Calera approves rezoning for possible apartment complex

Calera soon could see a new apartment development off George Roy Parkway after members of the City Council voted Monday night to rezone a tract of land adjacent to Interstate 65.

The land, near the intersection of Highway 22 and George Roy Parkway in northern Calera, was rezoned to multi-family residential from industrial and business classifications to allow the Clayton Land Investments company to possibly construct a 272-unit apartment complex in the city.

If constructed, the gated apartment complex would carry monthly rents between $700 and $1,000, would mark an about $40 million investment and would bring in about $43,000 additional tax revenue to the city each year, explained project engineer James Cassidy.

Even though details of the project are not yet finalized, the 5-1 council decision brought the development one step closer to completion. Mayor George Roy, District 2 Councilman Ernest Montgomery, District 3 Councilman Bobby Joe Phillips, District 4 Councilman David Bradshaw and District 5 Councilman Mike Roberson voted for the rezoning. District 1 Councilman Jerry Davis voted against.

The decision came after a flurry of opposition from more than 20 residents of the Nottingham and Daventry subdivisions.

If the apartment complex were built, it would be a few hundred feet from the edge of the two neighborhoods. During the meeting, residents cited concerns of traffic congestion, devalued property rates and safety.

“If you are a transient resident in an apartment, you don’t have a vested interest in the community,” said Calera resident Chris Sautter. “You need to think about the long-term effect this would have on the people who have made this their home.

“We put a lot of faith in you guys,” Sautter told the council. “Now we are asking for you to protect us. We don’t want these apartments.”

Several of Sautter’s neighbors echoed his sentiments, saying the apartments would bring higher crime rates, increased vehicle traffic and would disturb the neighborhood’s natural setting.

“We just want to boil down what this development is going to mean for us,” said Calera resident Mike Ghareeb. “We are concerned about how this development is going to affect us.”

However, Cassidy sought to debunk the residents’ claims, saying the development would bring relatively little traffic increase, high tax returns for the city and would not bring many more children into the expanding city school system.

“We have done traffic studies, and they found that the traffic generated by this would be less than if that site was developed into an industrial park,” Cassidy said. “This would actually bring more revenue to the city than if houses were built there.

“Our most recent estimate is maybe a maximum of 50 more kids in the school because of this site,” Cassidy added. “It’s likely that there would be more children in the same number of houses than in this scenario.”

City officials seemed to share mixed feelings about the development before voting on the matter.

“I voted for Kensington Manor, but I have changed my mind since then,” Davis said, drawing applause from the crowd. “That development has caused nothing but problems for our residents.”

“I think it’s a good plan,” Roy said of the proposed development. “I hope we’re doing the right thing.”

In other business, the council also approved the city’s fiscal year 2010 operating budget.

The city’s expected revenue budget is about $18.9 million, and the expenditure budget is about $18 million.

In an attempt to “keep from laying more city employees off,” the council also voted to increase the city’s natural gas rates by 8 percent. The increase will mean about $8 more per month on a $100 gas bill, but is “still 10 percent below what Alagasco charges,” said Phillips.