By Ingrid Schnader
Homewood City Council shot down a proposal from Kadco Homes at a Council meeting July 23 that would have turned a 2-acre property into a 12-home subdivision.
The proposed subdivision, which would be called Edgewood Manor, is located in Homewood’s Neighborhood Preservation District at the corner of Saulter Road and Carr Avenue. To fit 12 homes on the properties, John Kessler of Kadco had a plan to rezone the lots into Homewood’s Planned Residential District. However, 18 people spoke their disapproval for the development plans and rezoning at the council meeting, and the council unanimously voted against the proposal.
“We’re not 100 percent against redevelopment,” said John Shashy, who lives near the proposed subdivision. “But we’re united in this rezone. We don’t want it, and we don’t like it as neighbors.”
Other neighbors echoed this sentiment. Megann Cane, who lives down the street from Shashy, said that, while she is for development, she is against 12 houses.
“That’s a lot of houses, and houses that we’re not sure what they’re going to look like,” Cane said. “It’s probably not going to be the charm that we’re looking for. That’s my concern.”
Other Homewood residents voiced concerns about increased traffic. Parking for nearby restaurants overflows to the neighboring streets, said Charles Thompson, a Vestavia Hills resident.
“They have a major parking problem up there,” he said. “The area has heavy traffic when the restaurants are open. This will increase when you start developing this.”
Saulter Road used to be a two-way street, he said, but overflow parking has turned it into a crowded one-way street.
Other residents worried about insufficient drainage. Jolene Lewis says her home is on the lowest part of a street near the proposed development and that she is most affected by the floodwaters.
“When you have less dirt, less ground available for the rain to fall, it has to go somewhere,” she said. “So where is it going to go, and are we able to handle that?”
At the corner of the proposed development is a newly renovated house that the developer planned to leave unchanged.
“I would like to see four or five more homes that look like that,” Cane said. “But I would not like to see 12 homes on two acres.”
The owner of that corner house, Ben McCullars, had different concerns regarding the development. When the developers approached him months ago to see if he would be interested in the development, he said sure. But now many people are putting the blame on him, he said.
“I’ve had people come up in my yard when I’m throwing the ball with my 6-year old son, pointing their finger in my face, saying, ‘This is all your fault,’” he told the council.
Preserving the Charm
Throughout the meeting, many Homewood residents cited ‘the charm of Homewood,’ saying this development would go against that. McCullars asked the room what that meant.
“The people used to be what is great about Homewood, the charm about Homewood,” he said. “Not the four walls.”
After hearing the comments from the public hearing, Kessler addressed some of the public’s concerns. He said that he’d planned to build a storm sewer system that would have helped, not hurt, the drainage system in the community. He also had plans to alleviate traffic flow.
“Part of the problem with that area is if you try to turn left off of Short-Saulter to go by Oglesby, you do have people trying to go both ways, and it doesn’t intersect,” he said. “With our new road, we thought it would help. With our road intersecting with Oglesby, you could just go straight across from either direction.”
He also mentioned that no new driveways would be added to Carr Avenue if the property was rezoned for PRD. His NPD plan would require more driveways on Carr.
In response to the “charm” of Homewood, Kessler said that, regardless of the zoning, his team is going to build this out.
“The buyers are going to dictate the style of these homes more than probably anybody else, including ourselves,” he said. “We’re going to build what people want.”
Because the rezoning was not approved by the council, Kessler’s next step is to resurvey the five current lots into eight new lots. A public hearing for this resurvey was scheduled for the Aug. 7 Planning Commission meeting, after this week’s issue went to press.
Developers in other communities have run into similar opposition from residents.
“They are developing Bluff Park this way,” said Facebook commenter Amanda Jackson. “They tear down one house, clear cut the whole lot, and put up so many houses peeking into each other’s windows, so close you can hear each other dream.”