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Riverside Council talks Mckesie rezoning during work session

Riverside Teaser

Riverside City Hall

RIVERSIDE — The Riverside City Council spent much of its work session Monday discussing a rezoning issue the council discussed in June.

During the work session, the council considered rezoning of property on McKesie Street from agricultural to residential at the request of Councilman Bill Cantley. The motion had been approved by the city planning and zoning commission, but the council chose to take no action after holding its own public hearing. Cantley said he wanted to reject the rezoning citing a section in the city ordinances that deals with planning and zoning. 

Under the section “city council action” the ordinance says the council must hold a public hearing at its next council meeting after receiving a proposed zoning amendment from the commission, give proper public notice for that hearing and decide by majority vote whether to approve or reject the amendment after the hearing.

Cantley pointed out the fourth item in that section which states: “If the city council takes no final action upon the proposed amendment within 90 days after the receipt of the recommendation of the planning commission, the proposed amendment shall be deemed to have been approved by the council.”

Cantley said he understands that to mean the council has 90 days to act on the issue or it would be considered passed. But, Mayor Rusty Jessup disagreed with that interpretation. 

The mayor said that after talking with the city attorney, the Alabama League of Municipalities and the Greater Birmingham Regional Planning Commission, he believes the ordinance to mean that if the council took no action, as it chose to do, the action becomes law.

“We took no action,” Jessup said. “We don’t have 90 days. It doesn't say you’ve got 90 days.”

Councilman Sam Maddox agreed with the mayor, saying that the council had the opportunity to take action and chose not to do so.

Cantley argued that it did give the council time to make a decision within that time period.

“It hasn't been 90 days yet,” he said.

Responded Jessup: “It was within 90 days when we took no action."

The mayor then asked Cantley if he wanted to pull the plug on the whole development. 

“No, they can still put homes out there,” Cantley said. “Just put them every five acres instead of every half acre.”

He also said that the zoning was against the city’s town sketch.

Jessup then said that either way it had been approved by the commission and would become law after 90 days.

“If you think that we have violated the law somewhere, you need to get a lawyer and file a suit against the city,” the mayor said. 

Jessup then offered that the city could hold a third public hearing before the council voted on it again, though he said he would not vote in favor. 

Cantley said that a third hearing is not mentioned anywhere in the city’s ordinances, something Jessup agreed with him on.

“It's not provided in there and we would be on very shaky ground,” the mayor said, “but we’re certainly not going to go in there tonight and decide to pull the plug on this thing with nobody here. Nobody’s involved.”

Cantley continued to disagree. 

“You're not pulling the plug, it hasn't been approved,” he said. 

Jessup said it had been by default since the council took no action. 

Councilman Todd Pierce said he remembered that the council had said during the public hearing that the council needed more time to look at traffic studies and environmental impact.

Jessup said that might have been said but all the council needed to do was table it. Cantley said they did, though T.C. Carr, who sits on the Riverside Variance Board and regularly attends council meetings, said Jessup had asked for a motion on the matter and no one made a motion to approve, reject or table the amendment.

Cantley then said that during the June meeting, Jessup had informed the council they had 90 days, something Jessup told the council he had been mistaken about at its July 18 meeting.

Eventually the mayor asked for a straw poll on if the council would support pulling the plug on the development. Maddox and Councilman Dan Cain both said they wouldn't be in favor of that, though it should be noted the council was in a work session and therefore could not hold any binding vote on anything. 

After Cantley again brought up possible traffic issues, Maddox asked him what a traffic study would actually do for the city. 

Maddox then asked Cantley if he was against the development because it might affect traffic on Sprayberry Road where he lives. 

Cantley said he would be fine with 50 houses instead of nearly 100.

Maddox said he looks at this potential growth as new water customers, garbage customers and families in the city. 

“I told them a while ago, I can take 75 or even a 100 new homes and if I can get a third of them I can fill up Riverside Church with them,” he said. “That's growth in Riverside.”

Cantley said that growth isn’t in the town sketch.

“Then we need to change the sketch,” Maddox retorted. 

Ultimately after much heated discussion the council moved on to the rest of its business in the work session. The zoning issue was not added to the council’s agenda for its regular meeting, nor mentioned during the meeting itself. 

In other matters, the council:

—Approved a lump sum payment to Retirement Systems of Alabama for retired city employees totaling $1,920;

—Accepted the first reading of a city ordinance banning the use of engine compression breaks, also known as jake brakes, while in the city limits of Riverside;

—Accepted the first reading of an ordinance instituting a fine for repeated  false alarm fire alarm calls within a calendar year. The ordinance would fine business or residents $50 beginning at the fourth occurrence and $100 beginning on the seventh occurrence;

—Requested bids on road repair and resurfacing for Lakeview Circle, Sparrow Land and Hamilton Lane with a secondary bid fro Deerfield Road from Sparrow to Sprayberry, East Coleman Avenue and Pine Street, 

—Requested bids for a new battery powered rescue tool and a Lucas Device for the fire department in an amount not to exceed $44,000 to be paid for with money from the sale of the department’s brush truck;

—Approved the Division G Hazard Mitigation Plan.


Taylor Mitchell is a Daily Home reporter covering Pell City.