By Adam Smith

The North Jefferson News

Developer Gary Travis wants to donate a baseball field to the Jefferson County Board of Education.

However, he needs the approval from the council on his townhouse project to make it happen.

Travis and partner Randy Brooks want to build 198 townhomes on 60 acres of property. Travis said the high-end townhomes would be ideal for seniors and empty nesters, and will include features like a clubhouse, swimming pool and green areas.

The development would be located behind Wal-Mart and join the current Caufield Park townhome development.

The acreage is currently zoned for R-1 or residential. Travis said if the property remains zoned R-1, smaller garden homes could be built on the property.

However, he said the townhome project would require massive grading. The dirt from the grading would then be dumped into a ravine near Gardendale Elementary School, off of Bauers Lane.

Travis said that site would then be leveled off and a baseball field would be constructed at no cost to the county or the schools.

“If they [the Jefferson County BOE] had to do it, they’d have to haul in the dirt,” Travis said. “We can do it and it would be a lot less costly. It’s a win-win situation.”

Travis said he’s also had some assurances from volunteers who want to help build dugouts, a press box and install plumbing at the field.

Karen Smith Nix, a member of the Jefferson County School Board, said the school system has been looking for a way to bulid a new ball field for Bragg Middle School. Right now, Bragg players have to share a field with Gardendale High School.

“It would be a great thing,” Nix said. “Even after the new high school is built, there won’t be room on the high school site for another baseball field. If we could get assistance from the developer, it would certainly get us closer to having a ball field there.”

The future of Travis and Brooks’ townhouse development and the baseball field is now up the Gardendale City Council.

The Gardendale Planning and Zoning Commission recently examined the plans to rezone the project and sent it to the council without any recommendation, according to Gardendale Building Inspector Robert Ryant.

Ryant said there were several reasons why the development met with opposition from the zoning board. “There were a lot of things that were discussed and the answers weren’t there,” he said.

There were questions about traffic concerns and a road leading into the subdivision from the new Caufield Road, being built with the cooperation of the city, the county and the board of education.

Ryant said there was also confusion because different plans were presented to the zoning board for the project than what was originally received. He said the engineer had added alleys that weren’t on the original plans.

Engineer Bryan Presnell said earlier plans that he submitted to the zoning board weren’t finalized and were meant to be a visualization of how the project would look when it was completed. “All we were trying to do was help, and they viewed it the wrong way,” Presnell said.

Ryant said some zoning commissioners also expressed concern over using commercially viable property for residential growth, or “rooftops.”

However, Travis countered that townhomes represent the type of residential growth that commercial developers want to see. “For Caufield Square to be sold, you need some rooftops,” he said.

Caufield Square is currently on the market for $9 million.

The Gardendale City Council will consider the fate of the townhouse project at its Feb. 18 meeting.

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