“When Mr. Johnston walked out the door I thought to myself, there’s $13 million of construction going out the door,” said Councilman Donnie Guinn, who voted in favor of the rezoning.
The zoning request was disapproved by the council 4-2 Monday night. Councilman Guinn and James McGowan voted in favor of the rezoning, which would have allowed Cahaba Valley Development Corporation of Birmingham to build an $11 million apartment complex.
“I didn’t know there was that much opposition to it,” said Councilman James McGowan. “The Planning and Zoning Board approved it. I didn’t see a whole lot of opposition to it (at the work session).”
The development would have included 64 town houses and a couple of duplexes, with a community pool and club house.
Sam Johnston with Cahaba Valley Development Corporation told the council at last week’s work session they were building brick structures meant to endure with time.
Johnston said the development would have pumped $250,000 in impact fees alone.
“It’s consistent with the zoning in the area,” Johnston said.
Nobody spoke in opposition of the development at the work session.
Councilwoman Dot Wood said Monday night she voted against it because of her constituents.
“My citizens over in the Mill Village asked me to vote no, and I’m honoring their wishes,” she said.
Mayor Bill Hereford would only say, “I didn’t think this was the time to do that.”
Councilman Donnie Todd questioned the need for more apartments in Pell City.
“I’m not convinced there is an additional need for that type of housing,” Todd said.
He said by changing the zoning now, it could mean a miss opportunity in the future for possible light manufacturing, what it’s zoned for now, or for commercial development.
Guinn said the residential development could have acted as a buffer for any future commercial development of the property.
Kevin Whiteside, president of Pell City-Tifton Properties, LLC, a subsidiary of Thunder Enterprises of Chattanooga, said their plan was to sell the northern portion of the former Avondale Mills property to Cahaba Valley Development Corporation and development the remaining 15-17 acres for commercial use.
Guinn said he believed the development would have enhanced property value in the Mill Village community.
“I thought it would benefit the community as a whole,” he said. “It would have improved property value, no question about it.”
Whiteside said Tuesday they were surprised at the council’s decision, especially after the city’s Planning and Zoning Board approved the rezoning request.
“We were completely caught off guard,” Whiteside said, adding that none of the council members expressed any concerns at last week’s work session, and gave no public reason for their denial before voting to reject the zoning for apartments.
“It’s unbelievable,” Whiteside said. “It’s like property owner rights doesn’t matter.”
He said there were only one or two people from the Mill Village at the planning and zoning meeting who objected to the change in zoning with one individual expressing concerns about noise.
Whiteside said a manufacturing site would make much more noise and have more traffic with 24-7 shifts.
“The noise doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Whiteside said there is a demand for quality apartments in Pell City, and Cahaba Valley Development Corporation would not invest millions of dollars in the development of apartments, if there wasn’t a demand.
Whiteside there are comparable apartments in Pell City that have waiting lists.
“It really doesn’t make any sense at all,” he said. “This will improve that property and increase the property value for those who live in the Mill Village.”
Whiteside said his company hired a professional architect to look at the property to help determine the best use of the 27-acre site.
Whiteside said he would like to hear from city fathers as to what they would like on the site, which is currently zoned for manufacturing.
“If they want it to be a manufacturing zone, maybe we need to go find a good manufacturer to locate there,” Whiteside said. “But, we just don’t know what they want.”
He said with their proposal, it would have pumped nearly $300,000 into city coffers from licenses and fees and put more people in the downtown district with money to spend.
“This makes no sense,” Whiteside said.