The Mobile City Council seems prepared to vote down a plan to sell four lots inside the Chateauguay neighborhood after hearing complaints from current and former residents.
Residents in Chateauguay have been concerned about the possible sale of vacant land since the city placed “for sale” signs on the property in March. Concerns from residents ranged from a decline in property values to issues with building within a floodplain.
Councilman Fred Richardson, whose District 1 includes Chateauguay, suggested the vote be delayed longer than the one week typically followed via council rules.
“The citizens of the Chateauguay community are very disturbed that the city is putting these lots up for sale,” he said. “Many can show documentation and were sent letters that show the property is in a floodplain.”
Richardson said he was disturbed as well because he and others are unaware of what the plan for these properties is.
“What I want the mayor to know is that whatever the plan is for the property in Chateauguay,” he said, “it ought to be revealed to everyone.”
Chateauguay residents, like Mitchell Harder, asked councilors to consider the city’s previous commitments to the neighborhood when making the decision. Harder presented councilors with a letter from city officials in 1990, reassuring residents that the lots, known as “the field” would be safe from future development.
Many of the lots became vacant following a 100-year flood in the 1980s that saw both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the city purchase the land. The properties purchased by FEMA can’t be built upon. However, the properties purchased by the city through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds can be built upon, Senior Director of Neighborhood Development James Roberts told councilors.
The lots in question were purchased through CDBG funds because they were considered slum and blight following the flood event, Roberts said.
In response to Richardson’s complaints, both Roberts and Mayor Sandy Stimpson pointed out they sent an email explaining the property sales to the District 1 councilor and received the reply of “super,” which both took to mean he had signed off on it.
“I understand Mr. Richardson might have forgotten because it was back in March,” Stimpson said. “We should’ve probably come back to him.”
One of the prospective owners wishes to add onto his family home with the purchase, Stimpson said. Another family is looking to build a residence on the other lots, he said. Stimpson said he hopes those homes can be used to help inform neighbors of what the plan is. Roberts said he believes the “highest and best” use for the property is single family homes.
In addition, City Attorney Ricardo Woods said the neighborhood has approved covenants for the lots to help make sure whatever is built upon them fits in with the neighborhood.
Chateauguay resident Karen Webb said she was concerned about development’s impact on flooding, especially since her home was adjacent to the field.
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