Cullman Council gets earful on rezoning of Morningside property, approves Rock the South permit

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Gateway Development Company President Josh Mandell introduces his company to the audience at Monday night’s Cullman City Council meeting. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman City Council Monday night took up two of the more controversial topics it has faced in years:  the proposed rezoning of property along Morningside Drive off Main Avenue, and Rock the South.

Morningside rezoning plan

The council held a public hearing on the rezoning of 10 acres at the intersection of Morningside Drive Southwest and Main Avenue Southwest, based on a positive recommendation from the City Planning Commission, from R-2 (low-density family dwellings, private homes) to R-4 (high-density family dwellings).  Local realtor Wendy Childers, representing the property owners, presented the council a list of people in favor of the development. Josh Mandell, president of Birmingham-based Gateway Development Company, introduced the large crowd to concepts for an apartment complex his company hopes to build at the site, showing the audience photos of other complexes it has built in other cities.

Mandell addressed concerns about a complex that would deteriorate over time and bring down property values, touting his company’s Alabama roots and telling the crowd, “When we build this, we have to stay in this.  We will stay in this. So, if something doesn’t go right in three or four years, we’re around to have to work it out. We’re not here because of that. We’re here because we expect things to go right, and usually with our complexes they do go right.”

He presented photos and a chart that indicated three-story buildings in a complex that would feature high-end amenities.

Council President Jenny Folsom asked if anyone wished to speak against the rezoning, and opponents did so for some time.

  • Attorney Albert Boykin, representing property owners Linda and Leonard Romine, whose home is across the street from the property, proposed for rezoning, laid out an argument against rezoning based on the purposes for the existence of zoning laws, citing the language Cullman’s own zoning ordinance as supporting evidence.
  • Leonard Romine pointed out that 89 percent of apartment complexes in Cullman are on the city’s west side, and that all public housing units are on the west side.  He pointed out that a single public housing complex located on the east side was never rebuilt after being destroyed by the 2011 tornado, and asked the council, “Why is that?”
  • Linda Romine presented the council a petition signed by 153 local property owners opposing the rezoning.  She also protested the lack of information about the proposed development.
  • James Jordan expressed concerns about increased storm water drainage and other utility issues that development could bring to the neighborhood.
  • Jeff Harper, transportation and safety director for Cullman County Schools and a Morningside resident, showed the council photos of Morningside Drive, noting that it is narrow and unstriped, with a sharp right-hand turn.  He argued that the street is already too narrow and would become dangerous with increased traffic.
  • Ernest Wright argued against the lack of real plans for development of the site, saying that there was no guarantee that Gateway would actually build the complex Mandell described.

As the proposed rezoning request was only receiving its first reading, no action was taken on it by the council, but Folsom did say that it would be taken up at the council’s next meeting on Monday, April 22. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

Rock the South

The council approved an event permit to allow the giant music festival to be held on a parcel of land on 1872 County Road 469, Cullman, AL 35057. The land is west of I-65 but annexed into the city limits.  There was no discussion before the vote.

Rock the South is scheduled for May 31- June 1. Find out more at https://rockthesouth.com/.

Other special events approved

  • Request from Ron Pierce of the Downtown Merchants Association to hold the annual Downtown Festivals for 2019 starting in June and ending in September.
  • Request from Judith Caples of A Touch of German to hold a 40th year anniversary event around the business on Aug. 9, 2019.

Other council items approved

  • Resolution No. 2019-49 to authorize change order No. 3 for Carcel & G Construction LLC on Downtown Streetscape Phase IV.
  • Resolution No. 2019-50 to award the bid for a double drum asphalt roller to Cowin Equipment of Huntsville.
  • Resolution No. 2019-51 to award the bid for a sweeper broom to AK Rentals of Cullman.
  • Resolution No. 2019-52 to award the bid for a crew truck to Eckenrod Ford of Cullman.
  • Resolution No. 2019-53 to amend the position control policy and detail.

First readings

  • Ordinance No. 2019-12 to annex 187 County Road 1189 into the city limits of Cullman as R-1 residential district, which received a favorable recommendation from the City of Cullman Planning Commission.
  • Ordinance No. 2019-13 to annex 115 County Road 483 into the city limits of Cullman as R-1 residential district, which received a favorable recommendation from the City of Cullman Planning Commission.

The Cullman City Council will meet next on Monday, April 22 at 7 p.m. in the Cullman City Hall auditorium.  The public is invited to attend.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com