The Baldwin County Planning and Zoning Commission approved a controversial proposal to build a 288-unit apartment complex adjacent to the Historic Malbis subdivision last week, after initially tabling the proposal in July. The plan originally drew heavy opposition from homeowners in the neighboring subdivision, where residents were concerned about property values, noise and light pollution, access and traffic, among other things.
But on Aug. 12, Planning Director Matthew Brown told the Commission developers had made a number of concessions to address the concerns, and advised the Commission it had little choice other than to approve the application. The 42-acre property, currently a wooded area just east of Historic Malbis on U.S. Highway 90, is just outside of Daphne corporate limits but within Baldwin County’s Planning District 7. However, because District 7 is unzoned, the Commission could not consider proposed uses on the property.
“Alabama courts have held that a planning commission has little choice but to approve a subdivision request that conforms to the regulations,” Brown said. Staff recommended approval of the site plan, contingent upon the presence and maintenance of a secondary “emergency” access, one planned to be located on Papas Street, through Historic Malbis.
The developers will build a locked gate for the emergency entrance 50 feet inside the property line, providing as-needed access for first responders but prohibiting commuters from driving through the neighborhood.
In a letter dated Aug. 2 from developer Malbis Plantation Inc. to the Historic Malbis Neighborhood Association, the developers indicated the site plan had been amended to appease some residents’ concerns. Primarily, the site will be surrounded by an 8-foot privacy fence and maintain a minimum of 30-feet of natural buffer, while a trash compactor has been relocated further from existing housing.
Ercil Godwin, an engineer for Sawgrass Consulting, also elaborated on the traffic plan on Highway 90. There, developers intend to construct acceleration and deceleration lanes into and out of the apartments. According to plans, Parkside at Eastern Shore will feature 96 one-bedroom units, 168 two-bedroom units, and 24 three-bedroom units.
Doug Anderson, an attorney representing a group of Historic Malbis homeowners, said residents “understand and realize the property is unzoned and the developer has made a lot of commitments he is not legally obligated to do.”
“Anytime you represent a large neighborhood you can’t make everybody happy … but I can honestly state that the developer has gone above and beyond in doing what he can and the final plat does reflect a lot of the concessions he made and on behalf of my clients, we’re not going to voice any opposition to this project.”
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