The Hoover City Council, in a 3-3 vote, on Tuesday night rejected a Walmart request to allow earlier morning product deliveries to the John Hawkins Parkway store and allow serviced restaurants driving on the mall lot that includes Walmart.
The claim was strongly opposed by residents of the adjacent community of Cahaba River Estates, who unsuccessfully tried to block the mall’s creation in 1999 and eventually settled a lawsuit over it that included a court-approved settlement agreement. court with zoning restrictions.
These zoning restrictions, approved by City Council in 1999, prohibited deliveries between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and prohibited fast-food restaurants with a drive-thru window or serving customers in vehicles, at the exception of a restaurant where food could be picked up at a drive-up counter but not ordered at a drive-up or exterior counter.
Last year, Walmart called for a ban on drive-thru restaurants to be removed and asked for permission to allow deliveries from 4 a.m. instead of 7 a.m.
Deliveries of fresh items such as meat and produce did not arrive in time to stock shelves for early morning shoppers, planner Mac Martin said.
City administrator Allan Rice, a member of the current zoning board, also said the restaurant industry has changed and many restaurants that aren’t considered “fast food” are now offering service. driving and curbside, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Residents of Cahaba River Estates argued that zoning restrictions were put in place in 1999 to protect the neighborhood and said they did not want to see those protections removed.
Some residents have argued that even the city cannot change the zoning restrictions without court approval or the agreement of all parties in the 1999 lawsuit. A Jefferson County judge late last year ruled the city had the authority to change zoning restrictions, but residents of Cahaba River Estates asked the judge to reconsider that decision.
On Tuesday night, councilors John Lyda, Steve McClinton and Casey Middlebrooks voted against Walmart’s request, while councilors Mike Shaw, Sam Swiney and Curt Posey voted in favor of the request.
The request needed a majority of votes to succeed and therefore failed.
Posey said Walmart is a valuable company for the city and he doesn’t think the company’s request for two “small” changes to zoning conditions is unreasonable in the current business environment.
If Walmart doesn’t get what it wants there, it could decide to vacate that location for another location and leave behind a vacant big-box store, Posey said.
But McClinton said he thinks it’s important the city fulfills the promises made to residents more than 20 years ago.
“My job is to make sure those promises made to residents years ago are still kept,” McClinton said.
Lyda said issues like this are best resolved not by litigation and contentious zoning hearings, but by parties working together to find a compromise.
“Reasonable people can come to reasonable solutions if they are willing to come together to find common ground,” Lyda said.
He expects the parties involved to eventually come together to find a mutually agreeable solution and bring it back to town for another vote, he said.
Barry Vickery, another member of the Cahaba River Estates Homeowners Association who was involved in the 1999 lawsuit, said he was happy with council’s decision on Tuesday night but also thinks the case will come back.
But first, with an appeal still in circuit court, “it has to play out in court,” he said.
In other business Tuesday evening, the city council:
- Agreed to allow the Universal Church to locate in the Lorna Town Square Mall at 3133 Lorna Road, Suite 109, (next to the Golden Corral Restaurant) so long as no assembly is held unless at least 25% of businesses in the mall are closed except Wednesday after 5pm and Sunday all day.
- Approved an agreement with Shelby County that requires the county to pay up to $250,000 for the construction of an additional classroom at the National Computer Forensics Institute at the Hoover Public Safety Center, in addition to architect fees. The City of Hoover will handle demolition and construction management and pay any additional costs for adding classrooms and new offices for the institute, according to the agreement.
- Heard numerous complaints about stormwater runoff issues near the Magnolia Grove Subdivision and in the Southlake community and calls for the city to help fix the issues, which residents say have plagued them for years.