Developer proposes residential, retail development on Amphitheater Road

PELHAM – The Council Chambers in City Hall was packed Thursday, Aug. 9, as Pelham residents and business owners probed a developer who went before the Planning Commission to request zone district changes to accommodate a proposed residential and retail center on Amphitheater Road.

John Brenner, with Genrev Development, requested an amendment changing the present zoning from A-1 (agricultural district) and O&I (office and institutional) to R-A (apartment dwelling district) and B-2 (general business district).

Brenner would like to construct an apartment complex, retail stores and fast casual eateries on 36 acres of land across from the Pelham Civic Complex. He said his goal is to revitalize Amphitheater Road and to make it more attractive.

Brenner said he’s talked to Pelham businesses and met with leaders from 58 Inc. who all said the development would be something that currently doesn’t exist in Pelham. The multi-floored apartments would consist of 250-260 units and would complement the city’s aesthetics, meaning it would incorporate green space and walking trails, Brenner said.

The retail area would consist of 40,000 to 50,000 square feet of destination eateries and shops.

Several residents and business owners at the meeting expressed concerns about the proposed development. One major area of concern was traffic congestion.

“I don’t see how this will enhance the quality of life for residents given our current traffic conditions,” one resident said. “State Park Road has become a parking lot.”

Others mentioned how traffic in the area is already bad enough when concerts and events are hosted at Oak Mountain Amphitheatre. Residents agreed there is a need for retail development in the city, but questioned whether this development is the right way to do it.

Residents seemed to oppose the residential part of the plan the most and were more open to the idea of a retail development. Concerns about controlling flood water, upkeep of the apartment complex and attracting transient tenants arose.

Brenner said there’s a plan to address or possibly improve flooding in the area, but many were not convinced. He added that the residential area is needed to help support the retail development since it doesn’t front a major highway.

Only one resident spoke in favor of the development. He said the project is “truly exciting” and could be something good for the city.

“People have raised concerns about traffic, but there’s traffic everywhere,” he said. “Traffic is natural with growth. At 5 o’clock everybody is at a standstill – people in Pelham, people in Alabaster – everybody.”

This resident said apartment complexes are needed in Pelham because there are only two good options located in the city.

Parks and Recreation director and planning commissioner Billy Crandall said the development seems like a good idea, but he needed some time to think about and absorb the information.

“I think the residents have some valid concerns,” he said. “I’m not completely sold on it right now.”

Mayor Gary Waters said he supports a yes vote on the zoning request.

“Before we discourage growth like this, we have to think about what the alternative would be,” he said.

In the end, the Planning Commission did not vote on the zoning request. The commission approved a continuance of the request until its next meeting on Sept. 13.