Commercial zoning ties hands of homeowners

By SAMANTHA HALL / STAFF WRITER

PELHAM – City officials and residents of Blueberry Estates are seeking answers from local developer AIG Baker LLC, who almost four years ago convinced homeowners to rezone their property to commercial so that a shopping center might be built there.

Randy Durett has lived in Blueberry Estates for 26 years.

“I’ve heard through the grapevine that its their next project, but who knows,” Durett said of what he’s heard since contracts with the company expired. “Get them back in here to talk to them and then maybe we’ll know where this is going.”

In the meantime, the more than 30 residents’ hands are tied when it comes to making improvements to their homes.

Resident Michael Cornett recently planned an addition to his house on Pope Drive but has met several barriers. Monday night the council denied Cornett’s request to change zoning of his property back to R-1 Single Family District from B-2 General Business District.

“The law gives him the right to appeal that decision to circuit court down in Columbiana which I feel fairly certain he will do,” said Cornett’s attorney William Bradford. “It’s a sad statement that everyone would get on board back then to do this, but when it fell by the wayside, it really fell by the wayside.”

Councilman Mike Dickens said the city can’t do much to help Cornett or the other residents who sought the rezoning because they originally thought their homes would be sold to AIG Baker.

“I think the challenging thing about this whole thing is … city policy and as far as law, is we’re not allowed to spot zone,” Dickens said. “It is what it is. Even if we wanted to we can’t; it’s against the law.”

Dickens did however make a motion that the council seek information from AIG Baker as to whether or not they have future plans to develop the area. City officials have also said the original homeowners as a group could collectively seek rezoning for all of the property involved in the deal with AIG Baker.

Representatives from AIG Baker could not be reached for comment