Horses in property issue stabled until March
By Melanie B. Smith
email@example.com · 340-2468
Horses that belong to Minnie Wheeler's family still don't have approval to live on land Wheeler bought within Decatur's city limits.
The Decatur Planning Commission tabled her rezoning application after a neighbor complained about drainage from the property.
The site is next to the Decatur Cemetery, south of Second Street Southwest and east of 14th Avenue. It is zoned R-2, single-family residential. Wheeler wants it zoned agricultural, AG-1.
James Earl Mitchell of 606 14th Ave. S.W. told the commission that water drains from the 3.6 acres and runs between three houses, including his. Mitchell said his house backs up to the land, and he's noticed settling in his kitchen, which he believes is caused by dirt washing from beneath his home's foundation.
Mitchell said afterward that he has taken his complaints to different city officials over the years but nothing has been done. He said he didn't know who owned the land until Wheeler bought it.
Minnie Wheeler's son, George Wheeler, said afterward that the city and the previous owner should have addressed drainage issues long ago, and the complaint has nothing to do with the horses. Minnie Wheeler bought the land in 2006.
Chairman Gil Aldrich said the delay would give Wheeler and the commission time to seek solutions.
"They keep putting us off longer and longer," said Minnie Wheeler afterward.
The Board of Zoning Adjustment told the Wheelers in December that the request to keep horses was outside the board's scope. Minnie Wheeler withdrew her request and agreed to seek rezoning.
A Building Department inspector had stopped George Wheeler's work on a barn because he did not have a permit. When he sought a permit, Wheeler said he learned about the property's zoning as single-family residential, which doesn't permit owners to keep livestock.
Minnie Wheeler bought the property after a family member, who leased adjacent property for the horses, died. City Council President Billy Jackson now leases that land.
The Wheelers and others kept horses in the area for years and before the city adopted its current codes.
The commission will take up the issue again at its March meeting.
More drainage woes
Drainage also was a concern for three other property owners regarding another rezoning request.
Herman Casey, Scott Casey and Jerry Wayne Keys said they did not oppose rezoning of a half-acre lot north of Beltline Road and west of Sandlin Road Southwest.
Owner Jimmy Johnson wanted it rezoned from single-family residential to general business. Scott Casey said he understood that no one would want to build a house on the lot facing the Beltline.
But the men, whose properties are north of the Beltline lot, said rainwater from Beltline development floods their neighborhood.
Herman Casey and his son, Scott Casey, said after the meeting that when heavy rains come, their yards on Briarwood are inundated.
The commission approved the rezoning for Johnson but requested that he talk with Herman Casey about creating a barrier wall or fence, which the Caseys also want.
Councilman Ronny Russell told the Caseys afterward that he would get the city engineer to check the flooding problem.
In other business, the commission adopted a resolution approving the recently completed Alabama 20 highway study by Skipper Engineering of Birmingham and agreeing that median cuts not included in the firm's recommendations be closed immediately.
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