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A developer’s effort to bring affordable housing to an area in north Huntsville hit a snag at the Huntsville Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday.
By a 5-4 vote, the Commission rejected a zoning request by Pioneer Communities for a 55-acre property east of Memorial Parkway and south of Countess Road. The developer sought to change the zoning from a Residence 1 district to Residence 2.
Pioneer Communities initially sought to build manufactured homes on the site, but now plans to build single family housing following a meeting with residents in the area and Huntsville City Councilman Devyn Keith.
“We originally wanted to rezone this property to C-4 to allow for manufactured housing,” Pioneer Communities co-owner Nick Hakim said. “That’s the core of our business. We believe Huntsville is in dire need of more affordable housing, high quality affordable housing. After hearing feedback and concerns from local residents, we decided to pivot from that approach.”
He said single family homes was typically “not our business.”
“We are doing it in this instance because we love this site, we love Huntsville,” Hakim said. He said there wasn’t a plan to build duplexes on the site, which the R2 zoning would have allowed.
“Whether those homes will be owned or rented, we’re not sure yet,” he said.
The zoning would have allowed for as many as 251 lots. The lot sizes would be smaller than allowed under the current R1 zoning. The zoning change would have allowed for triple the housing.
Planning Commission Member Gary Whitely voiced concerns about the only access points to the community being both on Memorial Parkway.
“We need to be very careful what we allow,” Whitley said. “I don’t see a compelling reason for this to be zoned R2. There has not been a frame of reference for what this will look like.”
Members of the Planning Commission mentioned R2 districts just south of the location have been problematic in the past. They also mentioned the corridor becoming an area of both residential and commercial growth.
“We need to give the planning staff time to put a little more thought into this corridor,” Planning Commission member Kelly Schrimsher said.
Council President John Meredith said he preferred the request go before the City Council.
“Frankly, I hear Mr. Whitley, in a lot of ways I agree with Mr. Whitley,” he said. “We are in a dire need for affordable housing … this addresses in a small part with more than 200 lots the need for affordable housing within the city limits of Huntsville.”
Residents at the meeting said they preferred high quality housing on the property. They also voiced concerns about an increase in the crime rate and a decrease in property values.
Other Commission business
The Commission gave preliminary approval for 64 lots for the Summit at Monte Sano development. The development faced opposition at previous Planning Commission meetings, but no one spoke against the latest action. Thomas Nunez, director of Planning Services, said developers can now start construction.
The lots would be along Hayleys Way, which is the access road in from Gaslight Way. It is north of Bankhead Parkway.
Telluride, Colorado-based developer See Forever is proposing to build four types of homes, ranging from a two-bedroom, 2,280-square foot home with a flex room to a four-bedroom, 4,290-sqaure foot home with an office. It said it plans to donate the 40 acres surrounding the lots to the Land Trust of North Alabama, preserving green space for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Commission also gave final approval for 61 lots of the Merrimack subdivision south of Johnson Road and west of Triana Boulevard. Wisda Holdings LLC is the developer.
Completed homes in the Merrimack subdivision are four and five bedrooms with one, one-and-a-half and two-story floor plans. They range from 2,300 to 3,800-square feet, according to websites, with the homes selling for $277,000 to $360,00.
The Commission gave final boundary plat approval for 336 units for the Hays Nature Preserve community. Daniel Corporation is the developer. Schoel Engineering is also involved with the project. The community will be south of Hays Preserve Trail and east of U.S. 431.
The Commission also gave final boundary plat approval for 244 units of the second phase of the Cottages of Huntsville. It is being developed by Capstone Development Partners, with Smith Engineering involved in the project. The community is located east of Old Monrovia Road and south of Oakwood Road. It also approved 32 units in phase one.
The layout and approval of 276 lost for Devaney Lot 2 is also on the agenda. The community is being developed by Georgia Capital. Schoel Engineering is also involved with the project. It is located at north of I-565 and west of County Line Road.
Scott Turner reports from Huntsville for the Lede.
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