North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

April 4, 2014

Pinson accepts land in exchange for finishing paving in Aspen Ridge subdivision

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

PINSON — A longstanding dispute between the developer of a Pinson subdivision and the city has been resolved with a land deal.

The Pinson City Council voted in Thursday night’s regular session to accept a settlement from Salisbury Development Company, Grayson Land Company and James M. Grayson Jr., in which Grayson and his companies would give the city a tract of land in exchange for the city completing the paving of streets within the Aspen Ridge subdivision.

The agreement settles a longstanding problem that Pinson has had with Grayson’s companies, and it’s similar to one that’s affected numerous suburban communities in Jefferson and surrounding counties. In most developer begins a subdivision, and puts up a performance bond to cover street construction if the project runs into problems. That worked well when the real estate market was at its peak, but when the market went downhill late in the last decade, developers simply walked away and left streets that were unfinished, with performance bonds that would not cover the cost to make things right.

“Before 2008 when development was hopping, developers finished their roads and sold out the lots, then moved on to the next project,” Mayor Hoyt Sanders said.

Aspen Ridge is the last of several such situations for Pinson to deal with.

The city and Jefferson County will now officially take possession of the streets — something which was never completed earlier — and Pinson will finish the work on those streets within Sector Two, which lies wholly within the city limits. The fifth sector of Aspen Ridge is in the county and completely bonded through them, and not subject to this settlement, Sanders said.

“We can deal with Sector Two immediately, then we will go back to Sectors Three, Four and Five to get the required signatures for a referendum, to being them into the city,” Sanders said.

The deal between the city and Grayson was described by councilman Robbie Roberts as “quite an elaborate negotiation.”

The 30-acre parcel is adjacent to the Pinson Valley Youth Association ball fields on the west side. Sanders said that there are no plans at this time to either dispose of the property, or put it to use by the PVYA.

The parcel is valued ay about $100,000, which is the estimated amount that it will cost Pinson to finish the paving. That money will come out of a “456” road fund, which is earmarked solely for such projects.

“Given the situation, this is the best outcome for all parties without legal action,” Sanders said. “This [negotiation] has been going on for several years.”

In other business, the council tabled action on rezoning a parcel at the corner of Highway 75 North and Henry Bagby Drive. Owner Jason Stidham requested that the parcel be changed from rural residential to light industrial, so that he could build a warehouse for distributing food products from Kellogg’s.

The Planning Commission had recommended against the rezoning, and several residents of Henry Bagby Drive spoke against the move in Thursday’s meeting.

Stidham wants to move his operation from his present location. Chase Harrison, who spoke on Stidham’s behalf, said the move would result in a doubling in size of the current business, and would mean that between six and 10 people would be hired to staff the expanded facility.

Neighbors opposed the additional truck traffic the warehouse might bring, saying that getting out of Henry Bagby and onto the highway was difficult enough as it stands now.

The request was tabled so that Stidham could negotiate covenants on the property that would address the neighbors’ objections.

Two other administrative rezonings were approved, which changed recently annexed properties from their former county zoning designation to their city equivalent.

The council also annexed two parcels in the Palmerdale Homesteads community, as well as two more in the Willow Ridge subdivision.