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Proposed site ordinance hits a snag

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

A proposed new city ordinance hit a snag Tuesday.

Intended to overhaul how site plans for commercial buildings are submitted and reviewed in Decatur, the ordinance was up for consideration by the Decatur Planning Commission.

But after nearly 40 minutes of discussion, the commission tabled a request to pass the ordinance on to the City Council for final approval.

Instead, the proposal will move to a special committee, where it will undergo further review and possible tweaking.

Planning Commission Chairman Gil Aldrich said he liked the ordinance and was anxious to pass it but felt further review was warranted.

Officials with the Planning Department say the ordinance will replace existing rules for site-plan evaluation, combining them into a single, easily understood ordinance.

But the ordinance does call for some changes to the current procedures.

If passed into law, it would force more builders to submit site plans by requiring site-plan approval for all commercial structures built along any road designated as a collector, arterial or major street.

A minimum of 25 copies of the site plan would have to be submitted to the Planning Department at least 21 days prior to the Planning Commission meeting to consider the development.

The ordinance also would require additional information concerning planned traffic flow and drainage on the property to ensure it does not encroach on neighboring properties. And it would increase minimum drainage requirements.

Other provisions would provide methods to bypass parts or all of the site-plan requirements. In order to do so, city administrators would have to agree that a proposed structure would not affect traffic flow or drainage in the area. The structure also could not have a negative effect on surrounding residential areas or significantly change a previous or existing building's footprint.

After Tuesday's meeting, local design engineer Blake McAnally, president of Pugh Wright and Associates, said he has no problem with site-plan reviews, but he still had questions about when certain aspects of the site plan would be required.

He also said the three-week time frame could delay construction dates for his clients, and the minimum drainage requirements could be cost prohibitive.

Whatever the Planning Commission decides, McAnally said Decatur has always been one of the easiest cities in North Alabama to obtain a building permit in.

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