Montevallo issues six-month moratorium on auxiliary structures following public concerns

Published 4:07 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – During a regularly scheduled city council meeting on Monday, Feb. 26, the city of Montevallo approved an ordinance related to the moratorium on certain business licenses, approved the purchase of an excavator and issued a new moratorium on auxiliary structures from being built in the city.

In addressing the moratorium currently in place on certain business licenses within the city, the Council quickly passed an ordinance that sets forth a new process related to the approval of certain business licenses in the downtown urban core.

“(That moratorium included) tattoo parlors, payday loans, title loans, check cashing, pawn shops, gold and silver brokers, vape shops, tobacco shops, retail package and liquor sales and CBD products that are regulated,” said Steve Gilbert, Montevallo city clerk and treasurer. “Basically, this (new ordinance) sets up a review process where those applications (for these kind of businesses) would be subject to Council approval before we grant them a business license within the urban core. It also grandfathers in any businesses of these types at its existing physical location.”

According to Gilbert, the Council will consider a list of items when debating each new business license before deciding whether or not to grant a business license related to the new ordinance.

That list of criteria includes, but is not limited to:

  •  Whether the new business impacts the protection of public health, safety, morals and welfare.
  •  If the new business impacts protections related to existing properties including property use and value.
  •  Whether the new business will affect the preservation of the Montevallo historic district designation.
  •  Whether the new business will impact traffic and pedestrian safety in relation to its operation.
  •  Whether the new business matches the consistency, compatibility and conformity with the city of Montevallo’s comprehensive plan.

Businesses applying for business licenses fitting business types governed by the ordinance will be immediately granted audience with the City Council. The ordinance did not appear to apply to existing businesses with licenses moving to offer CBD products in addition to their main offerings.

Secondly, the city also approved the purchase of a Bobcat Model E40-R2 series compact excavator at the cost of $57,295.68 for use by the Montevallo Public Works Department. The cost of the excavator was covered through budgeted for funds from the city’s sanitation account.

The Public Works Department described the Bobcat excavator as a machine they were familiar with and as a piece of equipment the department is accustomed to working with. The model offered by Bobcat was also the lowest priced of three available excavators that were examined by the department for the purchase, the others being John Deere and JCB which were not favored by the department provided the higher cost of the equipment and unfamiliarity when compared to Bobcat’s equipment.

Councilmember Martha Eisenberg was the sole objector to the purchase, citing her concerns that Bobcat was no longer owned by an American-based parent company. Bobcat has been owned by the Doosan Corporation, headquartered in South Korea, since 2007.

The Council also passed a moratorium on the issuance of building permits related to the construction of new additional auxiliary or detached structures on existing properties that will not exceed more than six months. The moratorium applies to, but is not strictly limited to detached garages, carports and storage buildings.

“We are considering an ordinance that would add some language to the definition of the allowances related to accessory structures,” Gilbert said. “What we are looking at currently is a specific percentage of the backyard or a certain square footage, whichever of the two is less. In those circumstances it would prevent someone with a very large yard from building great big structures that would not fit into the spirit of our (existing) ordinances. However, at the moment those ordinances have not been passed through the planning and zoning commission.”

The moratorium, which serves as a temporary freeze until such a time that the planning and zoning commission can present the council with its recommendations, was largely motivated by public outcry related to a metal building located behind a home on Walden Ct that sits on a corner property that backs up to the intersection of Middle Street and Morgan Street. Some members of the community have called the building an eyesore, and Montevallo Mayor Rusty Nix referred to the structure as “the airplane hangar.”

“We are trying to address the issue by placing a hold on any future things that might be in the works and we can do that by enacting this resolution for a moratorium at this point,” Nix said. “There’s a lot of different things that are having to be taken into consideration, the way the ordinance reads currently, (additional structures) cannot exceed more than 30 percent of the rear yard. What we’re trying to do is whether or not a limit on square footage versus the percentage of the backyard (is most effective).”

Corner lots and properties in the city are of chief concern and matters related to determining square footage and the definitions of what constitutes “rear or back yards” are also matters that they are planning to address.

In relation to the building at the intersection, Gilbert confirmed that there is little the city can do assuming the building was built within the standing ordinances in place at the time of its construction.

“I know the style of the building rubs some people the wrong way but as far as its size and where its located—it is within the (requirements) of the ordinances,” Gilbert said. “Style is one thing but there is nothing within the ordinance that regulates how the façade looks on a structure of that nature. That is one thing that, if the Council chooses, could be put into the ordinance—that it must resemble the structure of the home where it is located. But there is nothing currently in the ordinance that states that has to be such.”

While there are some examinations to make sure that the building is in fact adhering to current standing ordinances, the moratorium and ordinance adjustments are intended to apply to new buildings and will not be legally binding to pre-existing structures.

Councilmember Kenneth Dukes expressed concerns about issuing the moratorium for six months but ultimately joined the rest of the council in supporting the unanimous passage of the moratorium.

While the moratorium as passed is set to remain in place for six months, many on the Council expressed that they did not expect the moratorium to last the full length.