Developers say a proposed residential and retail development in Belforest will be a model of smart growth and planned-community principles. Nearby residents worry about its effects on flooding, traffic and school overcrowding.
Joseph A. Allegri Jr. Properties and developers Craig and Daniel Dyas seek approval for a 42.8-acre planned unit development (PUD) at the northwest corner of State Highway 181 and County Road 64. The intersection is considered to be the heart of the Belforest community, just east of Daphne.
The Allegri PUD would comprise retail space, a smaller retail area with living spaces upstairs, multi-family units, detached townhomes, single-family homes and patio homes. The concept would be that of an Italian village with an emphasis on walkability and the preservation of green space.
The project came before the Daphne City Council Monday night for a public hearing on its application for pre-zoning. It is scheduled for a vote at the Feb. 20 meeting. The project also will need zoning approval from the Baldwin County Commission and site plan approval from Daphne, into which it is expected to be annexed.
Craig Dyas said the PUD is an alternative to the single-family subdivisions sprawling across Daphne’s eastern edge.
“It’s incumbent on us to do right by that part of the county,” he said. “Subdivisions aren’t the way to do things.”
Daniel Dyas said he lives in Daphne and that his firm, Dyas Commercial Real Estate and Development, is focused on smart growth.
“We want to create a traditional town center there,” he said.
But the PUD came to the City Council without a recommendation for or against from the Daphne Planning Commission, because the commission did not have enough members at the meeting when it was scheduled for a vote.
In addition, city planning staffers have raised multiple questions about how the project would comply with current regulations, which is not unusual when nontraditional developments come up. They also want to see more details about what would be constructed than were provided.
Council members, Mayor Dane Haygood and nearby residents generally praised the project. Haygood and the council members were fresh off a weekend retreat in Rosemary Beach, Florida, where they toured planned communities and parks in the area with an eye toward future development in Daphne.
Those residents who spoke up, however, were especially concerned about the potential for increased flooding.
Stephanie Middleton, speaking for her 86-year-old mother who lives nearby, said her mother’s home has had eight feet of water in the basement and one wall has collapsed from flooding. She feared the development would push more water onto surrounding properties.
“I really love the project, but we have to be very, very careful of the concrete footprint that we put in place,” she said.
Marissa Rennaker, a local real estate agent who lives in the Chamberlain Trace subdivision, drew applause when she said the impact of the development on school overcrowding, traffic, drainage and internet access all need to be studied in advance.
Both Haygood and Council President Ron Scott pointed out that the developer would be required to ensure that drainage on the site is adequate and does not increase flooding of surrounding properties. But Scott also noted most of the speakers do not live within the Daphne city limits, specifically mentioning Chamberlain Trace and the Tealwood subdivision. He suggested those residents should consider annexation into Daphne.
“When he have people who are in the city, they get a better hearing,” Scott said.
Scott also invited those living just outside Daphne to apply for vacancies on its boards and commissions that allow nonresidents. The Planning Commission, of which Scott is a member, allows members from outside the city limits, he said.
Council members indicated they were leaning toward approving the pre-zoning as is or sending the application back to the Planning Commission for another review.
Haygood said the project is potentially “wonderful,” and he hopes it will work out.
“I think their intentions are right,” he said. “I think it’s important that this be vetted in the right way.”