Clarification sought for Frank Street lot merger

June 12, 2020

A decision by the Birmingham City Commission on a request for a lot combination for 211 and 227 W. Frank Street at their meeting on Monday, June 8, was postponed until their next meeting in order for commissioners to receive clarification on the ordinance.

The proposed lot combination, of two small 40-foot lots at the southeast corner of Frank and Henrietta, was submitted by mayor Pierre Boutros, who recused himself from the discussions. In his application, he said he and his family have outgrown their home on Hawthorne Street in Birmingham and are looking to build a home that better fits their needs with three children.

City planning director Jana Ecker presented the lot combination request, stating one of the current lots has a house and shed on it, which would be brought down, while the other lot is vacant. She said a new house would be built facing Frank Street, and is consistent with zoning and other lots and parcels in the area, as well as the city's master plan.

Of the ordinance, the lot combination request clearly met five of the six necessary criteria. The one requirement three of the six commissioners had questions regarding was “The combination will not adversely affect the interest of the public or the abutting property owners,” which they wanted clarification from the city's planning board.

The issue is on the agenda for a joint workshop between the commission and the planning board for Monday, June 15. Commissioners Mark Nickita, Stuart Sherman and Rackeline Hoff all stated they preferred seeking the clarification, not a change, of the ordinance at that time, and returning at the commission's June 22 meeting to make the decision.

Nickita noted that in two prior lot combinations the commission had seen since the ordinance had been created, he had voted against both, specifically seeking the ordinance clarification.

“I'm not saying I'm against it. I'm saying it needs discussion,” Hoff noted.

“If the ordinance does not allow the commission to vary based on circumstances, then it's 'fill out the form,'” Nickita said. “That's why there are clarification issues.”

Commissioners voted 5-1 to continue the public hearing until June 22, with Boutros recused and Clinton Baller voting against.

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