Helena braces for 6,900 new homes

The city of Helena continues to grow with the announcement of a new residential development, currently going up off of County Road 52.

USS Real Estate announced plans last week for the Hillsboro community, a master-planned community with both residential and commercial purposes.

&8220;It [Hillsboro] is a community that is connected,&8221; said Brian Sparks, site manager. &8220;Helena, too, has its own unique feel and that is what we are trying to continue; that small town unique feeling.&8221;

It remains to be seen though if Helena can handle the growth in an already congested area. The property sits on 3,600 acres and will include 6,900 residential units and more than 100 acres of commercial development.

Helena Mayor Sonny Penhale said the project has good points and bad points, the bad point being an increase in motorists.

&8220;The good point is that it is really going to be a first class subdivision, but it will add to our traffic situation. The problem is, you know, our hands are tied as far as [CR] 52 and [Ala.] 261 go.&8221;

Penhale said the gradual process of the development may allow time for upgrades to be made to the town&8217;s major roadways.

&8220;We are on our knees daily begging them [state and county] to do something,&8221; Penhale said. &8220;If everyone would contact their local representatives, then maybe we can get some relief.&8221;

These roads often become gridlocked among morning commuters and parents attempting to get their children to school.

Tom Howard, general manager for USS Real Estate&8217;s southeast division, said the project is large in scope but believes Helena is ready for the development, despite heavy levels of traffic flow.

&8220;It sounds like a lot of homes, but it is a 20 year project,&8221; Howard said. &8220;We hope the roads will be improved, and, when the new middle school opens, all of that traffic will no longer have to travel towards Valleydale.&8221;

USS Real Estate recently donated land for the construction of Helena Middle School and helped the city prepare an access road to the site. Developers believe the 14 miles of trails that connect to key points, such as the community center and Helena Elementary and Helena Intermediate schools, will also encourage more people to walk instead of driving.

The community will also be adjacent to Old Town Helena and include a Village Center with a carousel surrounded by restaurants, retail stores and offices. The first phase, known as Appleford, would include 395 homes to be completed over the next four years.