Zoning change requested near TSU

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2000

Staff Writers

An Auburn-based property management firm has requested the zoning of a lot at the corner of George Wallace Drive and Highland Avenue in Troy be changed from residential to commercial, and some local residents aren’t in favor of the request.

A public hearing on the matter will be held before the Troy Zoning Board at City Hall Jan. 27 at 4 p.m.

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The zoning change request states the company, Game Day Center Southeast, asks that the property be rezoned from R1 single family, low-density residential to C2 general commercial for the purpose of building a four-story condominium complex there, said Troy City Planner Calvin Lott.

"It would be used like sky boxes at sporting events," Lott said.

The lot is located across from Richard M. Scrushy Field at Memorial Stadium.

Don Curenton, spokesman for Game Day Center Southeast, said the business would like to work with a local construction firm, possibly Whaley Construction, on the project. It would include a 30-condominium complex on the top three floors of the building and a common lobby or "salon" area on the ground floor, Curenton said.

The typical condo would be a two-bedroom efficiency with and entrance into the living room and a kitchen and bathroom in the center of each unit, he said. There would be a balcony off of one of the bedrooms, which would face the parking lot or stadium, depending on which way the unit faces.

The condominium units would be privately owned, and the owners would agree on how to use the salon area.

"The lounge or salon area would be a nicely accompanied area that you might see at a conference center like Auburn (University)," Curenton said. "It would be owned by the people who own the units."

He added some nearby residents have expressed concern that alcoholic beverages may be consumed at the condominium complex – specifically in the salon area.

"This is not anything the public would be able to walk into and get alcohol," Curenton said. "It all depends on what the condominium owners want to do with the space.

"It would be a private area where the owners could gather, just as you might in someone’s home."

But some residents, including Virginia Trapp, a resident in the Highland Avenue area, fears the facility will add more traffic to an already congested George Wallace Drive on game days.

"There is already a problem there on game days," she said. "Most of the residents here are opposed to the facility."

A similar plan was introduced in the spring of 1987 when Dr. Joseph Mitchell, a retired Troy State University professor fought a request to have apartments built a few blocks away.

"We felt then that rezoning the area would jeopardize the integrity of the neighborhood and would adversely affect porperty value," Mitchell said. "We were organized against it and fought the measure in a Zoning Board hearing."

Mitchell’s fight, led by Trapp’s late husband, Dr. Leonard Trapp, was successful when the Zoning Board ruled that the zoning request would be "spot zoning." Spot zoning occurs when property is rezoned despite the fact that no other adjacent property has the same zoning standard.

The property is currently owned by Troy State University, and Game Day Center Southeast has an option to buy that property, said Doug Patterson, vice chancellor at Troy State University.

This means that the company has the right to buy the property from the university at a set price during a set period. Patterson said he was not certain about the exact duration of the option agreement.

"Troy State University is not connected with Game Day Center Southeast, and we have not signed any lease agreements for any future use of a facility that might be built on that property," Patterson said.

Although the university is not opposed to the idea of the Game Day Center, TSU is in no way connected with the project, Patterson said.

"We don’t have any relationship with that company other than the option on that property," he said.

If the zoning request is defeated, however, Game Day Center Southeast, will not likely exercise its option to purchase the property.

Curenton, who is a Troy State alumnus, said his company is developing these condominium complexes at every Southeastern Conference university and at several smaller schools, including Tulane and Georgia Southern.

Game Day will soon begin construction on its facility at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

"These are schools with strong alumni bases," Curenton said. "These are places where alumni can gather to socialize and have reunions.

"When you try to do something, there are always people who don’t understand and only see the negatives," he said. "We want everyone to understand this will be something nice where people can have their friends and family stay when they come to visit."

The complex developer is Gleneagles Southeastern LLC, which is owned by Gary Spillers, a TSU linebacker of the 1969 champion football team, Curenton said. Spillers was team captain in 1970.

"He has a lot of interest in making this work at our alma mater," he said.

Residents are concerned again about the integrity of the neighborhood and there is a petition that some residents are passing around in opposition to the zoning change.

According to Mitchell, previous efforts to rezone the property, led by then-TSU Chancellor Ralph Wyatt Adams whose wife owned the property, were motivated by finances and not by doing what was best for the city or for the university.