The Planning Commission will consider a conditional use request for a private dormitory project planned for the northeast corner of Samford Avenue and Armstrong Street at its meeting today.
The request from Buckaroo Enterprises LLC was originally on last month's agenda before being pulled at the applicant's request. The property at 355 Armstrong St. is located in Urban Neighborhood-South, which permits private dormitories conditionally.
The project would bring a three-story building to the corner, with two five-bedroom units and two four-bedroom units on the interior in a town-house style configuration.
While the requested private dormitory use is unlikely to bring much objection from commissioners, the proposed design of the building elicited several comments at the Planning Commission packet meeting on Monday that echoed concerns included in staff comments about the design in meeting materials.
"The proposed development is slightly inconsistent with the goal that redevelopment complements the existing neighborhood's appearance. Staff would prefer that the design of the private dormitory be better integrated into the fabric of the neighborhood," stated the staff comments. "In this instance, staff is not concerned about the use's compatibility with the community; rather, staff has some concern that the design inhibits its ability to blend in with its surroundings."
Planning Department staff has worked with the applicant's representative on some of the exterior architectural components, said Planning Director Forrest Cotten.
"Some adjustments have been made, not significant by any means, but some adjustments have been made," said Cotten, who added that two meetings have been held over the past month — one with the applicant and their attorney and the other exclusively with the architect.
Principal Planner Tyler Caldwell indicated that the applicant plans to save the two pecan trees in the front yard facing Samford Avenue within the 10-foot setback.
"That appears to be doable," he said, adding that the architect made minor adjustments in design to the massing of the structure.
Cotten said planning staff has recommended approval of the use request.
"The issue has been what I consider to be compatible architecturally with the surrounding neighborhood," he said.
Planning commissioner Mack LaZenby asked Cotten if it was possible for the commission to get something that more resembled a professional architectural rendering.
Cotten said he thought that was a reasonable request.
"I'd kind of like to see a little bit more," said LaZenby.
Commissioner Robert Ritenbaugh asked whether the commission should be concerned with the architecture as it considers whether to recommend approval for the conditional use.
"I think there's a case," said Cotten. "We've done some real research into that. I do know that we have some constraints on what we can do architecturally by Alabama law.
"But architecturally, there is an issue with compatibility. I think that is something, in my opinion, that is reasonable to be considered, but I'm also going to get a second opinion."
In response to a question from commissioner Warren McCord on whether architecture could be considered as an issue of compatibility, which is under the commission's purview when considering a conditional use request, Cotten said he had a brief conversation with the city's legal counsel and could provide a clearer picture at the regular meeting tonight.
"This would get lost on Armstrong, but it's not on Armstrong, it's on Samford, and it's going to look ... possibly out of place," said Ritenbaugh.
The Planning Commission will meet tonight at 5 p.m. in City Council Chambers on Ross Street.
"I expect this to be the big public-input item," Cotten said.
Also at its meeting tonight, the Planning Commission will consider two requests from Clayton Properties Group LLC, including one that seeks a recommendation for conditional use approval for a public service use within the Woodward Oaks Planned Development District.
That municipal use is the city's planned sixth fire station off of West Farmville Road.
In August, the Auburn City Council approved the purchase of the 2.62 acres of property for $90,000.