Dozens of residents attended the Fairhope Planning Commission’s July 1 meeting to express concerns about a large new residential and commercial planned unit development proposed on the northwest corner of Fairhope Avenue and State Route 181, on a vacant field that has historically been used as a private, unpaved landing strip for small agricultural aircraft.
The Gayfer Village Partners PUD, also known as the Klumpp PUD, encompasses 75.93 acres which is currently unzoned in Baldwin County’s Planning District 14. The proposal, which was approved by the Planning Commission, was to annex the property into the city of Fairhope and develop it into 16 general business lots, 232 apartments and 77 single-family residential lots.
According to records at the Secretary of State’s office, the registered agent for Gayfer Village Partners LLC is Haymes Snedeker, the city of Fairhope’s municipal judge and co-founder and principal of Hix Snedeker Companies, a commercial property developer. Gayfer Village’s certificate of formation, filed in Baldwin County probate court last August, is signed by Ray Hix Jr., Snedeker’s business partner. In June, Hix resigned as a board member of Fairhope Airport Authority, citing personal reasons.
Probate records also indicate in September 2018, the Klumpp family transferred the deed on the property to Gayfer Village for $5.4 million, with Hix securing a mortgage on the property for $4,320,000.
At the meeting July 1, the developer was listed as Tom Mitchell, whose relationship to Hix Snedeker is not known.
Interim Planning Director Buford King said the proposal is in line with the city’s comprehensive plan, which recommends “village centers” at both the Fairhope Avenue and County Road 104 intersections with 181. If the property remains unzoned, he said, the city will have no regulatory authority over uses proposed by the developer, including the number and types of apartment units, retail uses and parking spaces.
King said a multiple occupancy project and site plan review will be required, along with a traffic and drainage study. All lots will be subject to Fairhope subdivision regulations. The project will also have to be approved by the City Council.
Area residents primarily expressed concerns about traffic and drainage, with most explaining there are existing problems with both around the location.
The proposal includes 36.31 total residential acres. If it was zoned R-1, regulations would allow 105 residential units. Zoned R-5 and R-3 according to the plans, the development (with 309 residential units total, 8.5 units per acre) exceeds R-1 regulations by 5.6 units per acre.
Joshua Gammon, who lives on Lowery Drive off Gayfer Road, asked about any population estimates because the plan does not specify the number of bedrooms in either the apartment or single-family housing units.
Megan Talbot of Gayfer Road Extension said her neighborhood has spent $30,000 keeping drains cleared and rainwater flowing, but the area still has “major” flooding problems and a retention pond there often reaches its capacity.
Gloria Peters of Caye Falls Street said there are already a dangerous amount of entrances for traffic near the intersection and any additions are “going to be a nightmare.”
Public Works Director Richard Johnson said all the problems the residents are currently concerned about will ultimately be addressed. The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) will have to approve traffic controls, which will likely include right turn-only exits and possibly additional stop lights.
“The first time we were introduced to a concept of this property being developed, the first words out of our mouths were, ‘you’ve got a drainage problem,’” he said. “The engineers know that. The expectation is that not only do they have to design the drainage to mitigate the drainage off their site, but they have to mitigate [existing] issues.”
Commissioner Art Dyas, who spent years on county planning authorities, also attempted to ease concerns.
“This is a zoning issue tonight. It is not a development issue,” he said. “It’s a zoning issue to determine whether we want them to come into the city as a planned unit development. We can’t ask what the houses will look like. Ultimately it’s [the City Council’s] decision … You’ll have several opportunities to come back and look and talk about what they want to do from a development standpoint. You see a plan, but there is nothing in that plan that is written in concrete at this time.”
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