"I think as a business owner myself we all want our places to look beautiful," Highland Alderman Mary Jo Clark said at the city council meeting March 10. "But I think everyone has to do it as they can afford it."
During the January Highland City Council meeting, Planning and Zoning Commissioner Richard Smith told the council he felt something needed to be done to minimize the warehouse look in Highland. Smith said due to the rebuilding from the tornado several businesses were going with metal buildings because they are cheaper, but he felt they were unattractive.
The council gave Smith permission to continue with an ordinance and bring it back for discussion, which he did at the March 10 meeting. Smith told the council that after speaking with the city attorney, Jon Abele, he determined that an ordinance was not needed, just a revision to the existing one.
The guidelines presented to council stated: (A) Any building in an area of the city zoned for commercial use shall be constructed so that the main entrance to the building shall be located facing the major street. (B) Parking areas shall be constructed of a hard surface, such as concrete or asphalt and kept in repair. Clark asked for clarification of section B, stating that she thought it read as though all surrounding property of a business would have to be a hard surface. Smith said it was intended to enforce hard surface on just the parking section of a property. Alderman David Harris said in order to be in compliance with the American Disability Act businesses are supposed to have a rolling surface for those who are in wheel chairs. He said he feels this act should be enforced, but that the city should not require anything beyond the act due to the expense of having a hard surface put down. (C) All mechanical apparatus, propane tanks, storage areas, trash receptacles and the like shall be screened from all public views and public rights-of-way. (D) Any facade (face of the building) visible from the public right of way shall be constructed to avoid an uninterrupted facade without architectural features to break the monotony of the facade. No more than 30 feet of the facade will be permitted without the addition of some architectural features. The owner of the property can substitute landscape design of a manner that will shield the facade of a building from public view for the requirement of the addition of architectural features under this section with the approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission. (E) The street-facing facade shall be constructed so that no more than 30 percent of the exposed facade is metal. (F) Mansard (a roof having two slopes on all four sides, with the lower slope almost vertical) features shall not be allowed on the street-facing facade. Ralph Sharp, code enforcement and Jack Kimbrell, planning and zoning commissioner, both said section F will be one that is revisited. Sharp said section F needs to be better clarified. (G) Prior to construction the owner of the property shall provide detailed architectural drawings to the Planning and Zoning Commission for the commission's review and approval. (H) Prior to construction the owner of the property shall provide a layout design plan to the Planning and Zoning Commission for the driveway entrances and exits, landscaping, signage, utility service, roof water drainage and water drainage from the property.
Judge Mark Johnson voiced his concern on this matter, as well. "If this were to go into affect, that would mean we wouldn't have the bowling alley, the Kawasaki place, the city hall building," Johnson said. "The timing of this concerns me as far as expenses; we are in a recession."
Several people also voiced concerns on the driveway covering requirements, saying how expensive it is to hard surface an area. "I had to make a choice to black top in front of my building before the tornado," Harris said. "It cost me $14,000 just to do that small area."
"I just really think this is going to scare people away," Clark said. "They will go somewhere else if they can't afford to follow our codes."
The council agreed to have Smith revise some of the requirements and bring it back to council in April. After revisions are made and the ordinance passed it will only apply to new construction in Highland. Existing structures will not be forced to comply with the code.
The removal of the Cooper residence, located at 35 Crystal Lane in Highland was also discussed. The Coopers were not present for the hearing to be held, but Harlan and Rita Davis were.
The residence has been cited as a nuisance due to the condition it has been left in since the February 2008 tornado. The council planned to hold a hearing to vote to have the structure on the property removed within 30 days if there was no compliance from the Coopers.
Harlan told the council that he and Rita were there to represent the Coopers because they had been in the works of purchasing the property. Highland Mayor Jerome Norwood told the Davises that since the property is not in their name the Coopers need to be the ones to respond.
"If the house is torn down that would defeat the reason for us purchasing the property," Davis told the council. "We feel there are many things that are salvageable and could help us financially in rebuilding on the property."
The council agreed to go ahead with the removal in 30 days, unless the Coopers give a written response as to their plans for the property.
Mayor Jerome Norwood announced that the pre-construction of the fire house will be at 2 p.m. March 23.
"This is going to be a conference between the architect, the contractor and all of the sub-contractors," Norwood said. "Its basically a finalization of the plans before they break ground and begin construction."
Norwood was also pleased to inform the council that after searching and writing several grants, ADEC approved a grant for $75,600. This grant money is specifically for the construction of the fire station, and according to Norwood should reduce the out-of-pocket cost for the city.
Citywide clean up will be the week of April 20. Because the clean up of debris and citywide clean up are separate, Norwood said anyone with debris still needing to be picked up will have to have it by the road by March 23. "If it's not out there by then, it is the resident's responsibility to get rid of," Norwood said.