It was virtually the final round of a months long duel between a developer who wants to build as many as 270 apartment units off Manson Pike, and residents of the neighboring Brookwood subdivision. The latter are dead set against having that many apartments as neighbors.

The developer got the rezoning he needed to proceed, but one resident, Tammie Cleek, was still throwing high heat as city council neared the rezoning vote last night.

If you are ever in a dispute, and Cleek is on the other side, you might consider switching sides.

Cleek managed to wring one more in a long series of concessions from the developer — an eight-foot high privacy fence between his 17.3 acres and her subdivision.

Debate about a buffer and a fence

Much of the talk centered around how to wall off the luxury apartments from the Brookwood single family homes next door. At first, the developer, Charles Haskett, principal partner at Bonavic Development in Birmingham, had pledged to provide a 12-foot-wife landscape buffer between the two properties. But, in a major concession, he later agreed to  erect a six-foot high privacy fence.

Cleek comes armed with evidence of her own

Until now, much of the talk from the developer’s side had been about the existing line of trees, some 60 to 80 feet tall, that already provides a lush screen between the proposed apartments and the homes. But last night, Cleek came armed with photos of her own showing the existing screen was not as thick as claimed.

To Councilman Rick LaLance, Cleek’s pictures were “eye opening” and not at all like the views he had seen in the developer’s program book.

Deja vu all over again

"Ah! Ah! Ah! Ms. Green No so fast."
“Ah! Ah! Ah! Ms. Green. No so fast.”

Mayor Shane McFarland asked Margaret Ann Green, a principal planner for the city, about the buffer and the fence. Green, who — to this eye at least — seemed intent on helping the developer make his case — said the builder would have to have at least a 12-foot wide landscaping buffer. Because he was willing to put in a fence, however, he could reduce the landscaping somewhat.
“Six feet is the industry standard,” she added on the question of the eight-foot-high fence.

It’s news to me

When asked about the demand for the eight-foot fence, she said tonight was the first time she had heard about it. That isn’t exactly true.

Last month when this item came before the city planning commissioners Joe Lozano, another neighbor, said the residents want an eight-foot high chain-link fence with material on it to keep people from peering through.

At the time, Green explained that the project will come under the city’s Gateway District rules, which don’t permit fences above six feet or chain-link fences if they are visible from the main roadway.

When LaLance asked the applicant if he would agree to put in an eight-foot high fence, Clyde Rountree, the developer’s representative, looked over at his boss for an answer. Before he got one, Councilman Ron Washington shot in: “I would prefer an eight-foot fence; I’m telling you.”

Happy to help

Rountree replied that the developer would be “more than willing” (a phrase he used often) to comply.

In making the motion to approve the rezoning request to a planned residential development, Vice Mayor Doug Young called it a win-win for both sides.

“I appreciate the work you’ve done to protect your neighborhood,” he said to the residents. “And it is going to pay off. They’ve gonna give you an eight-foot fence and make sure the landscaped berm is ample enough to give you privacy. There will be no egress — traffic back and forth. He (the applicant) has addressed the cave issue (there is a major cave on the property) by bringing in an expert. He will make sure the (historic) house on the property is utilized and not bulldozed. And it could be bulldozed tomorrow if this project blows up. Everybody did not get everything that they wanted, but you got  whole lot.”

The cave entrance is at the bottom of the open space triangle on the right. Springfield house is at the end of the entrance road in the middle. The pool is on the far left.
The cave entrance is at the bottom of the open space triangle on the right. Springfield house is at the end of the horizontal entrance road in the middle. The pool is on the far left. The vertical road is closed to the outside for everything but emergency vehicles. The cemetery is in the square cutout at the bottom left.

Haskett estimated construction would begin by late summer or early fall.

Pow wow in the lobby

As they talked outside the meeting, there seemed to be mutual respect between Hasket and Cleek. Haskett complimented her on the job she had done defending her neighborhood, and she thanked Haskett for the good faith he had shown in making all the concessions.

Haskett said she might be pleasantly surprised at having his luxury apartments as neighbors. He noted that some townhouse developments have become run down even though they are owner occupied rather than rented.

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Click this link for a history of the project and details on all the concessions made by a developer, who also wanted to be a good neighbor: