Lowder Property Rezoning

Regular MML readers know that we’re closely following the debates over re-zoning in Cloverdale Five Points (the part of town with Sinclair’s and The Capri). For those not as geeked out about zoning as we are, the story so far is basically that the City wants to switch over to SmartCode in this part of town (We have collected drawings and documents here for your reference). That push is still going forward, but in the short term, the City is asking for a rezoning of the Lowder property at the corner of Boultier and Fairview. That’s the western part of the building that used to be a school. For those not totally conversant with the area, it’s near Huntingdon College (once an owner of this parcel), across the street from Sinclair’s and also from the 1048 nightclub.

As it stands, this property is zoned B-1-a. The City is hoping it can be zoned B-1-a-q. Your eyes glazing over yet? It seems the “q” stands for “qualifications.” According to City Planner Tyler Caldwell, “The addition of the q denotes qualifications that restrict potential developments on this property to conform to the standards laid out in the T4-O SmartCode Transect. The only additional qualification is the permission for 1 story structures; whereas, T4-O has a minimum height restriction of 2 stories.” Caldwell has summarized the qualifications in a document you can see for yourself – download by clicking here.

This sounds good to us. Confusing to wade through the jargon, but when you think about it, it sounds nice. This is what governments do. They prevent people from ruining neighborhoods in the name of unchecked property rights. And if you care about how your city looks and functions, this is the sort of thing you should care about.

Why the rush? Well, the property is about to be sold, and the City would like to ensure that whatever is built there maintains the look and neighborhood feel associated with SmartCode. In other words, not a big box store with a bunch of parking in the front. According to Caldwell, this rezoning does not impede the larger effort to have SmartCode for the whole Cloverdale Five Points area. That debate is still upcoming.

The Cloverdale-Idlewild Association voted unanimously at this week’s meeting to support the City’s rezoning of the Lowder property. The next step in the process will be a Planning Commission meeting at 5:00 pm on September 23. The Planning Commission meets at City Hall, Room 142 at 103 N. Perry St. Please contact Tyler Caldwell, City Planner, at 334-241-2728 or tcaldwell@montgomeryal.gov if you have any questions or concerns.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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  1. Small Town Living in a Midsized City « Midtown Montgomery Living | 22 September, 2010
  1. Paul Burkett says:

    Guys: My understanding is that with this we have sort of an architectural control on the development. I think that would be great. But I understand with Smartcode, zoning is totally lost and other people, officials under smartcode and others, will decide what type of businesses occupy the property and that there will no longer be any zoning to guide the development other than to best the tax base. Insights please??

  2. Jay Croft says:

    “The only additional qualification is the permission for 1 story structures; whereas, T4-O has a minimum height restriction of 2 stories.”

    Did you mean maximum height restriction?

    I’d like more clarification on Mr. Burkett’s statement that under SmartCode, “zoning is totally lost.”

  3. Paul, my understanding is that the Smart Code is a form-based code as opposed to a use-based code. I guess that means–in theory, anyway–that one could put in a manufacturing facility somewhere here along Fairview as long as the first floor was retail and the building and parking conformed to the form required (buildings that pretty much look like what is here now, only taller). And I look at the possibility I just laid out and ask myself, “What’s the likelihood?” Not much.

    My take on it all is that businesses will pretty much “self-select” based on what can be fit comfortably into the physical constraints contained in the Smart Code. Liquor licenses will still be a separate issue, as I believe would be any activity that would create a health or safety hazard.

  4. pat says:

    hmmm…like they cared about building eastchase, target and costco literally right in the backyards of a well established neighborhood (without so much as a tree for a buffer)? Like they care about letting a hotel driveway border a residential property? Ummm, no they don’t care.

    • I think the key difference is the one of scale. And rather than somone else deciding what will be allowed, the businesses will have to figure out for themselves how to “fit in.” The rear parking requirement and the limited amount available at that will cause most “big business ventures,” I believe, to move on to areas where they have the acreage available to support their business model.

  5. Heather C says:

    Smartcode is about creating that neighborhood feel again. It is about restaurants and shops and residences all existing in harmony. Neighborhood shops and stores. It is the antithesis of the mall. Anyone interested in New Urbanism loves the idea of smartcode– the very fact that we actually have one is pretty amazing. It is smartcode that permits things like the A&P lofts. As evidenced by the shops there (and actually Hampstead out east as well), businesses do self select.

    I think sidewalks are where we need to start. Old Cloverdale, Cloverdale/Idlewild, Garden district and South Hull need to be united again, and the first step towards that is sidewalks to unify them. At the very least, the perimeters of the neighborhoods should have them. Norman Bridge and Fairview both don’t need to be 4 lanew. Instead why not create a planted median with trees, bike lanes, and sidewalks. My husband bikes from Cloverdale to downtown. i think if there were a safer way to do that, many more people would.

    We need better parks– Cloverdale/Idelewild has antique play equipment. We need wooden strictures done by the same company that did the Prattville/Old Al Town/Wetumpka parks. We need to all 4 have the same school zoning again– perhaps if we did, we could work towards having a real neighborhood school.

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