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How a new development project has an 'Olde Town' in Alabama fighting back
Olde Town Daphne is a quaint burg in the heart of Baldwin County's largest city, among Alabama's fastest growing ... It was also built around the same year the six homes along it were constructed, in the mid-1950s when Daphne was no bigger than 1,000 ...
By John Sharp
Olde Town Daphne is a quaint burg in the heart of Baldwin County's largest city, among Alabama's fastest growingIts roads are shaded by moss-draped oaksRestaurants, churches, schools, shops, parks, a popular club and even City Hall are all within walking distance of one another.
But a proposed development of 56 residential and commercial structures has created worries among some Olde Town long-timers about the neighborhood's futureFor the first time that they can recall, they've been pushed into an activist role.
They will take their concerns to the Daphne City Council on MondayThe council is expected to make a conclusive vote on the project.
"There have been people who have lived here 30 to 50 years," said Faye Earnest, whose 92-year-old mother, Dorothy, moved into the neighborhood in the mid-80s.
"It's a very quiet neighborhood," she said on Thursday, a day in which she and a group of neighbors - most who have also lived in the area for decades - were holding up protest signs and waving at cars along the city's bustling Main Street.
"It's a neighborhood that symbolizes Olde Town Daphne," Earnest said"But with this, all of a sudden, it would change the whole climate."
At issue is a proposal is to rezone about 1.8 acres of wooded property at the end of Daphne Court for a development that would include new townhomes and mixed-use properties that consist of residential and commercial structures.
The proposal would add to a 4-acre development that won city approval in March 2017That 4-acre development -- for 38 townhouses -- would be accessible by U.S98 onlyResidents do not object to it.
But late last year, some residents received fliers informing them that the initial development was expandingAnd with that would be a need to utilize a short and unobtrusive street named Daphne Court as a major access route into the development, linking it with U.S98.
The problem with that, neighbors like Earnest say, is the street is narrow and adjoins a dirt roadIt was also built around the same year the six homes along it were constructed, in the mid-1950s when Daphne was no bigger than 1,000 residentsToday, the city consists of nearly 26,000 residents, and has grown by a 20 percent clip since 2010.
"Shocked," Earnest said her initial reaction was to the notification that her mother received"I was so surprised."
The new development is backed by Dyas LLC of FairhopeDeveloper Craig Dyas was unavailable for comment.
Ed Baldwin, a 41-year resident on Halls in Lane in Daphne, Ala., demonstrates on Thursday, Feb15, 2018, against a proposed rezoning vote before the Daphne City Council on Monday, Feb19, 2018(John Sharpemail@example.com).
Earnest and her neighbors have spent the past couple of months spreading their concerns through Olde Town Daphne via social media and word of mouthOver 100 people showed up at a City Council meeting last month as a show of solidarity.
Residents believe the City Council will vote against itSo does Councilman Ron Scott, who sits on the city's Planning Commission and initially recommended the development plan's approval.
"Olde Town Daphne is protective of their neighborhood," said Scott"It's like marching on Dracula's castleThe torches are going up the hillAnytime there is change, people will voice their opinions about it."
Despite Scott's assurances, Sandy Robinson, an Olde Town Daphne resident for the past eight years, said that she and others are on edgeShe noted that the Planning Commission's vote was a razor-thin 4-3.
And, residents already have been wary of rising rush and noise from cars and trucks zipping by on Main Street.
Add a new thoroughfare to U.S98, and those problems will magnify, she saidEven fire officials have weighed in, cautioning that Daphne Court is insufficiently built to handle extra traffic, and too narrow for emergency vehicles.
Said Robinson: "People walk to school and to the restaurants and the barsThere are kids on bikes, mommies with baby carriages and it's a very well-used old-fashion little townIt's not upscaleAs far as the pedestrians go, there is too much traffic."
Earnest said that the area where her mother lives already has drainage woes brought on by the rapid growth"My mom, last year, she had to have an ambulance come out twice," Earnest said"It's been a nightmareYou are sitting on the outside trying to deal with this unknown issue, it's been very stressful."
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