By Megan Miller, Editor and Bethany Adams
CLAY – The Clay Planning and Zoning Board met Thursday night to discuss the rezoning a piece of property to highway commercial.
The property in question is located at 6400 Deerfoot Parkway, which would affect both Legacy and Pilgrim’s Rest subdivisions. The property at 6461 had been rezoned during a previous meeting
Highway commercial zoning can include properties for overnight accommodations, eating, drinking, entertainment, car washes, auto repair, machinery, gas stations, retail and wholesale goods, day care centers and nursing homes, warehouses, bus terminals and more.
A number of Clay residents have attended both Trussville and Clay Planning and Zoning and City Council meetings to express their concerns, and have suggested that Clay consider a township commercial zoning ordinance instead, to take out some of the “undesirable” businesses that would likely reside in the gateways to both Trussville and Clay.
The zoning board unanimously approved the rezoning of the property, which will be brought before the Clay City Council on Jan. 24.
“They say it’s the gateway to their city on their website, but if I were betting I don’t think Trussville would want that as the gateway to our city,” Trussville resident and Chairwoman of Trussville’s Planning and Zoning Board, Jane Bailey said.
David Guttery, former president of the Hidden Trance Homeowner’s Association (1998-2002), said he thinks it would be important for there to be a smooth transition from the residential to commercial area as you ingress into Clay.
“If you turned out of Pilgrim’s Rest or Legacy subdivision and the first commercial development on the corner was a liquor store, or an auto shop or a car dealership or a flea market, I think that would be a very abrupt depart from neighborhood to commercial,” Guttery said. “We just want to make sure that there is a sensible flow from the neighborhood to the commercial.”
Guttery and other residents have referenced the Publix shopping center on Old Springville Road as a good reference point for the city of Clay to consider.
“A Publix kind of anchor store and out-parcel kind of chain development might flow better from a neighborhood to a commercial part of the city,” Guttery said.
Bailey, who is also a former Trussville City Councilwoman, said that Trussville residents have been wrongly denied an opportunity to speak on the issue at previous meetings.
“State law plainly states that any person, citizen, resident or otherwise, has the right to speak for or against anything in a public meeting, it doesn’t matter where you live,” Bailey said.
Bailey said the only exception to this rule is if multiple people are in attendance to speak on the same topic, in which case those presiding over the meeting ask that one representative from the group be selected to speak on behalf of the group.
Bailey said she owns property on both sides of the area that would be affected, and she nor any of her neighbors were properly notified of the meetings that the subject would be discussed at.
Carla Nelson, a resident of Legacy subdivision, attended the planning and zoning meeting on Nov. 17 as well as Thursday’s meeting to speak on behalf of multiple residents. When Nelson stood up and stated her address during the Nov. 17 meeting, she was told she wasn’t allowed to speak because she resided in Trussville, and it was only after Nelson pointed out that the meeting was being recorded by a court reporter she’d contracted herself that she was able to voice her concerns.
Residents like Alan Barksdale, Treasurer of Pilgrim’s Rest Homeowner’s Association, said that it’s these types of reactions from city officials that make the situation seemingly political.
“We support Clay just as much as we support Trussville,” Barksdale said. “We shop at stores in Clay, we shop at the Piggly Wiggly, we eat at the Panda House and the Dairy Queen and Sal’s. We go to those places constantly, and we support the businesses there, so it doesn’t make sense for them to shut their doors to us initially.”
Barksdale was also concerned that residents nearby didn’t receive a written notice of any change to zoning.
“I know that they’re only obligated to notify residents within a 500 foot radius, and when that particular piece of property was being proposed, I think there was only two residents and it was probably closest to Deerfoot Parkway that received such a notice,” Barksdale said.
This, Barksdale said, made it difficult to gather voices to represent all parties involved. He said to his knowledge nobody received a notice about the rezoning that came up on Thursday’s agenda.
Bailey said she didn’t receive notice, and she and her husband own property on Trussville-Clay Road and the corner of Deerfoot Parkway.
“My take on it is because we live in Trussville, it appears they’re biased towards us,” Bailey said. “There’s evidently a lot of animosity that Trussville doesn’t feel toward Clay, but Clay does feel toward Trussville.”
According to Clay City Manager Ronnie Dixon, anyone who resides in unincorporated Jefferson County or the city of Clay within 500 feet of either property in question was notified of the rezoning.
“One of the things that we have fought and it needs to be changed, I’ll be the first to admit it, Jefferson County uses a different zoning ordinance that the City of Clay does,” Dixon said. “It’s contradictory and confusing.”
Dixon said the City of Clay has neighborhood commercial, town center commercial and highway commercial, but Jefferson County has a number of different types of zoning ordinances. Dixon said the two properties are .8 and .4 of an acre each.
“Neither of the properties would fit a buildable commercial structure,” Dixon said. “Anything that can or will ever be built on it is almost negligent. There’s all kinds of obstacles, it’s a different semantic.”
Don Kirkner said at this time the city has no plans for either pieces of property, they were only acquired because it fits with the city’s master plan, and was done at the request of the property owner.