Residents reacted angrily Oct. 3 as the Gulf Shores Planning Commission approved a site plan in a 6-3 vote for a 206-unit apartment complex in their neighborhood.
“Thanks a lot, guys,” one man said.
A woman from the back said “run like hell” in reference to a city email from Planning Commission Robert Steiskal to other commission members and city staffers. The residents’ group received the emails via a Freedom of Information request that contained planning commission emails, including one with the agenda for the specially called meeting to revisit the site plan.
Item 6 on the agenda in that email stated: “Quick adjournment and ‘Run Like Heck.’” Voting to approve the site plan were Steiskal, Hartly Brokenshaw, Pete Vakakes, Larry Parris, Jim Eberlein and Billy Eubank. Voting against were Philip Harris, Frank Malone and Jennifer Guthrie.
Neighbors surrounding the 10-acre parcel have been protesting the plan for Regency Place since it first received approval in June. Resident Bob Scidmore of Regency Club condos west of the planned project said he thought the city failed the residents by approving the site plan.
“The Planning Commission acted irresponsibly and against the interest of residents by throwing out recommendations made by the Planning and Zoning Department, including one that was made specifically to insure public safety,” Scidmore said. “The developer refused to accept reasonable conditions recommended by the city Planning and Zoning Department because it would cost them money to do so, thus clearly putting profits ahead of neighbors and residents.”
City staff recommended the entrance driveway be moved north in alignment with the Regency Club driveway and also to create a bigger buffer between the project and The Enclave condos on the south. Architect Stuart Povall said both moves would cost the developer more in design and the number of units would be reduced. Povall said those items would not be changed.
Oct. 3 marked the third meeting specifically addressing the apartments, with the first a public hearing in early September. Residents also packed City Council meetings and lodged complaint after complaint during the public comment portion of at least six of those meetings.
During the latest meeting, Planning Director Andy Bauer methodically went over every aspect of the plan detailing how this complex met or exceeded the zoning ordinance for an R-4 multiple-family district. All of the surrounding properties are also zoned R-4.
“The site plan complies with the specific criteria of the zoning ordinance with one exception, the driveway site distance,” Bauer said. “Otherwise plan is consistent with the comprehensive plan and the purpose and intent of the applicable district.”
One of the conditions of the approval required the applicant to clear vegetation on the southwest corner of the project to increase the sight distance to the required 445 feet. Bauer also said two traffic studies indicated Regency Road would be able to handle the increased traffic from the complex.
Scidmore was one of the authors of 16 “finding of facts” presented to the Planning Commission before the public hearing in September. Bauer said only one of the 16 points was valid.