A split City Council voted 4-2 Tuesday to approve the designs for a planned unit development in north Tuscaloosa.

But it's unclear when, exactly, developer Clayton Hudson and his company, Allied Realty & Development Co., will be able to construct Highland Park at North River.

Described as a “luxury housing development,” Highland Park is designed to be a 183-unit, 321-bedroom project on 10.75 acres on Cedarbrook Drive just west of Rice Mine Road Northeast.

It’s planned to have a pool, cabana and outdoor natural areas acting as a buffer from nearby neighborhoods like Gaineswood.

“We wanted to provide as much outdoor amenity areas as possible,” Hudson said, “and we just wanted to make sure this had a type of feel like resort-style living.

“We tried to create an environment that will be a positive to this area and the city of Tuscaloosa.”

However, a moratorium on building or land development permits for any multifamily development of 200 bedrooms or more has been in place since January.

City Planning Director Ashley Crites said this temporary building ban is not set to expire until December and, even then, it could be extended by a vote of the City Council.

“Should it be approved tonight,” Crites said, “I could not pull a permit tomorrow.”

Four council members opted to approve the design plans, anyway, with Council President Cynthia Almond, who represents this area as part of District 3, and District 6 Councilman Eddie Pugh casting the dissenting votes.

The remaining four council members — Phyllis W. Odom, Raevan Howard, Kip Tyner and Sonya McKinstry — voted against the wishes of Almond, who urged her fellow council members to oppose the project as planned, and against a majority of residents who had crammed into the council chambers.

Of the six people who spoke up during a public hearing, one was in favor of the project. That was Robert Reynolds, a former member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and an attorney who said he was representing Alabama One Credit Union, which owns land nearby and intends to develop it into a commercial project to connect with Hudson’s apartments.

The other five identified as residents of Gaineswood and said the apartments would harm their way of life, traffic and nearby schools.

“The development is not actually compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Gaineswood Drive resident Bart Tingle.

He was joined by Gaineswood Lane resident John Matthews, who said “183 apartments is too many.”

The council’s vote on Tuesday was reflective of one it cast in April, when it approved the rezoning for this tract by a 4-3 margin.

That time, McKinstry joined Almond and Pugh in opposing rezoning and followed the a policy that the council adhered to since 2013. That’s when council members agreed to reject any rezoning that would allow for any multifamily development of 200 bedrooms or more.

Now, the council has voted in violation of two policies and guidelines that it has imposed to control the spread of large-scale, multifamily housing, and against the recommendations of a volunteer group that recently updated the District 3 master plan, something that did not go unnoticed by Almond.

The council president said the committee recommended housing density of between four and eight housing units per acre for this area of District 3. As designed, Highland Park would equal 17 housing units per acre.

“That’s not anywhere close to what was envisioned by the District 3 Planning Committee,” Almond said.

 

Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.