By Sandra Nickel
Most recently, the discussion took place in Cloverdale-Idlewild, where a property management company wanted to convert one apartment in a fourplex into their Montgomery office. The “nays” had it at the neighborhood association meeting and the property manager, I’m told, decided not to bring the battle to City Hall without the Association’s support.
A few months prior, the operators of Dreamz Banquet Facility (511 E. Edgemont Ave.) had petitioned to become a regular neighborhood restaurant with normal operating hours and, of course, a liquor license — much like its predecessor, the Sahara, had been. Insiders tell me the CIA vote on that one was very close and that the request for association support for the liquor license request was narrowly defeated.
My own neighborhood, the Garden District, is girding its loins for a discussion regarding a proposed city-developed “master plan” that suggests a considerable amount of the land in the northern area be rezoned Mixed Use and Multi-Family. A number of folks have already made it clear that they will “fight to the death” any effort on the part of anyone to change any Garden District zoning to anything other than simple single family residential.
The outcome may resemble what happened in border states 150+ years ago: friends lining up on both sides of the issue. Families disagreeing among themselves. You get the picture.
All of this has caused me to reflect seriously on the right/wrongness of non-residential zoning in our area. And it has brought me to the awareness that, at least in part, Midtown is an area growing in demand because we are not strictly residential, not in spite of it.
Imagine Old Cloverdale and Cloverdale-Idlewild without the shops, eateries and drinkeries along East Fairview and Cloverdale Road! Heck, we here at Sandra Nickel Hat Team, REALTORS, have come to expect buyer prospects to tell us, “I want to be within walking distance (sometimes crawling distance!) of The Strip.”
The charrettes done for both commercial districts gathered hundreds of public comments. And the theme was pretty consistent: We love the businesses we have in the area and would welcome more like them.
As a little girl, I can remember my mother sending me to our neighborhood “little store” for a loaf of bread or a bottle (yes, glass bottle) of milk. It was a 4 block walk and seen as a real Godsend to our one-car family, whose male breadwinner drove off to work every morning.
Why, then, is there this persistent opposition to having businesses in our midst? I’m told it has to do with the emergence of Euclidian zoning (so named after the City of Euclid in Ohio, where such zoning originated in 1916) calling for different land uses (houses, apartments, businesses, factories, etc.) to be separated. The VA and FHA, monstrous sources of mortgage guarantees in post-WWII America, strongly encouraged new housing development according to Euclidian guidelines. Old habits and attitudes die hard, I guess.
Fast forward to the 21st century here in Montgomery. We see family after family fleeing East Montgomery for neighborhoods like McGehee Estates, Edgewood, Old Cloverdale. Why? Because they are close to downtown jobs and generally within walking distance of places to eat, shop, and recreate.
Bottom line: The next time you’re invited to participate in a zoning debate, do so thoughtfully. And perhaps only after walking to Derk’s, Sinclair’s, Bud’s or another favorite stop.
See you in the neighborhood!
Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 29 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.