119 Task Force proposes scenic zoning

A committee appointed by the Montevallo Planning and Zoning Commission has struggled with a unique task the past several months.

Their task has been to find a way to preserve the beauty of Alabama Highway 119 as a &uot;front door to the city&uot;, near the American Village and Moore’s Crossroads, while at the same time attracting businesses to the well-traveled corridor.

The Zoning Task Force on Highway 119 has presented a rough draft of a new type of zoning classification for the city called the Montevallo Gateway Corridor District or MGC.

The MGC, also referred to by city officials as a &uot;scenic overlay corridor,&uot; would create a 100- to 250-foot-buffer along Highway 119 at the northern entrance to the city.

Montevallo City Manager Steve Gibbs said a gateway corridor zoning of some type has been a topic of discussion among city leaders for several years now. He said, however, it wasn’t until March that the idea gained momentum once again.

At a planning and zoning meeting that month, according to the task force’s documents, two property owners along Highway 119, Nathan Stamps, a developer, and Paul Brown, a city councilman, sought to have properties, four acres owned by Stamps and two acres owned by Brown, annexed into the city and zoned highway commercial rather than agricultural.

Several residents opposed annexation requests and expressed concern over the need for safeguards for the Highway 119 corridor.

&uot;It was a sense by many that a new zoning classification was needed,&uot; Gibbs said.

At that meeting, the planning and zoning committee voted to have a committee research a solution for the disagreement between the residents and the developers.

A seven-member committee, chaired by Tom Walker, executive director of the American Village, was selected to represent a wide array of interests in and around Montevallo.

The committee’s other members include Ann Cheney, representing the city’s chamber of commerce; Gibbs, representing city officials; Mimi Lawley, representing property owners along Highway 119; Ben McCrory, representing the Montevallo Historical Commission; and Stamps, representing developers and interested petitioners.

&uot;The task force’s challenge was to allow some type of commercial development but at the same time do it in an aesthetically pleasing manor,&uot; Gibbs said.

The committee met three times in April and twice in May, after which the first draft of the ordinance was presented to the planning and zoning commission. No action was taken.

Permitted uses in the proposed zoning area at the northern entrance along 119 would be residential loft apartments located above commercial uses; institutional buildings such as a community center, medical clinic and parks; commercial uses including banks, business or professional offices; bed and breakfast inns; restaurants, &uot;not fast food&uot;; hotels or motels; cinemas or theaters; and retail shops.

Strip malls would not be permitted nor would industrial or

agricultural uses. The proposed ordinance notes that existing zoning of land already in the city would be grandfathered.

The proposed zoning would also require specific architectural guidelines and checklists &uot;to ensure adherence and conformity with these architectural standards.&uot;

Gibbs said a similar effort to achieve a &uot;scenic overlay corridor&uot; was attempted in 1997 but failed due to objections from several large property owners in the area.

&uot;Our three-cent sales taxes generate some $1.2 million a year compared to the $170,000 we get from the 7 mill property tax,&uot; Gibbs said, referring to the fears some have that such a zoning classification would stifle business growth.

One civic leader, Ken Jones, president of the Montevallo Chamber of Commerce, took issue with the proposed zoning in the chamber’s April newsletter.

He referred to the area near the American Village as one of &uot;pastoral beauty,&uot; however he questioned whether special zoning was needed.

&uot;The City Council and Planning Commission are facing a difficult task as they strive to maintain that look and also providing for commercial growth … They cannot ignore the fact that we have to have some commercial growth in order to provide the many services that are a part of any city’s responsibility,&uot; Jones said.

In bold letters in the newsletter, Jones hoped to get his point across.

&uot;Subdivisions and open land do not supply enough revenue to do an adequate job of funding those needs,&uot; he said.

Walker, a proponent of the MGC, said the zoning would ensure out-of-town visitors an &uot;introduction to the historic treasures of Montevallo.&uot;

&uot;I think the 119 corridor is a gateway by which a large number of visitors are introduced to The American Village, the historic downtown and the University of Montevallo,&uot; he said.

&uot;We have seen a number of communities in the nation provide a front door, so to speak &045;

something that sets the expectations as to what a community is about. I think the task force is choosing to set a future as opposed to letting development happen haphazardly.&uot;