New Troy plan suggests compromise

Published 11:40 am Friday, September 19, 2008

The future development of Highland Avenue in Troy has been a topic of debate, but a new city plan being proposed is recommending compromise.

In the new Comprehensive Community Master Plan, a long-term guideline for Troy’s future growth, Highland Avenue is recommended for both conserving and revitalizing its land use policies.

“The plan is really a recommendation for the kind of land development pattern that should be considered,” said Larry Watts, director of community planning for Goodwin, Mills and Cawood, Inc.

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The study recommends developing in a manner that would compliment the ever-growing Troy University, as well, but Watts said the plan itself does not change the neighborhood’s current zoning.

“The plan is not a rezoning or even a zoning plan,” Watts said. “There would still be some guidelines you have to follow to do that. The comprehensive plan is more of a policy document.”

However, the results of the plan could lead the Planning Commission to look closer at Highland Avenue’s current zoning.

“Do I envision seeing Highland Avenue rezoned as a result of the comprehensive plan? I don’t know,” said Planning Commission Chairman Bill Hopper. “There are not as many owner occupied homes on Highland as their once was, but there are still a lot on University so there may be some compromise to be established.”

Watts said, though this plan is not final, the draft recommends land transition, which could include multi-family housing, condominiums, town houses or even single-family apartments.

“The conservation/revitalization designation should take into account the residential neighborhood and be something that complements that neighborhood,” Watts said.

The comprehensive plan has been drafted by several committees and local residents through community hearings.

Troy University Dean of Student Services Herb Reeves said the university has no specific plans to develop or purchase more land on Highland Avenue.

“Our long-term plan is discussion of building an Alumni Center on the site where the existing alumni house is, but that’s been a discussion down the road,” Reeves said. “As far as any immediate plans to buy up everything and build something (on Highland Avenue), no, we don’t have any plans.”

Reeves said the university has participated in the planning stages of the draft, but he said they have no strong stance on potential rezoning of Highland.

However, he said they do support some residents’ wishes to rezone the area.

“It is my understanding the neighborhood over there is really pushing to rezone, but it’s my understanding the master plan has no say over that,” Reeves said. “Are we opposed to being rezoned? No we are not. But, we would like to see something nice over there that compliments the campus.”

Reeves said a community action group of Highland has plans to request rezoning of the area, and he said the university will express they are not opposed to it with a letter of approval.

In the past, some property owners on Highland Avenue have requested rezoning through the city’s Planning Commission, but the outcome was tabled.

“There were 21 different houses on that area from Magnolia to University, and 100 percent requested in March of 2006 to have their property rezoned,” said Highland property owner K.T. Cole. “So, in essence, the demographics of that street have already dictated the best use of the property.”

Cole said though he has not heard an outcome of possible rezoning, he feels confident it will happen once the plan is final.

“We feel like, number one, there is a shortage of apartments for kids, and Highland Avenue is a very unique street in that it’s now a transient street,” Cole said. “We need those college kids. They bring a lot of money to this town, and when they don’t have a place to live, that’s horrible.”

Hopper said there have been several requests for rezoning in that area, but at the time, enough residents were opposed they did not pass. But, he said now, it may be something for the commission to consider.

“What we want to do is go back and take a very close look at our zoning ordinances, and perhaps do some revisions to them,” Hopper said.

A public hearing for the draft of the city of Troy’s comprehensive master plan will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 2 at the recreation center.