Controversial rezoning issue, entertainment district, among items discussed at Trussville City Council meeting
By Erica Thomas, managing editor
The Trussville City Council met on Tuesday, July 9, for a workshop and regular council meeting.
A crowd showed up to voice concerns over the Highway 11 development across from Winn-Dixie. The developer of the property gave a presentation of the plans already approved by the city’s planning and zoning board, then the issue was opened to a public hearing.
Connor Farmer, the owner of Highpointe Properties, LLC, told the council eight of the 16 acres being purchased will be developed as commercial property. The original plan, which included garden homes and commercial property, was dropped by the developer after nearby property owners voiced concerns.
The new plan includes a gas station, a new Trussville City Schools Board of Education building, a community park, footbridges and six to eight lots to be used for commercial use. The developer also plans to install a traffic light at the entrance of the development.
Councilman Perry Cook asked Farmer if he had any help from a member of the council on his plans for the development. Farmer said he drew the plans on his own. Cook said a concern of his was the location of a water retention pond on the property.
“That could affect everyone in this room,” Perry said. “I would like for you to have approval from the Alabama Corps of Engineers. That water could make it into our water source.”
Farmer said his group has already met with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Developer David Stovall stood and told the council those types of questions are not what the public hearing should be about.
“This is a rezoning hearing,” Stovall said. “The fact that we’re implementing a retention pond would be in every way beneficial and not a detriment to drinking water sources.”
Stovall also said any environmental issues would be addressed as they arise during the actual development of the property.
Residents spoke up against the development, citing several issues. Cheryl Hamilton, who lives on Burch Street, brought along a signed petition against the plan. The online petition had 471 signatures and a handwritten petition had 92 signatures.
“For over two decades we have enjoyed peace and tranquility just one block from Main Street,” Hamilton said. “Dew Gardens is a family neighborhood and many of the families are sitting in the audience today.”
Hamilton said while property value is important, she believes the quality of life is more important. She said she would like for the city of Trussville to purchase the property and to preserve the green space.
“As people enter the city, they are welcomed by greenspace such as botanical gardens, maybe walking trails, art structures, things that attract visitors to the city,” Hamilton said. “The city can and should make that a reality.”
Hamilton said if the property is zoned for commercial use, the residents in her neighborhood would like to see businesses that do not impact their daily lives.
“We need businesses in Trussville that entices people to live here instead of leaving the city every day for their jobs in Birmingham,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton also said a restaurant would not be preferred on the property. C-2 zoning allows for restaurants, which Hamilton said she believes could cause issues for nearby residents.
Before the council moved to a vote, Councilman Bryan Plant explained property rights to the crowd, saying the council’s hands are tied when it comes to deciding what the owner wants to do with the property.
“I don’t want you to think we’re just simply ignoring what you have to say,” Plant said. “But we can’t tell them they can’t do this just because we found five empty spots somewhere. We don’t have the ability to do that.”
Councilman Cook performed the first reading on the ordinance (Ordinance 2019-025-PNZ) and the issue will be voted on at the next council meeting on July 23.
Before the controversial issue was discussed, the consent agenda was approved unanimously by the council, giving merit raises to three police employees, two fire employees, one library employee and one Public Works employee. The council also accepted the resignation of Laura Smith, a part-time circulation clerk.
Another item approved on the consent agenda was the appointment of Brett Isom to the Planning and Zoning Board. Isom, who works for the Regional Planning Commission in downtown Birmingham, lives in Trussville. He will be on the board until June 11, 2025.
Other matters of business approved as part of the consent agenda included funding for the Fall Municipal Law Conference in Gulf Shores. The conference from Sept. 26 – 28 will cost the city $680. Money for another conference, the Alabama Narcotics Officers Association Conference, was approved for Aug. 20 – 22. That conference will cost the city $300.
Also, the council approved work to be done by APCO (Alabama Power Company) to change out the lighting on Husky Parkway. The new lighting will be LED and will be installed at no cost to the city.
A contract between the city and Dunn Pavement was renewed for another year.
Police Officer Promoted
On the regular agenda, one police officer was promoted to Sergeant. Officer Joseph D. Dunn was promoted to Sergeant after 11 years on the force. Sgt. Dunn attended the meeting with his family.
The council also approved an easement to connect the new entertainment district to the Fresh Value shopping center. The move will allow patrons easily access the shopping center and to exit onto Highway 11 through a traffic signal at the intersection of Highway 11 and Cedar Avenue. A temporary construction easement was also granted for Beech Street.
The council also awarded a bid for fiber and internet access for the entertainment district. Spectrum Enterprise will be granted a three-year contract to provide the service.