A spat over an apartment complex in a downtown Gulf Shores neighborhood has city officials looking at changing the zoning ordinance concerning short-term rentals in the resort town.
Regency Place developers hope to build a four-story, 206-unit complex on an empty parcel north of the Enclave condominium complex and south of the Palmetto subdivision.
According to the city’s zoning ordinance, vacation short-term rentals are allowed in the beach overlay district, parcels zoned commercial and parcels zoned multi-family. Condominiums and apartments falling under multi-family and short-term rentals are not restricted.
Residents have concerns about the rentals as well as the addition of up to 400 cars clogging neighborhood roads, prompting the city to begin closing the loophole for short-term rentals. According to City Planner Andy Bauer, there are no business licenses issued for short-term rentals at any apartment complex in the city.
“The council has already directed us to amend the zoning ordinance to disallow short-term rentals in areas like this,” City Administrator Steve Griffin said.
City officials are also meeting with lawyers to see if there is anything the city can do to answer concerns or modify the project so it will have less of an impact.
“We are meeting back here Aug. 6 and I’m hoping we have some type of response from our attorneys on what we can do and a definitive answer to you on what we are going to do,” Mayor Robert Craft said. “Hopefully as early as next week we should have some legal understanding of what we legally can do. We’re bound by law of what we can and can’t do.”
The proposed complex breezed through Planning Commission approval in June, and because the developer’s plan fell within the zoning guidelines for his property the city council was not required to vote on it.
“We just cannot arbitrarily come in and say ‘you can’t build this’ after it’s been allowed by right since 1984,” Craft said.
Residents aren’t against the property being developed but believe an additional 206 units would overburden the neighborhood. Existing neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed new building are 90-plus units in Regency Club Condos to the west, The Enclave with 123 units to the south; Palmetto subdivision to the north has 16 houses and The Ridge to the east has nearly 50 units.
“I still feel like this is a political decision that our city leaders can take care of,” resident Pete Sims said. “Building an apartment complex and adding 5 percent to the population of Gulf Shores, to our small town, I don’t think is what the city wants or the city needs.”
Another resident, Tim Claiborne, asked the mayor to see if the developer would be open to a different complex with fewer units.
“I don’t believe anybody in this room would be against townhomes or condominiums over there, we just don’t need that many apartments,” Claiborne said. “We’d really like for it to remain individual ownership.”