Tuscaloosa community weighs in why land has not been developed I - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Tuscaloosa community raises questions about undeveloped land

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When a community is in agreement progress can come quickly. On the flip side, nothing happens. In central Tuscaloosa, a piece of land up for sale on Hargrove Road has been at the  center of a lot of discussion.

Recently, developers backed out of a proposal to build a student housing complex on the land. Largely because of opposition from the community.

This is the seventh time in seven years that a developer has made a proposal to build something on this land, only to have the neighborhood put up a fight. Many residents say what's being proposed simply doesn't fit the character of their neighborhood.

The land owner says the proposals have been a good fit, and he hopes to reach an agreement soon.

"We're looking for the proper fit with the surrounding neighborhoods. The development proposals have been a little beyond what I think the infrastructure can support at this time," said Robert Kemp, a resident near Hargrove Road.

Kemp considers the quality of life to be good in the neighborhoods off Hargrove road. He wants it to stay that way.

"People are concerned," he said.

Concerned about eighteen acres near the intersection of Hargrove road and Second Avenue. It's been up for sale for the past seven years, with seven proposals from developers. None of which ever got off the drawing board because of neighborhood opposition.

Kemp says that's because most of the proposals have been for high density developments, such as student housing.

"If you're going to densely populate that area with the level of infrastructure we have, then it's going to have an impact," said Kemp.

There are concerns about flooding because the land is split by a creek. There are also concerns that students will bring too much noise and traffic congestion.

Benton Chambliss owns  the property. He says that would not be the case because students would go to and from class outside of rush hours.

"We had a study done by skip engineering out of Birmingham which said the impact would be negligible, should not be a problem," said Chambliss.

But Kemp says, "You can do traffic studies. You can say it will only impact in a minimal way. To people experience though, this is a neighborhood that gets cut-through traffic."

Community members have suggested senior living, or single family homes instead student housing. But Chambliss says the infrastructure would not support that.

"The property has a lot of issues that restrict what can be built there. The only thing that's feasible at this point is to do a student housing development," said Chambliss.

Right now the property is zoned for mobile homes. Student housing would require rezoning. It's something city council has always voted against. Councilman William Tinker, who represents the district, admits his decision is influenced by the community.

"One of the things I take into consideration is the surrounding property owners. You have to understand that a home is a person's biggest investment. And if they thinks it's something that's going to impact their way of life and living then that's one of the things I take into consideration," said Tinker.

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