The planned expansion of a veterinary clinic into a Spring Hill neighborhood has residents growling about the Mobile Planning Commission.
The Mobile City Council will have the final say Tuesday, Sept. 24 on whether to grant the rezoning request of Spring Hill Animal Clinic and Dr. Mary Edmonds to allow her to expand her practice onto land currently zoned residential.
“We need more space,” Edmonds said. “The business is growing. We’re not looking to be a ginormous veterinary clinic. We just need some space and we need a yard.”
During the public hearing it’s likely councilors will hear from residents opposed to the move for a number of reasons. Barbara Smith, president of the Sand Town Community Action Group, said residents don’t want the property rezoned at all.
“We welcome the development of the property under the current zoning,” she said.
Residents are also concerned about noise from the facility, which will include seven kennel runs for the boarding of dogs.
“This is pretty much a 24-hour operation,” she said.
Smith also says the expansion of the clinic will negatively affect the oldest African American neighborhood in Spring Hill by depressing property values.
Edmonds said that while some boarding of animals will take place, it won’t be the majority of the business. In addition, she said the animals will mostly be inside and will only come outside a few times per day.
“In Mobile, it’s hot half the year and rainy the other half,” Edmonds said. “Most people keep dogs inside. There won’t be dogs barking all day.”
Edmonds and Smith also disagree over how the residents have been treated throughout the process. Smith blames St. Ignatius Catholic Church, which is listed as the property owner in Mobile Planning Commission documents, and Edmonds of not properly notifying residents.
“These people have been working on this for months and no one was notified,” Smith said. “No one asked the residents about what we think about it.”
However, Edmonds said they’ve met with residents and have made concessions to help move the project forward. Edmonds said one of the four lots in question will remain residential and the clinic will increase its buffer to 10 feet and 20 feet respectively in areas that are adjacent to residential property.
Edmonds said the property is the best available fit for her needs, given there are so few options for undeveloped land along the Old Shell Road corridor.
“Between [Interstate] 65 and Municipal Park there are two pieces of property available,” Edmonds said. “They’re both residential. There’s a third, but it’s in a floodplain.”
Smith criticizes Edmonds for not moving the clinic to a piece of property across Springhill Avenue and away from the neighborhood, but Edmonds said that piece of property was under contract with someone else.
Planning staff had recommended the commission deny the rezoning request because “the applicant has not sufficiently proven that there are indeed changes in the area which make the rezoning necessary or desirable” and “the applicant has not sufficiently proven that there is a need to increase the number of sites available to business or industry.”
The council will hold a hearing on the rezoning at 10:30 a.m.
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