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New townhomes on Elm move forward

By Grace Lovins


The final site plan and design review of six new attached residential units, to be constructed at 295 Elm Street, was recommended for approval to the city commission by the Birmingham Planning Board at their meeting on Wednesday, September 28.


Forest Townhomes, the new development, is a proposed multi-story residential use development on the corner of Elm Street and Forest Avenue consisting of six attached, single-family units at three stories height. The proposed units will also feature attached two-car garages with tandem parking.


When the board met on Wednesday, August 24, to discuss the preliminary site plan and design review for the site, planners took issue with the lack of details provided in the roof plan and massing of the neighboring structures. Ultimately, the board approved the preliminary plan on the condition the details were provided at the final site plan and design review.


On September 28, John Marusich of Marusich Architecture met the conditions placed by the planning board to include the necessary renderings, and also explained some minor changes to the site plan after the preliminary site plan review and a meeting with the neighbors. Marusich noted that the drive aisle was widened to 20 feet, and the addition of Hetz-Midget arborvitae along the south side of the property as an alternative to a brick screenwall.


Multiple neighbors on Forest Avenue attended the meeting to express their concern over the potential for parking related issues if the development is approved as is. Some offered suggestions and asked the board to encourage the developers to go above the minimum requirements of the ordinance. While most comments focused on the potential parking issue for other residents on Forest Avenue, the board was inclined to make a decision based on the applicant's ability to meet ordinance requirements.


“I completely understand where [the neighbors] are coming from. Having said that, we are living in a world where we have an ordinance and our requirement, legally, is to approve projects that meet ordinance minimum [requirements] or not,” chairperson Scott Clein said. “We cannot enforce or hold up site plans to try and get them to go above and beyond, or else the city’s going to be sued.”


Board member Janelle Boyce, having recently worked on another project with an extremely similar layout to the proposed townhomes, tried to offer peace of mind to the neighbors, saying that in her experience residents wouldn’t use the street parking over their driveways out of convenience so parking may not be as bad as they believe it’s going to be.


Board member Bryan Williams backed Boyce’s comments, having lived in a unit with tandem parking before, noting that he and his neighbors would primarily use the garage and driveway. In a unanimous vote, planners recommended approval of the final site plan and design review to the city commission on the condition that a photometric plan be submitted to ensure light density doesn’t exceed the permitted levels.

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