Supes keep restriction on additional apartments

By HASKEL BURNS,

A moratorium that prevents the further construction of multifamily housing units in Lamar County will remain in place for property at 2000 Oak Grove Road, at least for the time being.

Colby Herrington of Herrington Realty – the Mobile, Alabama, company that transformed the old Greentree Apartments at that address into the Oak Grove Place apartments – stopped by Monday’s meeting of the Lamar County Board of Supervisors to request a waiver to allow the addition of several single-bedroom units at that location. Herrington’s request was denied after supervisors decided they didn’t want to set a precedent for other developers in the county.

“What ya’ll did there with (Oak Grove Place) is phenomenal – the improvement that you made to that area is absolutely phenomenal,” District 1 Supervisor Steve Lampton told Herrington. “But I don’t want to open up a can of worms, where everybody that’s investing into multi-housing family in Lamar County comes to us wanting exceptions to the ordinance.

“We extended that moratorium for two years, and in the three-and-a-half years it’s been on the board, I’ve only heard one complaint about the lack of multi-family housing in Lamar County. I think a lot of the reason why your occupancy is so good is because the market’s there, and if we swing this door wide open and start building a whole lot of multi-family housing, then we’re putting burdens on our school system and creating a lot of problems that we’re not dealing with now.”

Lamar County Administrator Jody Waits said the moratorium was passed because of several problems caused by high-density population in parts of the county.

“In certain areas of the county, it was just creating stress on the infrastructure, the roads and the school system,” he said. “So they’ve been studying the (county’s) comprehensive plan on how to account for that in the future, and they still need a little bit more time.”

Lampton, who made the motion to deny the request, said he would be more than happy to revisit the issue in another couple of years.

Oak Grove Place is part of a project aimed at upgrading the nearby Westwood Shopping Center on Hardy Street, which sits just north of the apartments. The previous Greentree Apartments complex – which was also know as Corinthian Court – had become fairly blighted, with overgrown weeds, missing balcony railings, busted doors and missing air conditioning units.

“They were vacant, mostly vandalized, and we completely renovated and re-leased those apartments and made what I think was a tremendous investment in the community,” Herrington said. “On our site plan, you’ll see a big, large area that looks kind of barren.

“When we bought the property, our original intent was to add eight one-plex units to that spot. I think we’re at 89 percent leased already, and construction should end this week on the renovations, so I think there’s still obviously a demand for more of those one-unit apartments.”