Concerned neighbors – Rosewalk shows up at hearingThe church property at 109 Hibernia Avenue.
By: Lauren Ragland
Residents of the Rosewalk Community Homeowners Association and other nearby homeowners attended Monday’s City Zoning Board of Appeals meeting to voice their concerns about a townhome development near their neighborhood.
The developer, Thrive Homes, plans to raze the vacant church on Hibernia Avenue, once home to the first black congregation in the City of Decatur. The church is now vacant. There’s also a 200-year-old Oak tree on the site.
As previously reported on Decaturish, Thrive Homes submitted a variance request to do away with the standard 2-hour masonry wall—a structure that significantly slows down the rate at which a building burns. Thrive retracted the request before Monday’s meeting and the City Board of Appeals dropped it from Monday’s agenda.
Even without Hibernia officially on the agenda, approximately 20 residents from Rosewalk attended the meeting. The board gave them an opportunity to speak. Their complaints surrounded Thrive’s lack of communication. Residents said Thrive had ignored repeated attempts by the residents to see the plans for a development that is essentially in their backyard.
No representatives of Thrive Homes spoke during the meeting and the company has not returned messages from Decaturish seeking comment about this development.
Resident Jared Feuer, who secured Thrive’s plans from the City Planning Commission, spoke first. He said, “Just talk to us. Hear our concerns. Engage in our concerns. Do this the way a development should happen in Decatur, a way that has not happened yet.”
In addition, the neighborhood association members said the size of the development will negatively impact street safety, traffic and home values. Many children live in the neighborhood.
Feuer asked ZBA to tell the city’s Planning Commission about Rosewalk’s complaints with Thrive before the city issues permits. He added, “We feel like you would be doing your job in helping to support your fellow neighbors.”
Board Chairman Neil Dobbs said that the ZBA would communicate this to the commission. Dobbs noted that the plot is zoned under the same laws as the surrounding Rosewalk neighborhood.
The difference, as resident Lillian Yielding pointed out after the meeting, is that the single family homes are moderate capacity and the development is for maximum capacity with 20 homes, 40-feet tall, towering balconies, and two new roads.
This particular Decatur zoning law allows for both scenarios to exist within the same neighborhood, on the same street. Yielding said, “It’s not that we’re against development. We want development. We just want it to be in keeping with the neighborhood. With [this development], our lifestyle, privacy, home values suffer. We end up paying the cost of the developer. We understand Thrive’s desire for maximum profit, but not at our expense.”
Planning Director Amanda Thompson said that the city has no issue with Thrive Homes. At this point, Thrive is doing everything in accordance with city zoning laws. She said that Thrive has every right to develop the land under the proposed plans.
Thompson then invited the Rosewalk members to Tuesday night’s Planning Commission meeting. In an effort to be heard, many plan to attend.
Here are photos of the plans shown at the meeting (click on the thumbnails to enlarge). Decaturish.com has submitted a formal records request for this record and other records regarding this development.