The dirt pile refers to a 10-acre site on the north side of U.S. Highway 280 at Green Valley Road that was left as a huge pile of dirt after a failed rezoning request in the 1980s. It was eventually purchased by Bayer Properties and developed as Cahaba Village, a retail and residential project anchored by Whole Foods Market.
Until 1979 the site was a heavily wooded ravine watered by a small tributary of Shades Creek which served as a buffer between Lockerbie and other residential areas extending toward Cahaba Heights and the rapidly-growing traffic corridor of Highway 280. The land was zoned for residential purposes by Mountain Brook.
That year attorney John DuBuys took possession of the property in payment for legal services. He formed Greenbriar LLC with contractor Jody Saia and began planning the development of a large service station with diesel pumps for tractor trailers on the site. After the city refused to rezone the land to permit the development, DuBuys filed the first of four lawsuits against the City of Mountain Brook seeking to force a favorable zoning. The issue reached the Alabama Supreme Court which ruled in favor of the city.
During the course of litigation, Greenbriar had the property clear-cut and filled with dirt -- a gesture widely viewed as spiteful and unanimously reviled as an eyesore. Further discussions regarding commercial development of the site were met with resistance from the city and from mayor Terry Oden.
In 2004, however, the Mountain Brook City Council approved a development plan submitted by Bayer Properties and re-zoned the property for mixed-use development. They also agreed, at Bayer's request, to approve a re-configuration of the intersection of Green Valley Road with the highway and provided $5 million in tax abatements as an incentive to the developer. Oden vetoed the Council, but his veto was overridden. Residents of Lockerbie presented petitions with over 4,800 signatures and filed their own suit to stop the development, arguing that the site should be restored as a nature preserve, but were unsuccessful. Bayer proceeded with construction and the Whole Foods Market at Cahaba Village opened in February 2007.
- Geiss, Chuck (May 5, 2004) "Naked Birmingham: Publisher's Notebook." Black & White.