Developers move forward with duplex project

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, September 27, 2008

After weeks of discussion over a vacant residential property, land owners have decided to build duplex houses in the neighborhood of Corman, Botts and First Avenue.

Walt Stell, representative for Legacy Properties, said the company first purchased the land a few months ago, and since, have been clearing it and trying to get approval to build independent living homes for elderly and handicap residents.

After opposition from neighborhood residents at a Planning Commission meeting, requests to rezone the lot for independent living apartments was denied.

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The property owners later requested a variance from the Board of Adjustments, which the neighborhood backed, but after several conditions were placed on the variance, they withdrew their proposal.

“They were making it so restrictive we decided we couldn’t do the independent living,” Stell said.

Stell said they wanted to build independent living homes, which would permit entry to only handicap or residents above the age of 45.

Residents told the board they wanted the apartments to be only one story high and for the complexes to have only one entry way.

Property owners said having only one exit was a safety hazard, and then withdrew their proposal.

As the property is currently zoned, owners are allowed to build 15 duplexes, which could house up to 90 residents at a time.

Stell said the plan is still in process, but they will likely build the duplexes in phases.

“They don’t have plans yet. I don’t know if they’ll be two bedroom or three bedrooms,” Stell said. “If there are two bedroom it could be 32 rooms (in the first phase).”

Otis Stone, a neighborhood resident, said though he prefers there would be independent living houses, he understands the owner’s right to build duplexes.

“I would prefer they had build the other thing,” Stone said. “It’s within his rights to build those.”

Maurice Tillery, a resident of First Avenue, said she is disappointed in the owner’s decision.

“I’m real disappointed they are not doing the independent living like they had kind of agreed to,” Tillery said. “The only opposition that came up was they kind of sprung that second drive on us.”

Tillery said the neighborhood already has problems with traffic and college students, and she is not looking forward to the possibility more could move in.

“We already have too many, and we have problems with parking and speed,” Tillery said. “This is going to make it worse.”

Stone said another concern for the neighborhood is environmental concerns.

“We’re still concerned about the back of the houses on First Avenue and Botts, that they are going to wash off into that hole down there,” Stone said. “We’ve been concerned since the property’s been cleared.”

Stell said the landowner’s had clearance from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management before they cleared the property.