A public hearing is scheduled for tonight at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall to hear proposed plans for the development of a 1.1-acre lot adjacent to Iola Roberts Elementary School, which was once an overflow area for new Miller Sutherlin Auto Mall automobiles and trucks. The car dealership closed its doors in 2009.
Local developer Jeff Jones with Riverbank Properties LLC said he wants to build a $1.5-$1.7 million retail center on the property for four to five businesses.
Riverbank Properties LLC is requesting that the property be rezoned from R-1, a low density residential district, to B-2, general business district.
Jones said the development will look much better than the house where a “non-taxpaying vagrant” was living.
Jones recently had the house torn down and the lot cleared. Trees were left along the backside of the property, which fronts U.S. 231, or Martin Street, at the Ninth Street intersection.
Pell City attorney Billy Church, who represents Riverbank Properties LLC, told the council at a Thursday work session that the former automobile dealership, which went out of business in 2009, used the lot commercially for 30 years, apparently without proper zoning.
“Never did anyone object to it being a car lot,” Church said. “This will be more desirable than a car lot.”
Jones said he understands some of the concerns from residents in the Oak Ridge community, but he has offered to nicely landscape the backside of the development.
He said the property in question is identified in the city’s Comprehensive Growth Plan, which was adopted Oct. 9, 2001, as commercial property. Jones said he is just seeking the proper zoning for the property.
He said the Planning and Zoning Board rejected Riverbank Properties’ rezoning request by a 3-2 vote, even though the board staff recommended approval.
Councilwoman Dot Wood, who represents the Oak Ridge community, said most of the residents there oppose rezoning of the property, but she has had a couple of residents tell her they were not opposed.
This is not the first request for the commercial rezoning of the property. In 2010, the former owner of the property requested that the property be rezoned B-2 for a new national chain automobile parts store. The Planning and Zoning Board approved the request, but it died when it reached the council.
At the Jan. 25, 2010, council meeting, Councilman Donnie Todd made a motion to rezone the property, but it died for lack of a second.
Wood said residents have the same objections to the rezoning request as they did in 2010.
She said the biggest concern from residents is safety with the increased traffic near Iola Roberts Elementary School and in their neighborhood.
Jones said his new development would have an exit, away from the school, where people doing business in the new development would exit north of the Ninth Street intersection, if they were traveling north on U.S. 231.
Wood said residents also worry that if the city rezones the property, other adjacent property owners will also seek to rezone their property for commercial use.
In 2010, Wood said the rezoning of the property would amount to “spot zoning” because all land connected to the property is zoned residential.