Mayor says group’s project went against city’s ‘Master Plan.’

By Adam Smith

The North Jefferson News

Developers of a proposed housing development have filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Gardendale.

The complaint, filed on May 20 in Jefferson County civil circuit court, seeks to overturn a decision to deny Gardendale Fifty, LLC’s zoning plan to build 198 town homes on 60 acres between Gardendale Elementary School and the Magnolia Ridge subdivision.

The property, currently zoned for R-1 [residential] would have to be rezoned to R-T [residential town house] before the homes could be built.

“This is not unusual,” Gardendale Mayor Kenny Clemons said of the lawsuit. “We sometimes get these in zoning cases. Most of the time the courts uphold the [city’s] ruling.”

Gardendale Fifty, LLC is being represented by the Birmingham law firm of Corretti, Newsom and Hawkins.

Attorney Mary Douglas Hawkins said the suit does not seek monetary damages, but a rezoning of the property. She said the city had 30 days after being served to file an answer.

She said there would be a period of discovery and depositions would likely be taken before a trial date is set, which would likely be in six to eight months.

The lawsuit claims the city’s refusal to rezone the property “is arbitrary, capricious, illegal and unconscionable and deprives plaintiff of a legitimate use of its property” and claims the developers have “no economically viable or beneficial use in its present zoning classification of R-1 and Inst.-1.”

Additionally, the lawsuit states that refusal to rezone the property violates state and U.S. Constitutional rights “in that plaintiff is being deprived of its property without the due process of law.”

Despite the fact the the developers plans were denied, the city passed a resolution granting a right-of-way easement for an entrance road to the developers’ property in April.

Clemons said the developers’ plans went against the Master Plan for the city. He said developers Gary Travis and Randy Brooks of Gardendale Fifty LLC chose to go against initial plans to build single-family and garden homes on the property.

“If it had been mixed-use with single-family homes, garden homes and some commercial parts of it, that would have been acceptable,” he said.

However, Travis said the land is not commercially viable because it lacks the visibility that a commercial developer would want. Additionally, he said granting the plan for his project could help sell the Caufield Square property.

“The people who have looked at Caufield Square want rooftops there,” Travis said. “If they don’t want Caufield Square, they certainly don’t want my property.”

Developers contend the town homes were to be aimed at senior citizens and empty-nesters and feature amenities like a swimming pool, walking track and clubhouse.

The city council first denied approval to the project in February after receiving an unfavorable recommendation from the city’s planning and zoning board.

The reasons why the plans were rejected at that meeting included concerns over increased traffic on Odum Road, and plans developers turned in for the project differed from plans initially turned in to the city’s inspections department.

On March 5, Brooks wrote a letter to planning and zoning commission chairman Jack Fields requesting a new zoning hearing on the project. In the letter, Brooks said commission members may have been confused on several issues regarding the project.

However, commissioners voted that there were not enough changes from Brooks’ first proposal to warrant a re-hearing on the project.

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