There’s money in them thar hills of Ward 1 and developers eyeing a 7-lot subdivision got their wish even as residents appealed for more planning and forethought on the impact to their neighborhood. On a smaller scale, a single house on Stuart subject to commercial rezoning was voted down after hearing opposition from approximately 40 residents, not all in attendance. The case may still proceed to the council, though approval is doubtful.
Members present: Billy Higginbotham, chair, James Riddle, Jeffrey Foster, Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill, and John Krontiras.
Absent: Britt Thames, Brady Wilson and Mark Woods.
Staff present: Donna Bridges, board clerk; Fred Goodwin, planner, and Vanessa McGrath and Greg Cobb, Building, Engineering and Zoning office.
Audience attendance: 25
*Rezoning and final development plan cases for Mixed Use Districts (MXD) are advisory and subject to final approval by the city council.
Approved construction plans and 3-lot residential subdivision in West Homewood after traffic concerns are addressed: Stroud Construction returned tonight to proffer 6 traffic recommendations for a small subdivision planned at a 90-degree curve at 123 Hena Street. Owner is WEHOLD LLC. Those recommendations included removing the stop sign, painting double yellow lines with bumps to keep cars in line, yellow warning signs at Cobb Street and Hena, and a concrete island at the planned subdivision inlet to protect exiting cars.
The case was carried over in February when Ward 2 resident and commission member Mark Woods, absent tonight, asked about traffic safety. Commissioners tonight asked if the developer would proffer implementing the traffic recommendations. That done, the vote was taken and unanimously approved.
Approved a 7-lot subdivision on Mecca after developers dropped the 8th lot: As expected, developers interested in building 8 houses at 212 Mecca Street returned from a BZA defeat November to a win approval tonight for 7 houses instead. The BZA refused to grant lot width variances that would allow 8 houses on 50-foot lots–just shy of the 53-foot minimum required width computed by nearby lot averages. Two dozen Ward 1 objectors had left that hearing feeling vindicated, but knowing it would be temporary. It was. The revised resurvey approved tonight for developer EE Edgewood Land Holding LLC creates 7 lots with a minimum width of 55 feet and minimum area of 7,689 square feet, well above the required minimum of 6,875 sf. Minimums must be at least 85% of the averages calculated on lots within 250 feet of the proposed site. Two-story houses are planned, and developers have proffered there will be no variances requested.
Engineer Bob Easley said the southern lots were flatter and became more steep going north. Houses at the steeper end would have taller crawl spaces and the upper houses would have “downstairs basements” to minimize the difference in grade from lot to lot, he said.
Knowing that approval was certain, several residents returned to ask the city what plans it had, if any, to moderate the effect of so much new development on sloping lots. The 7 proposed lots are just half of the new housing planned on steeply graded street. An Irving resident said the cutting of so many trees would make I-65 audible year ’round instead of just when the trees were bare. Another said the number of houses should be reduced to 3-5. A resident on St. Charles said the city seemed to make decisions “in a bubble” instead of considering the overall impact of development: “All the green is coming down. Concrete is going up. Runoff is everywhere,” she said. Two speakers asked why residents couldn’t review the design of proposed houses. An agent has shown drawings to neighbors. “But the houses they showed won’t be what is built,” he said.
In response to complaints about runoff and standing water, Mr. Cobb said the city was working to unclog a drain.
The vote to approve was unanimous.
Voted unanimously against a commercial rezoning request on Stuart Street: Neighbors presented a formidable front against allowing the house at 1016 Stuart Street to be rezoned for commercial use, while acknowledging that location, size and previous development made the fate of the tiny house “challenging.” The owners and a relative who lived there until November made a case for rezoning the 780-square-foot cottage from Neighborhood Preservation District to Edgewood Urban Renewal District to allow a quiet business, they said, such as a seamstress or accountant, to occupy the site, which sits on a one-way street and faces the back doors and dumpsters of the Edgewood shops on Oxmoor. Such a business would have fewer parking and traffic problems than renting to a college student–the likely option–they warned. They said the Dawson-owned “missionary houses” nearby were bound by a 100-year clause not to be redeveloped, which should assure the neighborhood.
Nevertheless, nine residents spoke against the rezoning as setting a precedent that would be sure to chip away at the line between housing and businesses. One of those objectors read aloud the addresses of 29 additional signers from Highland, Irving, Stuart and St. Charles who also opposed the move, saying a rezone would “erode” the neighborhood. One speaker cited the goals of the master plan, which included buffers between residential and commercial zones. Also objecting was a rep of New York Pizza, who said traffic was “already a nightmare” and made pick-up business almost impossible. “I don’t know how we could fit another business in there,” she said.
Mr. Higginbotham reviewed EURD requirements, which include paved parking, a 35-foot rear setback, and maximum 5-foot front setback. The zone is made for retail and restaurants. Alternatively, the more stringent C-1 zone, which is geared for office and professional uses, has a 25-foot front setback and 15-feet each side. Both classifications allow a lengthy list of businesses and would force costly upgrades to comply. An objector had noted that once rezoned, the property could be developed for any allowed commercial business. Mr. Higginbotham said, however, it would be nearly impossible to tear down and rebuild a compliant building on the small lot.
The owner opted to leave the request for EURD.
Before the vote, which was unanimously opposed to recommending the rezone, Mr. Foster asked if a fire engine could even reach the building. Mr. Hill said probably not, but that was a typical scenario across Homewood.
Despite the unfavorable vote, the owners may still opt to be heard by the city council, which would hold an additional public hearing and would require a super-majority to approve the rezoning.