Zoning amendment will allow Zeke’s Landing to add 149 parking spots; City reluctant to rezone Hwy. 161 parcel to accomodate Popeyes
By John Mullen
Thanks to a unanimous vote by the Orange Beach City Council, Zeke’s Landing Marina will add 1.6 acres to the east of its current complex to put in an additional 149 parking spaces.
During the Jan. 19 combined regular session and work session, the council had a public hearing on the project and a first reading on an amendment change to the planned use development.
Normally, an ordinance must have two hearings and readings before it can come to a vote but the council voted to suspend the rules and consider this ordinance change immediately. Zeke’s won approval with a unanimous 5-0 vote which is required when the rules are suspended. Councilman Jeff Silvers was not in attendance.
“Zeke’s is our last true marina for our fishermen and I try to do everything we can to protect our fishing community,” Councilman Jeff Boyd said to Zeke’s owner Lynn Swafford. “They’ve worked very hard to rebuild and support that fishing community. It’s good to see you here and wanting to work with us and I appreciate y’all working with it and coming to the table with it.
A similar change sought by Popeye’s Orange Beach for a parcel north of the Dollar General on State Route 161 was pulled by the applicant when city officials raised concerns about the traffic it would bring.
The first step for Zeke’s was combining two lots currently zoned residential with a total of 1.6 acres into to one lot to contain the parking within the PUD and then approve the ordinance change. The planning commission had a unanimous 6-0 favorable vote for the change and parking lot at its December meeting subject to the neighbors to the east agreeing to an exterior lighting plan between the marina and the homeowner to the east, Elizabeth Brinkley.
“I am very eager to reach an agreement with Mrs. Brinkley on the lighting situation,” Swafford said. “One reason we haven’t is after the previous request we’ve been working on a supplemental plan to make sure that actually lowering the lights to 14 feet on the east we were still discussing would still give proper lighting and not to allow any light to go over to her property. We have found that that is the case and they we can actually install all 13 lights at 14 feet and I’m happy to do that if Mrs. Brinkley is happy with that.”
Brinkley was in the audience and said she agreed with the plan.
Mayor Tony Kennon raised questions about the safety concerns there now entering and exiting the marina during summer when it is packed with cars but agreed with Boyd on the importance of the fishing fleet.
He also pointed out that this type of zoning change – removing land from residential to another designation – was something this council has tried not to do in the past but felt it works in this case. A perfect example of this happened when these parcels were the subject of a PUD request for Gulf Shores Power Sports in 2017 which was denied by the city do to noise and other concerns of the impact to the surrounding residential properties.
“The restaurants feed off of the environment of the charter boat fleet being in there,” Kennon said. “The charter boat fleet absolutely benefits from the people walking and seeing what the charter boat fleet can do. Because charter fishing is such a big part of who we are and our history and I was good with evaluating it and deviating from what we’ve normally done.”
Zeke’s currently has 237 parking spaces available and the new lot will give them an additional 149 for a total of 386. In addition to the lighting modifications, zoning ordinances require a 30-foot buffer between the PUD and the residential lots to the east. The proposal didn’t meet that requirement but agreed to put up 10- to 14-foot trees and grass in a buffer of about five to 10 feet. There will be a 22-foot buffer between the parking lot and Cotton Bayou with trees and grass as well.
Developers will also be required to have a three-lane entrance/exit to the parking lot from beach road which is subject to approval by the Alabama Department of Transportation.
Up-zoning to allow Popeyes to move into the State Route 161 parcel and the traffic issues drew concern from Kennon.
“I think Popeyes there with fast food and high volume in and out they need to be successful would be a traffic nightmare right there at Dollar General,” Kennon said. “It’s not that we’re against fast food or we don’t want fast food here. They just need to go where it’s appropriate for them to be and it’s not a rezoning of that property to accommodate that.”
During regular session, the council:
• Passed a resolution extending the moratorium on the issuance of building permits for single and multi-family developments to be located in general business districts.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of Scoreboards for the Parks and Recreation Department through Sourcewell in the amount of $28,896.48.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the sole source purchase of Wastewater Treatment Plant 2 clarifier repairs from Schreiber for the Utilities Department in the amount of $68,344.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the sole source refurbishment of a beach rake from H. Barber & Sons for the Coastal Resources Department in the amount of $31,325.66.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of a pickup truck for the Landscape Department through Sourcewell in the amount of $30,853.74.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of a pickup truck for the Street Department through Sourcewell in the amount of $30,853.74.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of a mower for the Street Department through Sourcewell in the amount of $36,919.96.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of a Ladder Truck for the Fire Department through the Houston-Galveston Area Council in the amount of $1.25 million.
• Had a first reading of an ordinance amendment to add a new article entitled, “Perdido Key Habitat Conservation.”
Discussed During Work Session:
• A resolution to update the list of volunteer firefighters and reserve police officers covered under workers’ compensation insurance.
• A resolution authorizing the purchase of a Mini Excavator for the Landscape Department through Sourcewell in the amount of $31,849.82.
• A resolution authorizing the purchase of a surveillance trailer for the Police Department through General Services Administration (GSA) in the amount of $29,300.
• A resolution authorizing the execution of a laboratory services agreement with South Baldwin Regional Medical Center.
• Setting a public hearing date for a zoning change to three lots at the southeast corner of Canal Road and White Avenue to change them from general business to single-family residential. In January, the Orange Beach Planning Commission gave a 7-0 favorable recommendation for the change. The suggested public hearing date in Feb. 9. The request was made by former NFL kicker Matt Bryant who has a home on Canal Road on Bayou St. John east of this property.
• A reminder of a public hearing and first reading for an ordinance amendment for CoastAL Beach Development on Feb. 2. This is the proposed restaurant development by owners of the Flora-Bama and a city lot for public parking on the beach east of the Hampton Inn.