Category Archives: Planning Commission

Planning Commission, March 6, 2018

212 Mecca

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.


“Cottages at Hena”

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.


Eight lots as originally drawn in 1907

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.

1016 Stuart Street –Less than 800 square feet and facing the back side of restaurants and shops on Oxmoor, the house has no future as a residence, the owners claimed. The Commission disagreed, as did nearly 40 neighborhood objectors. It remains to be seen if owners will continue the case to the city council.

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.


Planning Commission, Feb. 6, 2018

123 Hena Street The parcel abutts SouthPointe property across the “street,” which is still privately owned under a city maintenance and utility easement.

Developers of a 3-lot residential subdivision planned on a narrow and blind curve in West Homewood agreed to provide a traffic study to the commission, postponing their case to redraw the lots and approve construction plans until that time. The study should please families on nearby Kent Drive who last fall demanded traffic enforcement measures after a child crossing the street was struck, but not seriously, by a moving car at school pick-up time. The subdivision is planned on a narrow and blind curve of Hena Street at Cobb Street, less than a block from the elementary school, where traffic comes to a near standstill at afternoon pickup times. Also tonight the commission approved zoning changes affecting how NPD housing heights are measured and handing over control of West Homewood District sign laws and variances to the City Council. See last item, below.

Members present: Britt Thames, Brady Wilson, Billy Higginbotham, chair, James Riddle, Jeffrey Foster, and Mark Woods.

Absent: John Krontiras and Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.

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

Audience attendance: 9

*Rezoning and final development plan cases  for Mixed Use Districts (MXD) are advisory and subject to final approval by the city council.


The wooded property on Hena is at a 90-degree blind curve and 300 or so feet from the Wells Fargo parking deck.

Carried over a 3-lot subdivision and construction plans on Hena Street pending a traffic study, to be paid by the developer: Stroud Construction plans to build three houses on a subdivision and “bulb” inlet at 123 Hena Street, to be called the Cottages at Hena. Tonight, engineer Joey Miller spoke for owner Wehold LLC, describing the plan to build three houses in a wooded parcel at the 90-degree turn on Hena Street at Cobb.

Also speaking during the hearing was a co-owner of inherited residential property in Southpointe, which appears to be across the street. However, the man pointed out that his property abutted the planned development because Hena Street was originally a private drive with a utility and city maintenance easement. Although the city for all practical purposes owns the street, the land under the pavement is technically and actually (for tax purposes) still held privately. For that reason, the resident wanted to know who owned a deteriorating retaining wall and fence that is falling into the street. The engineer didn’t know and Mr. Higginbotham said the situation would be investigated.

“Cottages at Hena” subdivision of one parcel to three triangular lots and turnaround.

In further questions, the architect and engineer described how the three lots would radiate from the “bulb” drive; that a sanitary sewer line would be extended down Hena from a point 200 feet to the west; that the houses, as conceived, would have side driveways to garages in the rear, and feature partial, brick wainscoting (drawings not made public). However the discussion led to the fate of a stop sign at the corner of Cobb and Hena, near Hall-Kent Elementary, and the dangerous school traffic and recent incident on Kent Drive, where a child was struck, but not injured, by a car in the carpool line. Mr. Woods said he was concerned about the traffic at that sharp turn so near the elementary school. And Mr. Miller, prompted to respond to the traffic question, offered to postpone the case until a traffic study was conducted and presented. 


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

Recommended rezoning the Bell Center and recently purchased adjacent lot from commercial to institutional use: The Bell Center, which provides therapy for special needs children, has occupied a building erroneously zoned commercial for some time. The agency recently purchased and combined the adjacent lot to build a new larger facility across both sites and had postponed the rezoning request until that time. Tonight the commission voted to recommend rezoning the properties at 1700 and 1708 29th Court South from C-1 (Office Building District) and C-4 (Central Business District) to I-2, institutional. The city council has the final vote on rezoning cases. 

Approved a list of major and minor changes to the zoning ordinance affecting how height limits are determined in the Neighborhood Preservation District, and in the West Homewood District, turning over control of sign regulations and variances to the City Council, among other changes:

Problematic wording was redlined from residential housing height limits

Citywide single family height: The change alters how the residential housing height limits are computed, namely by eliminating the measurement from the ground (median grade). The change is intended to prevent home builders from leveling steep lots by filling them behind tall retaining walls to establish the grade, and was passed in reaction to one house already drawn in Ward 1 and the expectation of more mountainside development in the future. Mr. Thames said the problem was an unintended consequence of the council’s wording, which was supposed to take into account the city’s 3-foot required crawl space. Asked if builders on level lots would increase foundation heights now that the limit was removed, commissioners said they did not expect that to happen.

West Homewood “Village” District changes approved in one vote:

  • Transferred power to review signage and grant variances from the Planning Commission and BZA to the City Council.
  • Reduced the percentage of required glass on ground floors to 35%-70%. The original range was 70%-90%. Two of four commercial projects were denied glazing variances under the new “Village” code, including an EconoLodge addition, a Waffle House renovation, both defunct. The new Nexus fitness center and GM Pizzeria  which were granted the exemptions, are close to opening.
  • Reduced to 2 feet the required height of “street wall” (to hide car lights in open parking lots, according to Ms. McGrath). The original wall height was 4-6 feet.
  • Prohibited fences or hedges from protruding beyond the building fronts.
  • Changed all mentions of “reverse angle parking” (backing into spaces) to regular angled parking.
  • Replaced “nightclub” as a permitted use, which had been removed from an earlier version, and added the term “Brew Pub” to the list.
  • Set a 25-foot height limit on accessory structures.

Planning Commission, Jan. 9, 2018

The Regional Planning Commission presented an impromptu status report on the Downtown Master Plan as it stands four months after the September launch; One case was handled after postponement of a three-lot subdivision planned on Hena Street. The commission set a meeting to study problems in the city’s residential height restrictions.

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

Absent: Brady Wilson

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

Audience attendance: 7

*Rezoning and final development plan cases  for Mixed Use Districts (MXD) are advisory and subject to final approval by the city council.

Focus area of “Heart of Homewood” downtown master plan. More information is at

Heart of Homewood Downtown Master Plan update: In a year-long process launched in September, the Regional Planning Commission is writing a downtown master plan based on input from individual residents and other stakeholders, such as merchants, the Chamber, elected officials, and neighborhood interest groups. RPC Planner Lindsey Puckett on Tuesday updated the commission on progress since the September opening, where 90 people attended two open house events. To date there has been 3,275 unique website visitors and 460 survey respondents, she said. The following suggestions have emerged, although under different headings and order:

Congested parking, building appearance, redevelopment, hours of operation, and connectivity are just some of the issues in a downtown master plan.

Development, lifestyle and aesthetics:

  • Retain and expand mixed-use areas, possibly converting warehouse space to “chic, co-working office spaces,” for example;
  • Incentivize making improvements to building facades; consider a design review board;
  • Consider a 1) Pocket park at old jail site, preferred; or 2) More mixed use;
  • Limit downtown building heights;
  • Encourage more activity and nightlife downtown;
  • Daniel Corporation development consultant interviewing businesses about live/work spaces; strategies for combining parcels to redevelop; ideas for  and

“Green” matters:

  • The “Greening” of Griffin Brook through Rosedale, with trail connections between Spring Park and Central Park;
  • Hiring an arborist to plan and care for tree canopy;
  • Adopting an “enforceable” tree ordinance;

Transportation and mobility:

  • Several intersections were called out for safety improvements, including better lighting, especially the pedestrian tunnel on U.S. 31
  • More sidewalks connecting neighborhoods to the planning area.
  • Parking upgrades such as a deck behind the Toy & Hobby Shop, encouraging use of the City Hall underground lot; more shared parking agreements; parking enforcement;

Staffing, enforcement and city operations:

  • Hiring a Plans Examiner and Assistant Engineer to speed the permitting process; raise permit fees; involve the police in code enforcement, including parking;
  • More information available on city website;
  • Rewrite sign ordinance;

In discussion, Ms. Puckett said the final recommendations would be prioritized and listed as short- and long-term goals, sometimes pointing to model decisions from other cities.  “We will provide a map to guide your zoning decisions,” she told the commission. A condensed version of the presentation will be on the website soon.


Location on Hena Street and Cobb of a wooded parcel to be developed as three lots. The case was postponed.

Carried over a request to approve the preliminary plat and construction plans for a planned three-lot subdivision on Hena Street:

Applicant Strout Construction for owner Wehold LLC had asked for approval of a preliminary plat and construction plans for a 3-lot subdivision planned at 123 Hena Street, a wooded parcel in West Homewood. The site is about 300 feet from the Wells Fargo parking deck in Wildwood North. A required 100-foot undisturbed wooded buffer separates the residential neighborhood from the commercial buildings, which are visible through the trees in winter. Those two requests were carried over to next month’s meeting. A third request–to waive certain subdivision design standards and rules–was withdrawn before the meeting.

Location of a house on Parkside Circle, adjacent to West Homewood Park, approved for a rear addition.

Approved an addition to a commission member’s house on Parkside: Commissioner Mark Woods and his builder requested approval to build a rear addition to his house at 1557 Parkside Court and a covered porch 10 feet from the rear property line. Although variances for most single-family residences are decided by the Board of Zoning Adjustments, the Parkside subdivision was created under a Development Plan, which is governed by the Planning Commission. The approval amends the development plan.

Mr. Woods said the property was bordered on the rear by utility easements, which had already been vacated. The commission, having few further questions, approved the request.  

Example of an overexposed crawl space due to sloping terrain.

Set a meeting to discuss residential building height: The commission’s zoning committee will meet Jan. 25 to discuss issues with enforcing a recently-passed height ordinance for single-family construction. Following code, which requires a minimum 3-foot crawlspace, a house planned on a steeply sloping lot could result in an exposed crawlspace of up to 10 feet. Such a situation has come up recently, Mr. Higginbotham said.


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.


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.







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


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

















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.


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.


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. 








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.


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

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 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.