Tuscaloosa City Council OKs 640-home residential project
Developer, planners say project will have only minimal traffic impact
Published: Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 11:09 p.m.
A new 282-acre subdivision in north Tuscaloosa was given unanimous approval Tuesday night by the City Council.
Estimated at $20 million before the construction of the planned 640 single-family homes and 18 townhouses, its completion is expected to take between 10 and 15 years.
Dubbed “Highgrove” by developers Warrior Property Holding LLC, the proposed development is located west of Rice Mine Road Northeast and adjacent to Munny Sokol Park and the Townes of North River subdivision.
The homes will be built in phases and range in value from $300,000 to $1 million, and the development also features 48 acres of open space, walking trails connecting to the Townes of North River and an area for future commercial development.
The council voted to accept not only the planned unit development of Highgrove but also the rezoning of a 3.4-acre tract to allow businesses to operate near the subdivision’s main entrance. Another feature of the development is a small portion in its northeast quadrant set aside for a new fire station.
City officials stress that no fire station is planned for this area of the city, but the space is available in case one is needed here.
“The issue was raised that, one day, there may be a need for an additional fire station,” said Councilwoman Cynthia Almond, who represents this area as part of District 3.
Michael W. Gardiner, a project manager for the McGiffert and Associates engineering firm, represented Warrior Property Holding before the council. He concurred with Almond’s assessment.
“They’re just reserving an area for a fire station if the city elects to build one,” Gardiner said, adding that the area set aside for the fire station is not set to be developed for another eight to 10 years.
Gardiner showed a site plan with four commercial buildings surrounding an interior parking lot just inside the development’s main entrance.
However, no businesses are currently slated to occupy these spaces, and the developers have not identified what kind of shops would be preferred.
“We don’t know at this point in time,” Gardiner said.
For its first phase, set to begin construction in spring 2015 with completion later that year, the developers are proposing the construction of 144 of the residential lots.
While the council’s vote on the Highgrove planned unit development and rezoning request for a small portion of the lot each followed scheduled public hearings, no one spoke out for or against the project.
This came as a surprise to Councilman Eddie Pugh, who expected someone to lament the additional traffic brought by the development.
“I can’t believe someone’s not up here commenting about traffic,” Pugh said.
His comment again brought Gardiner to the podium to address Pugh’s questions. The engineer said a traffic study performed by Skipper Consulting showed there would be no adverse effect on Rice Mine Road travelers because of the planned addition of turning lanes into two of Highgrove’s three entrances.
This was supported by John McConnell, director of the city’s Department of Planning and Development Services, who said traffic increases on Rice Mine and New Watermelon roads are not expected to be an issue.
One possible reason for this is that, with the open space, the average dwelling unit per acre total is at 2.3 for the Highgrove development. Normally, housing developments under the R-1 zoning, which Highgrove falls under, is at 4 units per acre.
“This is a very low-density development,” McConnell said.
Reach Jason Morton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0200.