Gulf Shores officials thoroughly vetted each and every aspect of a proposed new apartment complex that is being vehemently opposed by nearby neighbors.
But will it really make a difference?
In the end, the architect for the 206-unit Regency Place said he still has the site plan approval in hand, even as residents asked the planning commission when or if there would be another vote on the site plan.
“It’s not a reapplication,” Stuart Povall said. “This is a by-right development so we are doing everything that ordinance tells us to do and we are not asking for anything outside of the ordinance. We are simply voluntarily pausing while we assist the city and the residents to working through this clarification of the record.”
But residents presented their own findings with 16 points, including the second one on the list saying “the term ‘by-right’ is not absolute.” It cited section 6-1a of the city’s zoning ordinance, which says “these uses shall be permitted by right in accord with any limitations within the applicable district and subject to site plan review where applicable.”
Residents believe the commission, in their reading of the ordinance, can put limitations on by-right buildings to match the current neighborhood. While there are no apartments in the Regency Road area, 451 housing units surround the 10-acre site and only 48 of those are occupied by renters, or 11 percent. Putting in 206 rental units would raise neighborhood rental units to 39 percent.
Among other complaints in the document presented by residents Rex Lawson and Bob Scidmore, Enclave board members, were the new apartments were not in the public interest and violate rules in the ordinance pertaining to landscape and open space rules, management of common open spaces, and facilities rules and city traffic regulations. Additionally, the paper said the project does not “promote and improve the public health, safety, convenience, order, prosperity and general welfare of the residents” as called for in the zoning ordinance and would lower the quality of life and property values for residents in the area.
“We know this is going to be developed, we just want it to be in the character of the local community here right now,” resident Pete Sims said. “Putting a high-density apartment here doesn’t fit.”
At the end of the 90-minute meeting, Povall asked for clarification on the question of another vote on the site plan.
“If a re-vote is to happen, could you sort of go through the order of process of how that would occur given that we already have a previous approval?” Povall asked.
Planning Commission Chairman Robert Steiskal said the board is still weighing information from city staff and residents and has yet to determine if a new vote is needed.
“We haven’t decided anything along those lines because we haven’t decided where this is going to take us,” Steiskal said. “I have a personal feeling about it but I don’t know if that’s germane until we find out what some of the others think.”