Apartment complex causes controversy

By: Crystal Cole/ Islander Editor
Posted 7/23/18

A development in Gulf Shores has caused many residents to complain and protest its passing to the City Council.

The proposed development would bring a 206-apartment complex near the downtown area …

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Apartment complex causes controversy

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A development in Gulf Shores has caused many residents to complain and protest its passing to the City Council.

The proposed development would bring a 206-apartment complex near the downtown area and has already been approved by the Planning Commission.

In notes he put together to present to the council, Pete Sims (who owns a condo on an adjacent property) said he and others are not against development of the 10-acre lot, but are against the type of development being brought forth.

“The development will increase the population of the City of Gulf Shores by almost 5 percent (based on 512 people or 2.5 residents per unit),” Sims’ remarks said. “The development will add 400 to 500 more cars on an already busy streets in the residential area, not to mention Gulf Shores proper which is almost in a state of gridlock now. If this development is approved, we feel it will not be long before the four-way stop signs in the "Small Town" section of Gulf Shores will be replaced by traffic signals. We were told by the Real Estate Company (Remax Paradise) that the developer planned to build townhomes. We were shocked to find out after the fact that a site plan had been approved by the city Planning Commission for a high-density, four-story apartment complex with absolutely no prior notice to citizens living in the neighborhood; as a result the residents were given no input.”

David West, another concerned citizen, said the area around the proposed project has changes radically in recent years with several other apartment complexes around the property.

“I think one thing you might consider is to look at your zoning ordinance and make changes so that this won’t happen again,” West said. “I also think you ought to treat this project the way you treat the beach. That means if you have one bedroom of condo, you get a parking spot. If you have two, you get two and so on. If you did that, they couldn’t get that many people in that area. They’d be restricted not by zone, but by parking.”

West added he thought the “cow was out of the barn” for this project, and that it just wasn’t a good project for that area.

Mayor Robert Craft said he did some legal research from the previous meeting of the residents to the City Council. He said so far in this process, the City Council has had no role.

“If it’s approved by right and approved then the Planning Commission has done their job,” Craft said. “I told you I’d do a little digging to see what after the fact could be done. Under the zoning ordinance, site plan approval is the sole responsibility of the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission has no authority to deny approval to a project that is allowed by right under the zoning ordinance and that is otherwise in compliance with the zoning ordinance standards of approval.”

Craft said the developer has confirmed in writing that he has no interest in engaging in short-term rentals, something many against the project fear will not hold true.

Planning Director Andy Bauer said the city’s ordinances and regulations require any short-term rental to have a business license through the City of Gulf Shores.

“All short-term rentals are licensed, but there are times when people are renting without a license,” Bauer said. “If we catch them we make sure they cease renting their unit and sometimes have to take them to court. We do enforce that on a regular basis.”

The residents plan to continue to fight the development at subsequent meetings.