The anti-apartment group in Gulf Shores made one last appeal to the City Council on Oct. 29 in the form of a one-man effort by Enclave resident Pete Sims during a specially called council meeting.
Residents of his condo complex, The Ridge and Regency Club, have been fighting tooth and nail since a June site plan approval for Regency Place was OK’d by the city’s planning commission.
“It is flawed on a multitude of levels,” Sims told the council. “I implore you to carefully study, discuss and consider this information that’s been presented to you today and not rush to make a final judgment. Take some time to deliberate. I request that you table this matter for a period of time for proper consideration.”
Council members said the city has taken time and effort to hear and address citizens’ concerns. Several meetings and public hearings were conducted for the sole purpose of painstakingly vetting each and every detail of the 206-unit, four-story complex on 10 acres surrounded by multifamily developments.
In a special called council meeting, the third meeting specifically addressing this development, the council voted 6-0 to deny Sims’ appeal.
“We’ve been discussing and debating this situation since July and it’s been a long process,” Mayor Robert Craft said. “We have listened intently to every meeting and every comment made by not only by you, but anyone that wanted to speak at any time.”
What it comes down to, Craft told Sims and other concerned residents, is a simple fact of law.
“You can sit there and shake your head all day long, but we are bound to follow the legal requirements,” Craft told Sims. “We cannot change the law. We have to decide if we want to break the law and do what you want us to do, or whether our responsibility is to enforce the legal requirements that exist in the city.”
Recently city councils in Fairhope and Daphne denied two developments, but they concerned rezoning requests. The Gulf Shores developer is following the current zoning guidelines for his property. Site plans following the zoning ordinance aren’t required to be heard before the City Council.
“We cannot change zoning on a property and take away a property owner’s rights,” Councilman Jason Dyken said.
Other concerns Sims raised were increased traffic, population density, changing the character of the neighborhood and declining property values. He cited a U.S. Census Bureau study that claimed property values drop nearly 14 percent when apartments are built in neighborhoods. He said the value of the surrounding properties would drop by $7 million to $10 million.
Dyken, who chairs the city’s Finance Committee, disputed those claims, saying the study was on larger cities and not a small town like Gulf Shores.
“I wish, as Finance Committee chairman, that I could be as loosey-goosey with percentages as you have in regards to predicting future value decrease,” Dyken said. “That study was in 100 metropolitan areas. It wasn’t in a city our size. You’re applying a formulation that isn’t even applicable to a city this size.”