Pelham looking at 2 new developments near Huntley Pkwy, Hwy. 11 from Tower Homes

Published 10:53 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

PELHAM – Upcoming and still developing efforts related to the potential rezoning and construction of proposed developments was a matter of discussion between the Pelham City Council and Tower Homes during a Council work session held on Jan. 22.

Tower Homes previously brought three proposed developments before the Council during a work session ahead of a December meeting with one of the proposed developments being a $200 million mixed-use development on Shelby County 11 and another on Huntley Parkway next to Publix.

“Price (Hightower) and his team have come and asked about rezoning for three different locations,” said Gretchen DiFante, Pelham’s city manager. “The staff did not recommend rezoning the one location and Andre Bittas was not here at that meeting. We very much wanted to give (Bittas) an opportunity to talk about that.”

While the city has a long and healthy working relationship with Tower Homes, it was the opinion of Bittas that the largest of the areas proposed by Tower Homes for rezoning was an effective non-starter due to the lack of additional areas in the immediate vicinity that can provide commercial growth that will be needed to sustain the area in the future, but the other two proposed for Huntley Parkway and Shelby County 11 remained on the table.

“I think a couple of them are really great locations for residential, especially the one on Highway 11—I think it is ideal for residential,” Bittas said. “Even though the plan shows it for commercial, I think a mix of commercial and residential would work there.”

After short discussion of the three areas under consideration, site one was specifically removed from consideration and further discussion, while “Site Two” was selected as much more appealing to the council to consider rezoning pending plans. Site three also appeared as an acceptable rezoning consideration to the Council.

“We’re much appreciative to the Hightower team and the projects that they are bringing to this city,” Council President Maurice Mercer said. “I support (the development of) site two and the grey oaks property but we’ve got to leave some commercial.”

Bittas and the Council were very adamant to voice their appreciation of the previous work done by Tower Homes within the city of Pelham and that they wished for a continued partnership despite the “no” related to “Site One”.

“I want to emphasize that the partnership between Hightower and the city has been great and we appreciate all of their work,” Bittas said. “But the city has to make sure that we are able to serve the community. We want to make sure that we have sufficient commercial areas to serve that area.”

Hightower, who has spoken on previous occasions about his company’s long history with the city of Pelham that includes their role as the first building team at the Ballantrae golf course, was present throughout the meeting and also spoke to the council.

“We appreciate the feedback,” Hightower said. “You all give the nicest ‘no’ ever.”

Hightower ensured that the decline from the city to rezone “Site One” was not an unexpected one and that a meeting roughly six weeks prior with Bittas had all but revealed it as the most likely outcome. Despite that, Bittas had encouraged Hightower and Tower Homes to still present the early proposal for consideration.

“If you look at that area, what it supports is huge,” Bittas said. “If you look at all of the developments around that area, east of I-65 and (Highway) 52, you can see all of this residential development already happening. Even if you look all the way down to Ballantrae, the next location to commercial is Highway 52. There are not any other locations between Ballantrae and the interstate for you to find commercial until you get to 31. That is really the concern that we have is here.”

In discussing the commercial landscape for Pelham, Bittas furthermore detailed that the areas currently held by Pelham for commercial real estate is growing progressively more limited.

“I guess I’m hearing a no on the larger site, a proceed on the smaller site—understanding that we would need the variances and the things that we received on the Huntley Park site—and then still a green light on the Highway 11 (Project),” Hightower said. “I wish every municipality was as good to work with as (Pelham). On behalf of everybody on my team who has worked with you on this, thank you to Andre—we appreciate it and the opportunity to get some feedback from you guys. We hear you and we want what is best for the city.”