Montevallo recognizes Montevallo Dance Crew success, hears student projects, passes new regulations

Published 4:01 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – The city of Montevallo officially recognized the successes of the Montevallo Dance Crew and heard updates from two groups of students from the University of Montevallo during a regularly scheduled city council meeting on Monday, April 22.

The Council first kicked the informational evening off with three individual public hearings that addressed a number of topics that would later be voted on as new business at the close of the meeting.

The first of which focused on a new equipment storage area proposed by Beelman Trucking, and the remaining two both focused on alterations made to existing rules and regulations surrounding additional dwellings and rear yard modifications related to the imposed moratorium on such structures which was issued on Feb. 26.

While the first public hearing for Beelman Trucking’s proposal did not have any member of the audience speak for or against the proposal, the next hearing related to property modifications within single-family residential districts drew more attention.

The purpose of the first proposed amendment was to address permitted uses within single-family residential districts related to additional dwellings detached from primary homes. Within the current permitted uses in the district, duplexes, which were defined as two-family dwellings, and garage apartments were identified as “by-right” uses and were automatically allowed according to current regulations.  However, the R-2 district is primarily a single-family residential district and this first amendment sought to reclassify garage apartments and duplexes to now be limited as conditional uses outside of Montevallo’s Urban Core Overlay District.

During the meeting, a number of attendees had questions that sought clarifications on those changes and one in particular spoke against such developments still being allowed at all on the account that areas affected were historical and also contained an elderly community. The Council worked carefully to ensure that no confusion remained among those asking questions in the audience.

“(These modifications are for) any new construction that would be in an R-1 or R-2 neighborhood,” said Steve Gilbert, Montevallo city clerk and treasurer. “Basically, a permitted use means that it is automatically granted in that zoning district, what we’re doing is taking (these types of structures) out of the permitted uses and making it a conditional use, which means that you could still have an appeal process before the planning and zoning commission as to why an auxiliary structure is needed, such as a duplex or garage apartment. It doesn’t prohibit it, it just takes it out of an automatically granted use to a conditional use.”

Following those questions, the third public hearing addressing changes to rear yard modifications and the allowed sizes of outbuildings did not received any speakers for or against.

Within the current regulations, an accessory structure was allowed to occupy up to 30 percent of a required rear yard. The proposed amendment called for a new limit to the footprint of an accessory structure to not exceed 800 square feet. It also set the requirement for new buildings to match the character and context of the surrounding residential development and also required the use of a shared driveway with the primary home for such structures.

Following the three public hearings, Mayor Rusty Nix issued an official recognition of Montevallo Dance Crew, and its organizer Karen Guarino, for their recent successes that included achievements at the Platinum National Dance Competition in Montgomery during spring break. At that competition, MDC received a platinum adjudication, a Judge’s Choice Award and an invitation to Platinum’s Ultimate Invitational Challenge in Chicago.

Two weeks after that first competition, the group comprised of 21 fourth and fifth grade students who attended the Inspire National Dance Competition and took home first place overall in their division. MDC also earned a crystal diamond adjudication during the event that represented the highest score range in the competition. They also took home a “Golden Egg Award” which is a special judge’s choice award presented to a select number of participating groups immediately following their performances.

“The Montevallo Dance Crew has been an inspiration, especially considering most dancers had little to no prior experience,” Nix said.

After the recognition, the Council then received two updates from students at the University of Montevallo that were introduced by Susan Caplow, who teaches environmental studies at UM.

The first group presented data and findings that related to a proposed launching and reintroduction of a glass recycling program at the Montevallo Recycling Center. The group also spoke on what they found to be a sizeable and current public interest surrounding such a program, should it be put in place.

Their primary proposal centered around the purchase of a glass crusher as a relatively cheap introductory step in the program. Such a crusher, which they claimed would be large enough to handle the interest from the community, while still remaining affordable, would cost the community roughly $9,000. If purchased, the crusher would also be able to turn glass from the community into usable sand for a variety of projects.

“What I like about this project is that you’re converting (recyclable items) into an immediately usable product,” Councilmember David King said. “There has been lots of good thought put into this.”

The group then detailed a number of potential grants, such as two from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the University of Montevallo, that they have drafted and organized for the project should the city choose to move forward in adding the crusher to their recycling center.

“We had one local business that stated that they would donate about 200 bottles a week (if there were a program),” one of the students said. “That alone is almost 100 pounds of sand a week that could be generated just from one place.”

The other group presented data and findings on strengthening the growth and awareness of the city’s ValloCycle program and the establishment of a bike kitchen, which is an area that has tools, supplies and professionals to sustain and repair bikes.

“The goal is to make biking more accessible through having a place where you can repair your bike, learn to ride and build a community where we can support sustainable transportation,” one of the program’s students said.

The second group also conducted a survey that showed that 83.3 percent of their 100 respondents never or rarely biked in the city of Montevallo. The group then found that traffic and safety concerns as well as access to bicycles were the top answers as to why that was the case.

As far as lack of access to bicycles, the group found that the establishment of a bike kitchen would be the best possible scenario to mitigate the issue and proposed that it be added to the already ongoing Vallocycle program within the city.

Establishing such a facility, the group believed, would allow owners of out-of-commission bikes to more easily repair and maintain them as well as foster a growing sense of community that may result in more riders overall. The group also stated a belief that growth in the community might also serve to eliminate misconceptions that currently exist toward a lack of places to ride and rider safety that are not supported by cited statistics.

The second group did not currently have any financial requests from the Council.

The ValloCycle program, created in 2011, is credited as the first city-wide bike share program within the state of Alabama. The program was first developed to promote a healthier lifestyle as well as a cleaner environment through the utilization of bicycles as an alternative form of transportation.

Following the presentations, the Council opened the floor to general public comments where a number of citizens again spoke out against the ongoing concerns associated with the growing number of homes that are being converted into rental properties within subdivisions and neighborhoods.

“As far as a city or municipality being able to limit the number of properties in a specific neighborhood that can be bought—I’m not aware of us having any sort of legal jurisdiction to do that,” King said. “If you decided you were going to move out of your home and wanted to buy another—it would be very unfair for a municipality to say that you would have to sell your home (instead of renting it), and turning it into a rental home for your own investment portfolio. It’s a problem we are hearing a lot about. I’m not sure what a local municipality can do to control that outside of requiring renters to purchase a business license.”

Gilbert also mentioned community home owners’ associations as having the potential authority in certain respects to control such matters.

Other complaints dealing with specific renters involved numerous complaints relating to parking excessive numbers of cars on the street, parking boats in yards and developing questionable additional driveways and outbuildings were also discussed during the meeting.

Another complaint was also centered squarely on McKay Management and LGI Homes, when Tracy Allen a resident of Lexington Park detailed her frustrations surrounding inefficient communications and a perceived double standard between owners and renters in the neighborhood.

“They’re not holding the renters to the same standards as the homeowners,” Allen said. “I don’t know if that is something the city is involved with or the planning and zoning committee, but the neighborhood needs help. We’ve been there since 2016 and not just myself but several of the homeowners are considering moving and leaving Montevallo (because of this). We’ve had little support. McKay Management is horrible. Now they are picking and choosing and changing things—we don’t have any say and they have complete control. The homeowners can’t event approve or disapprove of anything they are doing.”

In response to the concern, Gilbert promised to contact the proper individuals to attempt to address raised concerns about the parking situations and the other concerns raised by Allen.

After the close of public comments, the city then addressed and voted on a number of new items on the night’s agenda that included:

  •  A resolution granting approval or denial for Beelman Trucking Company’s proposed equipment storage area was denied by the Council following a negative recommendation from the planning and zoning commission
  •  A resolution making amendments to Article 11. Section 11.02 for R-2, single family residential districts was approved
  •  A resolution making amendments to the supplementary regulations and modifications listed in section 20.07 for rear yard modifications in residential districts was approved
  •  A resolution authorizing the city of Montevallo to join the state of Alabama and other local governments as participants in current and future opioid settlements was approved
  •  A request to reschedule the Monday, May 27 council meeting to Tuesday,May 28 due to the Memorial Day Holiday was approved