By MADOLINE MARKHAM
Walmart has discussed developing a Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery store on the five acres adjacent to Beech Circle, and Crestline residents are concerned about the prospect. The city of Birmingham property is located across from Trinity Medical Center on Montclair Road.
“There is no agreement in place now,” said Sonny Culp, real estate broker for the property and Senior Vice President of Graham & Company. Culp, a Crestline resident, said he could not confirm who the party interested in development is, but he acknowledged that it has leaked out from other sources that it is Walmart.
“The neighborhood wishes to maintain the character of this area as it is and not to allow the kind of development that exists east of this area on Montclair Road to move into this area,” said Crestline Neighborhood Association President Sandra Storm.
Emails have circulated raising awareness of the issue among residents and asking neighbors to voice their opinions. A “No Wal-Mart in my Crestline Area” Facebook group had 239 members as of mid-June.
“We would consider buying [the five acres], I but don’t think Birmingham would consider selling,” Mayor Terry Oden said. “It’s an income producer for them.”
The property was previously athletic fields for the old John Carroll Catholic High School campus and is currently zoned for medical and office use.
The five acres, along with the 16 next to it, have been for sale for almost three years.
Arlington Properties, the developer of Hallman Hill in Homewood, has an agreement to purchase the other 16 acres to build more than 200 high-end apartments. The proposal has been met with favor by the surrounding neighborhood associations, Culp said, and is pending to be rezoned for residential use.
Regardless of the five acres’ buyer, Arlington Properties is concerned about who their neighbor will be. They have negotiated for and received complete approval of restrictions on the five acres.
The property will never be able to be used for a variety of things including a secondhand store, liquor store, bowling alley, skating rinks, flea markets, arcades and any development that sells of pornographic materials or creates objectionable noise.
“Anyone who wants to be opposed to something should make their voice heard,” Culp said. “The good news is there is a system in place to do so.”
If a developer were to apply for rezoning for the property, it would first submit an application with the City of Birmingham. From there, it would present its plans to the neighborhood association, and the neighborhood association would vote on the proposal. The Zoning Applications Committee would take into consideration the neighborhood’s wishes among other things and then make a recommendation to the City Council, who will then make the final decision on the rezoning.
Culp held a meeting on June 1 with the Crestline Neighborhood Association to address the status of the property. During the meeting, he explained that no decision had been made and how the rezoning procedure would work.
Charles Graham, also of Graham & Company, Councilor Valerie Abbott, Mayor Oden and David Ricker for Birmingham Councilor Kim Rafferty also attended the meeting.
Residents and Oden argue that the area already has plenty of grocers within close driving distance.
“Winn Dixie, Publix, Piggly Wiggly, Aldi and Walmart are all within a mile radius,” Oden said. “We do not need another grocery store. It would be cannibalizing those [existing] stores.”
Both the neighborhood association and Oden said that such development would require “spot zoning,” which they believe to be a bad principle.
The Crestline Neighborhood Association has already voted to support residential zoning at this location. “We would like to see the property used in a manner appropriate for the area and the zoning,” Storm said.
“I’m always a green space person and would love to see a park,” Oden said, “An office building would be acceptable.”
Storm said that the proposal impacts Mountain Brook residents and welcomes the interest so many have shown in the proposal.
“We are all in this together,” she said. “We are all interested in maintaining the character of our neighborhoods and the property values of our homes.“
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