPC’s website, and take a survey, at heartofhomewoodplan.com. There is also a public Facebook page by the same name. 

Mr. Foster asked how the suggestions would be prioritized, if suggestions were trending to practical or “pie-in-the-sky,” and if any cost estimates were assigned to proposals. As an example, the discussion turned briefly to the pocket park proposed at the jail site. Ms. McGrath said the property is zoned Institutional, which allows parks. She said the greenspace advocates had offered to buy the property from the city at appraised value, but gave no details. She didn’t know how costs for demolition, design, construction and maintenance would be arranged if the city chose to establish a park, she said. She did not think the planning process, which will take about a year, included offering financing options and cost estimates. 

Planning subcommittee to consider limits to “carriage house” size and resume discussions on tree preservation regulations.  Ms. McGrath said the next downtown planning meeting would be Oct. 19 at 2 p.m., to be followed by the zoning subcommittee meeting. The subcommittee will discuss limiting the size of accessory structures, which are now being built at sizes to rival the main houses. She was also expecting to present a final version of the tree preservation draft from the Environmental Commission. She, Scott Cook and Inspections Department head Wyatt Pugh will be attending an EC meeting Oct. 10 to oversee a final discussion of the draft document before it is returned to zoning, hopefully that night, she said. “The city council is asking hard– ‘When is it coming back to the planning commission?'” she said.

The Planning Commission could hear the proposed regulations as early as December, members said.

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Planning Commission, Sept. 12, 2017 special meeting

The two houses on the six combined lots, facing Highland (foreground) and Mecca (left), will be divided into five lots, the existing houses demolished.

Despite the awful weather and a popular green space forum scheduled elsewhere at 6:30, this case drew a crowd of over 25. Nevertheless, the lot division was approved unanimously; the builder offering few answers to concerns about construction site management, erosion control, tree preservation or other questions not specifically dictated by city law.

Members present: Britt Thames, Billy Higginbotham, chair, Jeffrey Foster, vice chair, James Riddle, and John Krontiras

Absent: Brady Wilson

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

Audience attendance: 25

*Rezoning and final development plan cases are advisory only and must be approved by a vote of the city council.

Plan showing the division of property into five separate parcels/lots. The original subdivision was into six lots, but the property had been combined and used for decades as the address for just two houses.

Approved dividing two parcels historically used as two lots into five separate parcels on Highland Road: With little response to objectors or their questions, commission members unanimously approved a division of two parcels at 900 and 904 Highland Road into five separate lots for builder Jason Hale of Willow Homes. The parcels had been originally subdivided into six lots, but had been combined for decades as home to two bungalows, one of which had been recently vacant. The properties are next door to the Sims Gardens and the application shows the owner, at 900 Highland to be Dylan and Lauren Marsh. The builder plans to demolish the houses and build 4 br/3 bath houses on each of the five lots. Tonight’s case is heard at a special meeting due to an error in posting the case with those heard at the regular meeting a week ago.

In describing his case, Mr. Hale said each resulting lot would fall well above the minimum 7,300 square foot area standard computed from nearby lots and above the 53-foot width at the street. The smallest lot area is 7,331 square feet.

Speaking against the division or having concerns were five residents:

The first speaker, from 902 Stuart Street, asked what the average lot depth was and expressed her disappointment for loss of historic architecture, and poor management of construction sites on the neighborhood’s narrow streets, and steep terrain. Uncontrolled stormwater runoff from a split lot and construction of on the high side of Sims, facing Irving, continues to damage the city property. The applicant responded that lot depth was 141 feet. He was unclear about the depth of the resulting corner lot.

A speaker from 901 Irving said she owned one of the last double lots in the area and asked that the builder leave mature trees on the divided lots, not only for her privacy but for the new owners. “I ask that builders be respectful of the people who already live here,” she said. Mr. Hale made no proffers about maintaining the trees.

A speaker from 901 Highland Road, who lives across the street from Sims and part of the subject property, said he supported the division but was concerned about parking. He asked if the “paper alley” running behind the lots could be improved and used for parking. The commission chair answered that the city wasn’t interested in improving the alley. Mr. Higginbotham said a new rule required off street parking for at least two cars, and Ms. McGrath said the rule was actually a longstanding one, which is regularly enforced.

A speaker from 930 Highland on the corner of St. Charles said he was “on the receiving end of a lot of water,” from runoff. He said a city worker helped by building a berm to block some of the runoff, and he was concerned about erosion control during this large construction project. In answer, Ms. McGrath said the city inspectors were getting better about addressing erosion control on construction sites. She warned Mr. Hale that silt fences would have to be in place. She added that the city had faced lots of problems on the mountainside with building on Mecca, Highland, and Irving. The city has talked to an engineering firm about issues on the mountainside and is considering replacing and enlarging a storm drain.

A speaker from 304 St. Charles said she was opposed to the destruction of the two most beautiful lots in the neighborhood. “To tear those beautiful lots apart detracts from the whole neighborhood,” she said. “Why don’t we put more effort into preservation?” She said an earlier lot split in the neighborhood resulted in bad consequences for everyone and ruined the appearance of the property.

Commissioners asked few questions. Because the divided lots met the size and width standards and objections were beyond their powers to address, the vote was called and passed unanimously.

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Planning Commission, Sept. 5, 2017

Location of the Wildwood North parcel, showing a notch for the Milo’s restaurant. (Ms. McGrath said Milo’s was actually part of the original development.) The Wells Fargo property is adjacent to the north and was also recently subdivided, with the bank complex changing hands in August.

Members present: Billy Higginbotham, chair, Jeffrey Foster, vice chair, James Riddle, John Krontiras, and Brady Wilson.

Absent: Britt Thames, Mark Woods, and Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.

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

Audience attendance: 4

*Rezoning and final development plan cases are advisory only and must be approved by a vote of the city council.

Old Business:

Carried over for the sixth time a preliminary plat on a mountaintop subdivision above Berry Road: Once again, and maybe for the last time, the case at #1 and #4 Abby Lane, the Devonshire subdivision being developed by Charles Kessler, KADCO Homes, LLC, was carried over to allow more time to complete plans. In pre-commission, Ms. McGrath said a conflict over how to handle ownership of the road had finally been resolved. There were other problems as well and significant opposition from neighbors expressed at two recent hearings. February hearing.   July hearing. 

New Business:       

Drawing showing the location of two outparcel on either side of Milo’s (center). The eastern lot will be a restaurant.

Allowed two outparcels to be carved out of a North Wildwood property, probably for fast food: Bart Carr, an engineer representing property owners PMAT Homewood LLC, of Louisiana, said his clients were tight-lipped about their reasons to subdivide the 18.46-acre property, but surmised the east lot was no doubt for a restaurant. The so-called North Wildwood property already is the site of a Milo’s fast-food restaurant. The two newly divided lots are on either side of that restaurant and also front State Farm Parkway. Coming to the podium to learn more was John Page, owner of Taco Casa across Wildwood Parkway, who seemed satisfied to learn the location of the new businesses, whatever they become.

The entire parcel changed hands recently and lies just south of the Wells Fargo property which was subdivided into three equivalent sections in July. (Wells Fargo, formerly SouthTrust, sold its office complex in August.) Together the two parcels extend along a wooded buffer that separates the North Wildwood commercial sector from residential neighborhoods along Oak Grove Road, Hena Street, Cobb Street,  Kent Drive, Westwood Place and Glen Circle.

Google map showing property viewed from Highland

Announced a special meeting Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. to hear a residential lot division case dropped in error from tonight’s agenda:  

The case at 900 and 904 Highland Road is a request to redivide six lots covering two parcels into a total of 5 lots, three that would face Highland and two facing Mecca. Staff said the application was turned in on time, but other paperwork–

Current lot divisions

and the fee–trickled in later. The case was posted today to meet the minimum 7-day notice period to be heard next week.

 

 

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Planning Commission, Aug. 1, 2017

Shorter and wider, a new hotel revision actually adds two guests rooms while reducing height, at the expense of some retail.

Oh sure, the Planning Commission voted to recommend a shorter, fatter hotel tonight than was originally presented three weeks ago. That’s the big news. But judging by the number of spectators still clumped into hallway discussion groups afterward, the decisions didn’t sit well. Out of the 11 speakers heard tonight, former councilman and planning commission member Jeff Underwood was the only one singing praises, not of the hotel, but of the personal character and business integrity of majority owner Mike Mouron. (Mr. Mouron, who presented the case last month but was proxied tonight by investor Scotty Stanford, had taken offense when asked for proof of the Hilton franchise by commissioner Mark Woods. Mr. Woods was also absent tonight.)

Mr. Stanford’s presentation was brief and answered four questions raised on July 11: 1) The hotel had been reduced in height by 20 feet, or two stories, while guest rooms increased by two, to 129; 2) Owners had purchased a remote property to provide an additional 41 parking spaces; 3) The plan re-aligned the sanitary sewer so as to avoid an easement or construction inconvenience to a business neighbor; and 4) Owners produced a letter from Hilton showing its intent to make the hotel a Curio franchise.

However, the gist of residents’ concerns tonight had progressed to bigger concerns than parking spaces and the primary purpose of the commission–Planning and how little there seemed to be of it considering the size of the project. For details on the case, speaker concerns and answers, read below.

Members present: Billy Higginbotham, chair, Britt Thames, Jeffrey Foster, vice chair, James Riddle, John Krontiras, and Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.

Absent: Brady Wilson and Mark Woods.

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

Audience attendance: 34

*Rezoning and final development plan cases are advisory only and must be approved by a vote of the city council.

OLD BUSINESS:

Carried over a subdivision redevelopment that’s been simmering atop Shades Mountain since February.  This is the sixth carry-over for this project to renew and modify development of a 7-year-old gated subdivision on Shades Mountain that was abandoned by a previous developer after selling two lots. Much of the delay, according to Ms. McGrath, is a conflict between the developer and the two homeowners over ownership of the access road. Click here for the original case, and a later followup. 

Click to open zoomable pdf of the ground-floor layout. The project appears to incorporate the Wolf Camera building into the plan.

Voted to recommend a final development plan and rezoning for a 5-story downtown hotel after developers answered concerns about parking and building height to the commission’s satisfaction: Speaking on behalf of the project was investor Scotty Stanford, saying majority owner Mike Mouron (a Mt. Brook planning commission member who spoke last month) was on a wedding anniversary vacation with his wife. As background, the case encompasses 2713, 2725, 2727, 2739 and 2714 18th Street South and 2728 Mamie L. Foster on a prominent corner in downtown Homewood, now owned by an LLC called Homewood Place. As presented last month, the hotel would be managed by Wilson Management Co. of Memphis and fly under Hilton’s “Curio” banner, a full-service hotel encompassing the city block bounded by 18th Street and 28th Avenue, with seven stories (802 feet) and 127 guest rooms fronted by a two-story retail/restaurant area. The applicants requested consolidating zoning of the parcels from two commercial zones to a single MXD (mixed use) zone for a hotel and ground-level retail development.

Elevations from sea level versus heights of buildings.

To proceed to final council approval, the project required commission approval of the development plan as well, which it rejected unanimously on July 11. Mr. Mouron had failed to make a case for waiving 80 parking places under the code, suggesting he had been misled by the staff about the exact parking requirements. The height at 7 stories, was also too much for the commission, despite a comparison of elevations above sea level that put the Curio second from bottom of downtown buildings, just above the Aloft. Tonight’s revised plan reads “5 stories,” and knocks about 20 feet off the building height. And even then, it is taller than SoHo, the apartments, or Aloft.

Residents thought the 28th Avenue focal point, which they compared to the city’s next “Curve,” deserved longer, more thoughtful planning on traffic, parking, landscaping and visual impact. The commission tonight voted to recommend the plan as presented.

Objections and other concerns:

  • SoHo and Broadway Parc developer Bubba Smith wanted to know more about the final appearance from different angles, effect on SoHo residents’ views, use of quality exterior materials, and the visual effect of a shorter, wider building on a key focal point in downtown. He said the commission should demand assurances on the futurity of parking arrangements if contracted or leased. “The intersection of 18th and 28th is a future focal point. This design walls it off,” he said. “This is not the vision I have wanted for that street.”
  • Ken Shaia, an 18th Street business owner, echoed the importance of the building’s appearance at that intersection. He asked for a 3-dimensional model to help people visualize the building and said the rendering didn’t fit with the character of surrounding buildings. “The Bohemian was more slow planned,” he said. “I’d like to see something that looks like the city.”
  • A Rosedale resident who has been vocal about that neighborhood’s redevelopment said there should be more information available about the project. He seemed concerned about gentrification, and said he wanted to see it benefit Rosedale, with a Rosedale business in a storefront and residents finding jobs at the hotel.
  • A real estate agent living on SoHo’s fourth floor north said residents’ views would be affected and wanted a plan that showed residents what to expect.
  • Scott Dean, a resident and 18th Street business owner, asked more detail about onsite versus offsite lots and how they would be used.
  • A resident pushing for more downtown green spaces asked how the hotel plan worked with the master plan the city had paid “$200,000 for a year ago.” She said the hotel had little to offer in landscaping and downtown already “skewed hot and hard” with concrete surfaces. “This can be a transformation in a good way, or a bad way,” she said. “Look at Regions. Would we do this now?”
  • The business owner next door wanted assurances–received–that his 10-foot alleyway wouldn’t be reduced.
  • Two Hollywood resident asked the commission to reject the project until there was more and better planning, especially for sidewalks and more trees.

In response: 

Limits to commission requirements – Mr. Higginbotham asked Ms. McGrath to list the requirements for a development plan, beyond which the commission could require nothing further of an applicant to get a recommendation. That included a dozen provisions ranging from signage, to landscaping, drainage, parking, lighting, contour maps,  and so on. Ms. McGrath said the plan contained those elements to her satisfaction. Mr. Higginbotham, saying the city attorney warned against basing commission decisions outside that list, invited Mr. Stanford to proffer a 3-dimensional model, etc., if he wanted. Mr. Stanford responded that the materials would be glass, masonry, brick and synthetic stucco. He wanted to continue working with the community he said, stopping short of proffering any further studies requested.

A chaos of overlapping planning projects  – As for the status of the downtown master plan, Ms. McGrath said is had not been initiated and she could not predict what it would contain. An initial meeting of stakeholders has not been held. However, Mr. Thames said because of the hotel, the parking component had been fast-tracked and the Regional Planning Commission  determined parking capacity would be increased by enforcing time limits (set to 3 hours). Ms. McGrath said the street scaping project planned on 18th Street had been delayed pending the hotel’s plans. (The hotel’s landscaping plans, meanwhile, are contingent on the 18th Street improvement project.) Mr. Krontiras was concerned about future density downtown and the need for more traffic studies. But Mr. Cobb said a traffic study would be premature because of plans possibly to narrow 18th Street.

Final hotel details

  • Landscaping will be “coordinated with city’s 18th Street improvements and hotel/retail green space;
  • Two 50-square-foot hotel signs will be mounted on the ground floor facing both 18th Street and 28th Avenue.
  • Total parking 211 spaces (including 5 handicap accessible) – 134 onsite, 16 on 18th Avenue, 41 on remote lot on 27th Avenue South, 20 cross-parking agreement
  • 102,461 square feet total, hotel, 96,461 about 96%; restaurant/bar = 6,000 sf 4%

A vote was called on the development plan and the rezoning separately. Each passed unanimously with Mr. Higginbotham abstaining because of a previous relationship with the applicant.

NEW BUSINESS:

Approved changes to a development plan to allow the Lakeshore Foundation to add a gym and walking trail to improve campus walkability: The plan to amend the Lakeshore Foundation development plan with a developed “treetop” walking trail, office and storage space at 4000 Ridgeway Drive, passed with no objections and few questions from the commission. Applicant Walter Schoel Engineering; Owner Andrew Phillips. 

Added a minimum lot area for NPD zoning, which had been dropped in error last year:  The minimum house size was inadvertently dropped from the zoning book during an amendment process last year for housing height and other changes. Tonight the Planning Commission amended the ordinance to include an 800-square-foot minimum house size for lots up to 49 feet across. The other minimums, by lot wide are: 1,200 square feet for lots 50-55 feet wide; 1,400 sf for lots 56-65 feet; 1,600 sf for lots 66-75 feet; and 1,800 sf for lots 76 feet across and wider. Residence maximums are 50% of the lot area.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.

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