Regency Rd. residents voice concerns over 206 unit complex
Developer followed guidelines to gain planning board approval
By John Mullen
Residents in the Regency Road area of downtown Gulf Shores hope to hear from the city council on Monday what action it can take to answer concerns about a proposed 206-unit apartment complex planned for the neighborhood.
“What can be done to prohibit a high-density apartment complex in our quiet neighborhood,” resident Pete Sims asked at a recent council meeting. “We want to keep our small town small. To me this development is stepping in the opposite direction from that. I think you feel some of our pain.”
Mayor Robert Craft said he and other city staff will meet with attorneys to see what action, if any, the city can take to alleviate the residents’ concerns.
“This is a legal situation and we’ve been discussing this and we don’t have an answer yet,” Craft told a room crowded with concerned residents. “Hopefully as early as next week we should have some legal understanding of what we legally can do. We’re bound by law of what we can and can’t do.”
The developer, City Planner Andy Bauer said, followed all the guidelines of the zoning on the parcel and was given approval by the planning commission in June. Because there were no rezoning or variances requested a city council vote is not required for the project to move ahead.
Chief among residents’ concerns is the possibility of the apartment containing short-term rentals. According to zoning ordinance, short-term rentals are allowed in the beach overlay district, commercial districts and multi-family complexes like condominiums or apartments.
Bauer said there are currently no business licenses on file with the city for short-term rentals in any of the city’s apartment complexes. City officials have also said the developer has assured them short-term rentals are not a part of his plan.
Even if that concern is removed residents are also worried that adding 206 units on Regency Road would cause a traffic nightmare. West of the proposed Regency Place there are 90-plus units in Regency Club Condos, to the south is The Enclave with 123 units, Palmetto subdivision to the north has 16 houses and The Ridge to the east has nearly 50 units.
“My main concern on this project is I saw where there is something like 300 parking spaces allotted in this complex,” Palmetto resident Timothy Ingram said. “As it stands right now it’s 35 on Regency Road. I can stand in my driveway and watch cars come by there doing 50 mph. They use Regency Road as a cut through to get to Fort Morgan Road every day. Now we’re going to add 300 more cars on Regency Road.”
Other residents say they are not against developing the empty lot but believe the four-story complex would overwhelm the neighborhood.
“I don’t believe anybody in this room would be against townhomes or condominiums over there we just don’t need that many apartments,” resident Tim Claiborne said. “We’d really like for it to remain individual ownership.”
Magnolia Circle resident Dave Evans said more development is already approved for another complex on 1.2 acres to the north of his neighborhood.
“Not only is this project in the plans there is also another project in the plans to the rear of my home that is also 40-something parking spaces and 19 to 21 townhome apartments,” Evans said.
Sims said he believes the council and mayor have the clout to either halt the project or win concessions for a smaller development.
“We feel the council is the executive and legislative branch of our city government and if you so desired I feel you could use your discretion to take action in the best interest of the community and its citizens,” Sims said. “I still feel like this is a political decision that our city leaders can take care of. Building an apartment complex and adding 5 percent to the population of Gulf Shores, to our small town, I don’t think is what the city wants or the city needs.”
Craft said he hopes to have answers for the residents at the next city council meeting Monday.
“I always try to work through this in the best interests of everybody as long as we all understand we limitations legally we are facing,” Craft said. “We’re entertaining this and doing it again and again because we care. The more we know the better we can do.
“We are meeting back here Aug. 6 and I’m hoping we have some type of response from our attorneys on what we can do and a definitive answer to you on what we are going to do,” he added.
Pictured: An architectural rendering of Regency Place, a proposed 206-unit apartment complex that has drawn protests from residents in that neighborhood.