Contested rezoning delayed

Published 10:58 pm Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Selma residents in the Houston Park area are concerned riverfront property could turn into section-8 housing or affect water drainage patterns in west Selma.

A planning commission public hearing on the sale of 90.75 acres near the Selma marina was scheduled for Tuesday. It was canceled because the commission lacked a quorum. City attorney Jimmy Nunn offered attendees an opportunity to stay and ask questions, but more than a dozen left, saying they preferred to address concerns when all commissioners were present.

After the departure, realtor Keith Webb explained details behind the property’s sale and reasoning for a rezoning from R75 — single family residential — to R50B.

“The property owner is just looking for more flexibility in the future,” Webb said. “The buyer tells me right now they don’t have any firm plans for development. We are not trying to pull the wool over your eyes.”

An R50B zoning allows one to four family-unit structures; apartments containing any number of units; offices; hotels; lodges and non-profit clubs; and coffee shops or similar service facilities. Concerned residents, who remained for the discussion, declined to comment on-the-record or provide their names. Cecil Williamson, a member of the Selma City Council who represents the area, said many residents are concerned the property would be developed into low-income housing.

In response, Webb said the property sits in the Alabama River’s flood zone. Creating low-income housing wouldn’t be the best use of the land, he said.

“If it was me, I would put one road down the river and sell lots to families,” he said.

Residents also raised concerns about how development would affect water flow in the area, saying it would force water to pool on nearby properties.

“That can’t happen,” Webb said. “It would be illegal to force water onto other property. If it’s a good development and it increases the tax base, then I don’t see the problem.”

Dallas County native Celia Alison and other family members own the property. She said her father purchased the land in the 1940s for cattle. Her family sold a portion of the land for the city’s sewage treatment facility and another for a cellular reception tower. Alison said her family is selling the remaining property because they have no use for it.

Nunn said the planning commission would reconsider the matter at a later meeting.