Alluding to the possibility of a future lawsuit, members of the Mobile City Council denied a rezoning request to allow a new Spring Hill Animal Clinic on church-owned land near a historic black neighborhood.
After a two-week delay to allow developers and neighbors to come to an agreement, councilors voted unanimously on Thursday, Nov. 14 to deny the application, but not before lamenting the lack of progress toward a deal.
Councilman Joel Daves compared the site to property near Airport Boulevard and University, where neighbors fought a rezoning to allow a CVS Pharmacy. In that case, rezoning was also denied, but a suit brought by developers was eventually successful and the drug store sits at the intersection now.
Although he joined his colleagues in voting the animal clinic rezoning down, he warned neighbors about rejecting compromises while they still had leverage.
“I wish a compromise could’ve been worked out,” he said. “If the application goes to Circuit Court, it has a good chance in succeeding.”
Councilwoman Gina Gregory, who represents the Sand Town area on council, warned residents if a lawsuit is successful, developers would be able to build the clinic on the site without any conditions, other than what is legally required.
Gregory said she hopes the community can move past this issue now, acknowledging no matter how she votes, she will make a segment of the population she represents unhappy.
“This issue has been a very long and difficult one,” she said. “I really hate what I’ve seen happen to a small portion of my district over an animal clinic.”
Gregory herself has not been immune to allegations related to this issue. She stated publicly she received an email accusing her of being a member of a shell company.
“Usually I let those go, but this one was a new low,” she said.
Mary Edmonds, a veterinary and partner in Spring Hill Animal Clinic, said developers made efforts to compromise, but neighbors were unwilling to give an inch.
“We made concessions, but the neighbors didn’t make any concessions,” she told councilors. “We were hoping for compromise and are very disappointed that we didn’t have one.”
Among the compromises Edmonds discussed with neighbors and put into the plans for the new clinic was an “enlarged” 20-foot buffer, a “neighborhood-friendly” building design, no commercial traffic allowed onto Knowles Lane, no business hours on weekends, no outdoor kennel activity during church hours and the addition of a neighborhood park.
“The neighbors don’t want any change,” Edmonds told councilors.
Edmonds had hoped to build a creole-cottage style office equipped with kennel runs underneath for boarding of dogs and an eight-foot retaining wall. Neighbors had been concerned with the presence of dogs outside because of barking.
The property, currently owned by St. Ignatius Church, is zoned residential. Edmonds had hoped the council would approve a recommendation by the Planning Commission to rezone it commercial to allow for the clinic. The planning staff had recommended the application for denial.
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