City denies request to change parcel from single family to PUD
By John Mullen
Two weeks prior it was a moment of disagreement rarely seen between councilmembers at the Sept. 3 Orange Beach City Council work session meeting.
Developer Greg Kennedy was asking to combine two Gulf-front lots into one planned unit development at the west end of beach road for a phase 2 of his Hammock Dunes project. Kennedy bought the western of the two lots and added 11 cottages to the site which already had two homes on it.
His request was to add 12 more of the cottages on the east side which already has a 10-bedroom vacation rental home on the part closest to the water. The two lots would have been connected via a U-shaped one-way driveway with an entrance and exit on beach road.
On Sept. 3 it appeared headed for a 4-2 vote for his request to rezone the parcel from single-family residential to become part of the planned unit development of Hammock Dunes. Councilmembers Jeff Silvers, Jerry Johnson and Jeff Boyd and Mayor Tony Kennon appeared poised to vote in favor. Councilmembers Joni Costo and Annette Mitchell were adamantly opposed.
But on Sept. 17 the council and mayor voted against the project 4-1 with Silvers abstaining because Kennedy is a customer of Swift Supply where he is the sales manager.
Boyd was the only council member voting for the project with Kennon and council members Costo, Johnson and Mitchell voting against.
Problems arose because of a pledge councilmembers and Kennon made to never rezone or upzone any parcel zoned for single-family housing in Orange Beach. The property in question owned by the Kern family is an oasis of single-family housing.
“The Kern’s property is the only RS-1 property amid higher-intensity zoning,” City Planner Griffin Powell said. “To the east is the Phoenix West PUD condominium with 225 units. Hammock Dunes PUD (Phase I) and Nordic Village PUD are to the west, and across the street to the north is General Business zoning. The single-family detached dwellings in the Nordic Village PUD are primarily for vacation rentals. To my knowledge, there are no full-time residents living there.”
Kennon said on Sept. 17 he didn’t feel he could go against the recommendation of the Planning Commission which unanimously gave an unfavorable recommendation on the project.
“I struggled with it last week,” Kennon said. “It’s as good a project as it gets and a good place to absolve this would be it but I just can’t support it because it didn’t get a recommendation from the planning commission and I value those guys.”
On Sept. 3, Planning Commission member Bill Jeffries said the commission’s vote was based on the pledge not to rezone any residential properties in the city. Both Costo and Mitchell said in the same meeting they made their pledge and would honor it. Both Silvers and Johnson spoke in favor of the project on Sept. 3 but only Kennon spoke on the project prior to the Sept. 17 vote.
“If there was ever a time I’d be willing to upzone it would be this because of what sits next to it on both sides,” Boyd said on Sept. 3. “Not just one (parcel) but continuously. It just makes sense at this location.”
Even though it is zoned residential now because it’s in the beach overlay district vacation rentals are allowed.
“When we discussed it my only point was their option of where they sit, they could build a monstrosity of a home that would have a greater impact and would not be as near a value to the community and would not look as nice,” Boyd said. “If I was going to do a PUD on the beach for that type of zoning that would be the only place I’d say it would work.”
Kennedy told the council, also at the Sept. 3 meeting, that he would agree to denying a PUD for a residential lot if it was surrounded by other residential parcels.
“I live here and my business is here,” Kennedy said. “I get not upzoning property especially as it relates to a conventional neighborhood. This is not a conventional neighborhood. You have extreme high density on one side, higher density on the other and commercial across the street and this property zoned single-family residential. If you consider this house the use has never been single-family residential but it’s really a small hotel.”
Costo said she didn’t want to be a part of starting residential rezonings and would stand by her pledge to not rezone residential parcels in the city.
“Because we have said we are not going to upzone, I have to look at my residents that we’ve been saying this too for the last few years and say well this time it’s OK but this time it’s not,” Costo said. “I can’t do that. It’s a slippery slope.”
The last time the city council changed zoning from residential to a planned unit development was for 22-lot Harbor Ridge, Powell said. With the residential zoning the developer could have still put in 22 houses but the PUD was used to save trees for a common area. The subdivision is located north of the Terry Cove pool.
During the regular session, the council:
• Entered into a coyote wildlife management plan agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address damage by the animals in certain parts of the city.
• Approved a beer and wine license for Murphy Oil Express in the Walmart shopping center parking lot.
• Held a public hearing for Cotton Bayou Cottages planned unit development on the north side of beach road across from the Admiral Quarters. The builders are proposing a total of 34 units with 14 three-bedroom units, 14 five-bedroom units and six six-bedroom units.
• Held a public hearing on the planning unit development for The Bluffs of Orange Beach for a 10-cottage development on the Gulf at the end of Alabama 161 at the main beach intersection in town. Planned are one one-bedroom unit, six four-bedroom units, two five-bedroom unit and one six-bedroom unit.
• Held a public hearing on the planned unit development for Robinson Grove on Walker Key Drive on Canal Road just south of the city’s recreation complex. Owner Greg Kennedy plans to build a 14-lot single-family home subdivision l and boat access to Terry Cove.
• OK’d a resolution authorizing the mayor to sign a $19,800 change order with Hughes Plumbing & Utility Contractors for the fire break force main project.
• OK’d a resolution authorizing the execution of an FY 2019 Port Security Program Grant award agreement for a CBRNE Maritime Response Vessel for the Fire Department. The total project cost is estimated at $998,535 with the city’s matching share of $249,634 or 25 percent.
During the work session, the council discussed:
• Adjustments to school zone speed limits on Wilson Boulevard and Canal Road.
• A business license application by Fins and Family Fishing for live bait sales from a floating platform.
• A resolution authorizing the execution of an auditing services agreement with RiverTree Systems.
• A resolution authorizing the execution of a no-cost extension to the Fixed Price Research Agreement with Auburn University.
• Setting a public hearing date for an amendment to the Pandion Ridge RV park’s planned unit development on Oct. 15.