The Baldwin County Commission approved a variance request for a proposed subdivision in Point Clear and denied a similar request from a community in Daphne at its regular meeting June 2.
The commission denied a variance request made by a three-lot, 28-acre subdivision in Daphne’s planning jurisdiction called Peaceful Acres. The applicant had requested the commission approve a variance from the county’s regulations on gravel roads as well as a request to privately maintain the road. The road to access the subdivision does not currently meet the county’s requirements.
Commissioner Tucker Dorsey moved to deny the request, and Commissioner Chris Elliott seconded the action. Dorsey said the request would add lots to a road maintained by the owners at a low level of maintenance and would increase traffic, making the road’s condition worse.
“This request to add lots to a road that is not maintained up to the county’s standards will just increase headaches for the county in the future,” Dorsey said.
Meanwhile, the commission approved a variance request from the Highlands of Point Clear for a development permit to allow a proposed six-lot subdivision with homes designed to be longer and narrower than the county’s subdivision rules allow. The property is located on the east side of Scenic Highway 98, approximately 1,000 feet north of Baldwin County 32 in Point Clear.
The first five lots would be approximately 1.2 acres each, 530 feet deep and 100 feet wide, resulting in a depth-to-width ratio of 5.3 to 1 for each lot. The sixth lot would be 21.25 acres with a 5.1 to 1 depth-to-width ratio. The county’s regulation allows for a ratio of no more than 4 to 1 for lots greater than 120 feet wide and 3 to 1 for lots less than 120 feet wide.
Permit and subdivision manager Seth Peterson said there is a significant portion of wetlands on the rear of the lots, and that the proposal is consistent with neighboring properties.
Several Point Clear residents spoke against the subdivision request, citing concerns about stormwater runoff and drainage. Albert Key said he lives a quarter mile south of the proposed subdivision. At a planning meeting in Fairhope, he said other residents were concerned that the new subdivision would cause greater stormwater runoff.
Key was concerned that, because the variance would allow for longer, more narrow homes, the subdivision would squeeze more homes into a smaller space, creating what he said could be more stormwater runoff on adjacent properties.
“This is in an area where we already have stormwater runoff that comes across the highway,” Key said. “This is an issue we raised (Monday) with the Fairhope planning and zoning department. They put the determination of whether or not to approve this subdivision off for 30 days so that they can have their own engineer address the concerns.”
“Our question is, what unnecessary hardship would be imposed upon the applicant if you don’t allow this variance?” Point Clear Property Owners Association president John Carden asked. “We do not understand what unnecessary hardship would be there. That’s why we are in opposition to the request.”
Commissioner Elliott said he shared some of the residents’ concerns about stormwater management, but the variance request did not deal with stormwater runoff.
“We have to take this in bite-size pieces and that’s what we are doing here,” Elliott said. “This variance request is consistent with past actions by the commission, specifically due to the amount of wetlands on this property. If you take into account the unbuildable parts of the property due to wetlands then you must adjust within those parameters.
“Another issue is that these deep lots are consistent with other lots in the area. As you know, Point Clear is famous for its narrow, long lots. That’s pretty consistent up and down the bay.”
Peterson said he has discussed the stormwater runoff issues with staff and was confident the county would be able to work through it.
Commissioners also approved the vacation of a drainage easement east of State Highway 181, part of the Highland Farms subdivision. The property is near the Dunmore subdivision and the Church of His Presence.
County engineer Cal Markert said the request was made by the county in an effort to get the property “off the books” before a proposed Alabama Department of Transportation project to widen 181 begins.
Property owners Michael D. and Alecia Carol Abbott were concerned about what will happen after the vacation. County attorney David Conner said the county has no plans to do anything with the property, but he could not speculate about how ALDOT will use it in the future.
“It is my understanding the county has never maintained this area and has no anticipated need for this area in the future for drainage,” Conner said. “I don’t know that the county has intended to exercise a prescriptive right, but it is a state-maintained highway. We are hands off as it relates to that development. That might be an issue with you and the state.
“While we may not claim a right to this property, I think the county and the state would have a problem if the property owner tried to convert that ditch or cover it up to stop the drainage and force it back upstream,” Conner concluded.
Markert said approximately 90 percent of the 1,900-foot easement is on property owned by the Abbotts, who are concerned about future drainage with proposed road construction on 181.
“From our standpoint, we are all very hopeful that we will see the widening of 181 some day, but it is our position as well that the drainage situation is well controlled by the state and I think we will see that in their construction plans,” Dorsey said.
Commissioner Frank Burt was absent from the meeting following the death of his wife the previous week.