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Lavery's plan to expand dealership at impasse

By Kevin Elliott

Plans to expand the Fred Lavery Porsche dealership at 34459 Woodward in Birmingham’s Triangle District are at a standstill as city commissioners on Monday, April 26, sent the project to the city’s planning board.

Lavery approached the city commission last year about plans to expand the dealership by combining the existing property with a two-story commercial building at 907-911 Haynes Street. The plans call for demolishing the existing two-story building and creating a large surface parking lot.

City zoning requirements in the Triangle District require auto dealerships to obtain a special land use permit from the city, which Lavery had done in 2010 for the existing parcel. However, city staff said the proposed lot combination doesn’t meet the zoning requirements of the area. Further, the Haynes Street property is located where the city’s Triangle District plan calls for extending Worth Street to Bowers.

A public hearing scheduled for December of 2020 was postponed at Lavery’s request to discuss long-term development plans for the area. City staff has been in discussions with Lavery since January with no agreement finalized.

“After further communication with the applicant and input from the city commission, city staff continue to have issues with the applicant’s proposed agreement and the fact that the applicant has yet to obtain final site plan and SLUP (special land use permit) approval for expanding their auto sales and showroom use,” said Birmingham Planner Brooks Cowan. “For these reasons, staff does not recommend approval of the proposed lot combination or the LMDP property development agreement at this time.”

Rather, Cowan recommended the applicant first go to the planning board for site plan review and a permit request, then return to the city commission for the proposed lot combination.

“This process may require a community impact study and any necessary variances from the zoning board of appeals as well,” he said. “Staff also recommends that the proposal for the Worth Street extension be reviewed in conjunction with the final site plan and SLUP review at the planning board and city commission prior to lot combination approval. The Walgreens agreement in 2021 was done in conjunction with the final site plan and SLUP review process, therefore staff recommends that the same process and similar agreement conditions be applied for the subject applicant.”

Attorney Jason Canvasser, who represents Lavery, asked for an indication from the commission on whether or not they are interested in retaining the dealership, prior to spending time and money on a project that is destined to be rejected by the commission.

Commissioner Mark Nickita said it’s clear from the effort put forth by the city that it’s interested in keeping the dealership in the city, but that specific processes are in place and must be followed.

“It’s evident we are interested in seeing our master plan move forward and the city manager has been meeting the applicant for many months,” Nickita said. “That said, there’s a process that we have to go through and have a certain way to get there. I think we have shown a good faith attempt on our end as much as possible. I think there is a process and we have to go through that. I don’t think there should be a question about that, in my mind.”

Commissioners unanimously approved postponing a decision until after the plan goes through the existing site plan review and special land use permit process by the city’s planning board.


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