Subdivision regs up for vote: Homebuilders launch campaign against proposed county plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A proposal for new subdivision regulations is expected to meet stiff opposition from homebuilders and developers when it comes before the Shelby County Commission Monday.

The Greater Birmingham Association of Homebuilders (GBAHB) launched a public relations campaign against the plan proposed by the county&8217;s Department of Development Services, following several work sessions focusing on the new regulations.

&8220;We&8217;ve been saying all along that this was zoning,&8221; said GBAHB president Rhonda Brantley.

Ray Hamilton, who watched over the creation of the proposed regulations as manager of the Department of Development Services, disagrees with Brantley&8217;s assertion.

&8220;That is not the case,&8221; Hamilton said. &8220;These subdivision regulations have nothing to do with land use.&8221;

Hamilton said the plan is the culmination of two years of work by development services in an effort to tie more closely with the county&8217;s comprehensive plan, passed in 2004. Current subdivision regulations are not in line with that plan, he said.

County Commissioner Larry Dillard said he thinks most of the conflict surrounding the proposed regulations centers around confusion over the point system used to score land based on factors such as topography and availability of roads and utilities.

The proposed regulations would still allow developers to build conventional subdivisions, but with more restrictions on home density.

Land deemed the least appropriate for development, identified by the ranking system as Tier III, requires minimum lot sizes of 10 acres under the plan.

The proposed regulations also feature two new subdivision types – form-based and conservation – each laced with incentives for developers to encourage use of green space and homes clustered around neighborhood businesses or institutions similar to the Mt. Laurel community in north Shelby County.

&8220;Our biggest hang up is that it&8217;s subjective,&8221; Brantley said of the scoring process. &8220;There&8217;s not a finite set of plans. It&8217;s ambiguous and arbitrary.&8221;

Commissioner Dillard said he supports the subdivision regulations but doesn&8217;t have an indication as how the commission might act on the proposal Monday.

County Commissioner Corley Ellis said he likes the intentions of the subdivision regulations, but said he is concerned about some of the details of the proposal.

&8220;I&8217;ve got some concerns over what this does to small landowners, Ellis said. &8220;I&8217;m also afraid it might force development into already congested areas.&8221;

Subdivision regulations

THE VOTE: The proposed plan comes before the Shelby County Commission at its next meeting, set for 6 p.m. Monday at the Shelby County Administrative Building in Columbiana.

JURISDICTION: Shelby County&8217;s subdivision regulations apply to all land not located inside the boundaries of one of the county&8217;s municipalities.

APPROVAL: The proposed regulations have already passed the Planning Commission and need only the County Commission&8217;s approval to become official