At its meeting on Thursday evening, the Auburn Planning Commission will consider a packed slate of agenda items, including two that will likely draw plenty of comments during the public hearings. 

The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. and take place in the City Council Chambers on Ross Street.

The commission will consider a request from Buckaroo Enterprises LLC for a conditional-use approval for a private dormitory use on the northeast corner of Armstrong Street and Samford Avenue. 

The property, located at 355 Armstrong St., is zoned Urban Neighborhood–South, where private dormitories are permitted conditionally and the maximum height allowed is 45 feet. The proposed building is 30 feet high at the eave.

Under the description of UN-S in the city ordinance, it states that "innovation and professionalism in quality urban design is strongly encouraged."

The proposed design of the building, which will house four town house-style units with 18 beds on three floors, was addressed in Planning Department staff comments on the development, for which staff recommended approval. 

"The proposed development is slightly inconsistent with the goal that redevelopment complements the existing neighborhood's appearance," states the staff comment. "The elevations of the proposed building draws little inspiration from the neighborhood and will seem out of place in a district that has a consistent vernacular for larger residential structures. Staff would prefer the applicant reconsider the design of the private dormitory to better integrate it into the fabric of the neighborhood.

"In this instance, staff is not concerned about the use's compatibility with the community. Instead, staff is concerned that the design of the development will inhibit its ability to blend in with its surroundings."

At the Planning Commission's packet meeting on Monday, Planning Director Forrest Cotten said staff had discussed multiple times their reservations about the building design with the developer, who indicated that it would not change. 

"The staff has met with the applicant, or their representatives, on multiple occasions, and have seriously encouraged other alternatives and have been unsuccessful in doing that," he said. 

Being located on a property zoned UN-S, the proposed project does not fall under the purview of the Downtown Design Review Committee, whose recommendations are advisory and nonbinding. 

"They say beauty’s in the eye of the beholder — I’ll put you on notice, I’m going blind," said Planning Commissioner Mack LaZenby at the packet meeting.

Elsewhere on the agenda, the commission will consider a request from Owens Family Partnership LLC for a recommendation for conditional-use approval for a performance residential development that includes 21 town houses planned for vacant property between North Donahue Drive and the backside of Cary Woods. 

The property is zoned Development District Housing, which serves as a transitional zoning, or zoning buffer, between the Comprehensive Development District on the corner of Shug Jordan Parkway and North Donahue and Cary Woods, which is zoned Neighborhood Conservation District. Town houses are a conditional use in DDH. 

Submitted plans show 21 town houses at the south edge of the property, which would have road access to North Donahue and connect to Cary Woods via Owens Road. There would also be 29 single-family performance homes on the south part of the development. 

"Presumably, one would expect there would be minimal traffic going from (the town houses) into Cary Woods versus I would think there would be considerably more traffic coming out of Cary Woods to North Donahue," said Cotten about the impact of vehicular traffic on the proposed connecting road between Donahue and Owens Road. 

On the north side of the property, 10 more single-family performance homes are planned that would only have access through Cary Woods by connecting to Cedarbrook Drive.

The item is expected to draw comments from Cary Woods residents, who were vocal during a public hearing  about their concerns when the Walmart Neighborhood Market  on the corner of North Donahue and Shug Jordan Parkway was being considered by the Planning Commission and City Council in 2014.

"We had and we do expect to have a lot of folks out from Cary Woods," said Cotten. 

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