Some residents near downtown Gulf Shores are concerned a 206-unit apartment complex planned to be built on a vacant lot would be a detriment to their neighborhood, and are considering legal action.
“There may be an attorney involved on our end at some point,” Pete Sims, who owns a condo on an adjacent property, said. “We don’t want to go there but we don’t want this to happen like it’s coming down at this point either.”
The residents’ main concern, Sims said, is the possibility of short-term vacation rentals in the new complex.
“It’s going to change the dynamics here in the neighborhood,” Sims said. “When you bring in a rental unit it’s a different type of citizen you get than with a condo-type situation.”
Gulf Shores has restrictions in its zoning ordinance regulating where short-term rentals are allowed and those include multi-family zoned areas like Regency Place. City Planning Director Andy Bauer said that is a rarity in Gulf Shores’ apartment complexes.
“It is allowed in that zoning district, but there are no apartments in the city that have a license to rent short-term,” Bauer said. “Apparently, apartments aren’t in that business. They are in the business of long-term rental to residents. I did call the architect of that project and he said they have no plans to rent short-term at that location.”
City Councilman Philip Harris, who also sits on the planning commission and owns a construction company, said since there appears to be no interest by the developer for short-term rentals there may be a chance to get an agreement in place disallowing vacation rentals in Regency Place.
“If the current developer doesn’t have it in his plan, maybe there is some opportunity to secure that risk,” Harris said. “But as far as the number of units and their use of the property they are clearly within their property rights.”
Sims and 40 or 50 of his neighbors showed up at the July 9 City Council meeting to ask for the city’s help in stopping or altering the project. But city officials say there is little they can do to stop it.
“As far as the way it was processed through the planning commission, the Regency Place apartments followed all the rules and regulations of our zoning ordinance and was approved by the planning commission,” Bauer said. “The only way they could get relief is if something happens politically by the City Council.”
Sims said he and his neighbors are going to put up protest signs and try to rally residents to put pressure on the council to try and limit the project.
“I think the sore spot is there doesn’t appear any recourse here,” Sims said. “The mayor says he’s going to try to put this on hold so he can talk to the city attorney. We feel like some pressure needs to be brought to bear.”
But in the end, Bauer said, the developer is right on track and doing everything right to move the project forward.
“The way our rules are written on site plan approval, you just have to go to the planning commission and no public hearing is required,” Bauer said.