Alabaster passes one-year moratorium on residential development along 119

Published 7:39 pm Monday, August 27, 2018

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Alabaster leaders have placed a hold on new residential development along the Alabama 119 corridor for the next year to allow the city to develop a plan to handle the heavy traffic in the area, as the City Council voted to approve a temporary moratorium during an Aug. 27 meeting.

The move came about a week after the City Council discussed the matter during a work session, during which council members said they were considering the moratorium in an effort to prevent further traffic congestion on Alabama 119 and the roads feeding into it in southern Alabaster.

The moratorium will only include new residential development along the corridor. Current residential developments already approved by the city and with submitted preliminary neighborhood plats, such as the under-construction Mallard Landing neighborhood off Smokey Road, will be allowed to move forward.

The moratorium will apply to most of the southern end of Alabaster: South of Fulton Springs Road and Kent Dairy Road, west of Interstate 65 and east of Shelby County 17. It will not apply to the Shelby West Corporate Park.

Council members have the ability to end the moratorium before one year passes or extend it beyond a year if they choose, said City Attorney Jeff Brumlow. Other Alabama cities, such as Fairhope, have passed similar temporary moratoriums in the past to give them time to study and address severe traffic congestion, Brumlow said.

Council members said they have concerns with approving future housing developments along the 119 corridor until the status of a project to widen the road to four lanes is more concrete. In early August, the city applied for an up-to-$25-million grant from the United States Department of Transportation to help offset the higher-than-expected cost of completing the widening project south of the 119-Fulton Springs Road intersection.

After the council approved the temporary moratorium, several residents said they were in favor of stopping housing development in an attempt to address the traffic concerns, but urged council members to push the state to fast-track new transportation infrastructure in the area.

“We expect you to fight for us at every turn to get the infrastructure that has been promised to us for years and has gotten delayed time and time again,” said Alabaster resident Jeremy King. “The time for delays has passed, and we can no longer be held hostage by daily gridlock on our streets.”

Council members encouraged those in attendance at the packed meeting to reach out to their state senators and representatives and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to voice their concerns over the congestion on 119.

“We are doing all we can to make this (119 widening project) happen, but our hands are tied,” said Councilman Greg Farrell. “It’s going to take you all as well as us to put pressure on the state.”

“Just know that we are working extremely hard to make this happen,” said Council President Scott Brakefield. “We are not turning a deaf ear to your concerns and your complaints, because those are our concerns and complaints as well.”

The discussion about Alabaster’s moratorium arose during an Aug. 21 work session while council members were discussing a rezoning request for a proposed new 132-home development near the intersection of Butler Road and Mission Hills Road.

The rezoning request came from Raush Coleman Builders and Alamerica Bank, which currently owns the property and has plans to sell it to the developer, according to information submitted to the city.

During the Aug. 27 meeting, a motion made to approve the rezoning request for the Mission Hills Road development died after it failed to gain a second.

If the Mission Hills Road rezoning had been approved, construction could not have started on the subdivision while the moratorium was in effect.

The rezoning would have reduced the possible number of homes on the land. Under the current mixed-use zoning for the property, a developer would be able to build 55 single-family homes, 104 townhomes and about 40,000 square feet of commercial space. The 132 proposed garden homes under the requested R-4 zoning would have been similar to the existing homes in the Grande View Gardens subdivision, according to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Brakefield said the council made the decisions it did during the meeting while weighing the concerns of residents and developers.

“It’s difficult for us to hear the concerns of our residents and weigh them with the concerns of developers,” Brakefield said. “It’s not easy. It’s not easy for any of us. It’s all driven by 119.”