Questions arose when the board split the decision 4-4, before board chairman Bill Ervin cast the deciding “yes” vote.
“After this, it goes to the council, and it can’t go without a recommendation one way or the other,” city attorney Alan Furr said.
Ervin and board members Doug Carden, Ernest White, John Hoffman and Sharon Thomas voted in favor of the rezoning recommendation. Board members Mike Sewell, Dot Wood, Bill Philips and Pat Wrigley voted against the motion.
Kevin Whiteside, president of Pell City-Tifton Properties LLC, a subsidiary of Thunder Enterprises of Chattanooga, which owns the former Avondale Mills plant property, requested 11-12 acres, on the north end of the property which borders Comer Avenue, be changed from light manufacturing to R-4, a high-density residential district, which allows apartments.
Whiteside said Pell City-Tifton Properties will retain ownership of the southern half of the property, which borders U.S. 78 or Cogswell Avenue.
Sam Johnston, who represents Cahaba Valley Development Corporation of Birmingham, said Cahaba Valley Development specializes in multi-family and single-family developments and in affordable housing.
“The proposed development is about an $11-$11.5 million project,” he said. “We are looking at 64 townhouse units, a clubhouse, pool and other amenities, which we haven’t fleshed out yet. We are also looking at a learning center for children, but that is tentative depending on demand.”
Johnston said for the first 15 years, the property would be rental property, then convert to home ownership after 15 years.
The original rezoning request submitted by Pell City-Tifton Properties requested contingent reversionary rezoning, so that should the development not go through, the property would then revert back to its current zoning.
Furr said contingent reversionary rezoning would, in effect, be another rezoning without following the proper protocol such as public notice, etc., and the current ordinance does not allow for contingent reversionary rezoning.
“In my opinion, the ordinance must provide for it (before contingent reversionary rezoning could be approved),” he said.
Ervin said since the current ordinance does not allow for contingent reversionary rezoning, the board would be receptive to a future rezoning request should the development not go through.
Whiteside amended his request to just request rezoning of the property in question.
Several residents spoke in opposition to the rezoning request.
“It will create more noise and traffic,” one resident said. “The roads are almost maxed out and are in bad shape. I don’t want a bunch of noise and headache.”
Another resident said she felt the area already had enough rental property, and wanted homeowners who would stay, not transient renters who could bring issues such as drugs with them, and also about the current condition of the property and problems with rats and other wildlife.
Whiteside said he felt the negative comments about the property’s current condition and issues with wildlife would be solved when the development is built.
“One of the ways to take care of that is to develop the property,” he said. “It would be better to have a tenant on it than not have a tenant.”
Whiteside said the multi-family development is also a perfect transition from the residential area Mill Village to what will hopefully become commercial property on the other side.
Hoffman questioned Johnston about the placement of the detention pond.
“The detention pond is in an area almost certainly contaminated according to our previous fire chief,” he said.
Whiteside said a Phase I testing was done and indicated no further testing was needed.
“We’ve been to the doctor and he says we are healthy so we don’t see the need for more CAT scans or EEG’s,” he said.
Furr said the rezoning issue is expected to be presented at the next Pell City council meeting.
Contact Elsie Hodnett at email@example.com.