Helena could repeal zoning-related ordinance

Published 3:17 pm Friday, January 25, 2013

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Helena City Council will decide during its Feb. 4 meeting if it will repeal a city ordinance passed in 2002 after the Alabama League of Municipalities said the ordinance may conflict with state law.

During a Jan. 23 work session, the council discussed repealing ordinance 593-02, which requires all actions taken by the Helena Planning and Zoning Commission to be approved by the council before taking effect.

The Planning and Zoning Commission takes action on items such as amending zoning classifications for properties, approving subdivision plans and enforcing zoning laws.

The council discussed the matter at the request of Councilman Hal Woodman, who said the ordinance conflicts with the powers granted to the Planning and Zoning Commission by the Alabama Constitution. Woodman said he contacted the League of Municipalities about the matter, and said the organization confirmed the conflict.

“It’s just an instant lawsuit,” Woodman told the council.

Helena Mayor Mark Hall said other municipalities in the Birmingham metro area have faced lawsuits because of similar ordinances. Hall said he would be in favor of repealing the ordinance “as long as (a) checks and balances” system is still in place regarding city zoning issues.

“If it’s unconstitutional, I would encourage you guys to repeal it,” Hall said of the ordinance.

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Jack Gray said the commission works closely with the city’s Inspection Department, and said the commission allows interested parties to comment during its meetings.

The City Council’s next meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Feb. 4 at Helena City Hall.