The Fairhope City Council is set to consider the approval of two Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) at its Nov. 13 meeting, which combined could add another 166 single-family homes, a 232-unit apartment complex and more than a dozen commercial properties to the already burgeoning State Route 181 corridor east of downtown.
The first, Live Oak Estates, proposes 99 single-family homes on 37.96 acres south of Bay Meadows Avenue and includes a separate 4.3-acre commercial outparcel that, as of yet, does not have a site plan. The applicant is requesting a zoning change from its current residential/agriculture district, which only allows one housing unit per three acres. Its proposed density is 2.94 units per acre.
The second, the Klumpp PUD, is a 75.93-acre parcel between Fairhope and Gayfer avenues where the applicant is requesting annexation into the city limits in order to develop 67 single-family houses, 232 apartment units and 16 lots for commercial use. As Fairhope city planner Buford King noted at Monday’s council meeting, the property is an area marked as a “village center” in the city’s comprehensive plan. Developments similar to the Klumpp proposal are encouraged both at the 181 intersection with Fairhope Avenue and at the 181 intersection with County Highway 104, a few miles north. Both areas are largely agricultural now.
King told the council the current comprehensive plan “doesn’t give a ton of detailed guidance,” but village centers allow higher densities, with commercial units transitioning to multi-family, and then single-family units.
Several members of the public spoke out against the proposals Monday and at previous meetings of the Fairhope Planning Commission, which approved both applications with conditions. Many lamented the density of both plans along the corridor, which has exploded in recent years with subdivisions from Malbis southward.
Mark Roshetko, who owns three acres and a house on land adjacent to the Live Oaks Estates PUD, urged the council to “put some teeth in managing unrestricted growth” and “not allow shotgun houses on shotgun lots.” He said throughout the public engagement period beginning in March, neighboring property owners have been provided erroneous information from the Planning Department and have been given the minimum amount of notification for public meetings.
“The zoning ordinance says a PUD should be innovative in design,” he said. “The only innovative thing here is how thin can we slice the pie.”
Similarly, John Heinrich, who recently moved into the neighboring Firethorn subdivision, said the Live Oaks Estates proposal is “a sardine factory.”
“Why do they have to cram so many houses in so little space?” he asked. “Firethorn is more aesthetically pleasing and valuable. You don’t need that many houses in that small space … it’s poor planning.”
Immediately to the south, construction is ongoing at Twin Beech Estates, where DSLD Homes is currently building out 72 single-family residential lots approved by the City Council in September 2018. Word was not immediately available as to whether the two developments will be connected, allowing vehicular access from either Twin Beech Road or Bay Meadows Avenue.
Speaking about the Klumpp property, resident Gary Gover said he wasn’t inherently opposed to the village center concept, but “there are a lot of unknowns.”
“The development needs to not only work within itself well, but it also has to fit within a very complicated arrangement … to work well for Fairhope,” he said, suggesting, “it will take an extra level of architecting and design. I’m just a little concerned we need to walk this one a little slowly, a little carefully, and think this one outside the box to make sure the village center will work well.”
The applicant for Live Oak Estates is Mullins LLC. The applicant for the Klumpp PUD is Gayfer Village Partners, which lists Fairhope Municipal Judge Haymes Snedeker and his business partner, Ray Hix, as members.
In other business, the council voted 3-2 to purchase 114 acres at the corner of County Roads 13 and 32 for future recreational needs. For a total price of $2.65 million, the city will pull $1,065,146.07 from an investment savings account, $700,285.37 from its prepaid debt reserve and $884,568.56 from impact fees to purchase the property.
A point of contention for Mayor Karin Wilson, who was traveling Monday and did not attend the meeting, was the property’s lack of connectivity with the rest of the city and the council’s rejection of her preference, 40 acres near Twin Beach and Greeno roads.
Both Councilmen Jimmy Conyers and Jay Robinson voted in opposition to the purchase, citing the cost and concerns about the ability to simultaneously develop other recently acquired properties, namely the K-1 Center downtown and the “Dyas Triangle” property, both of which have been the subject of various unfunded proposals.
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