Opelika Votes to Allow Rezoning of Land on Cussetta Road

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PHOTO BY ROBERT NOLES / THE OBSERVER

BY MICHELLE KEY
PUBLISHER

The discussion regarding the rezoning of 166 acres of land located near Highway 431 and Cusseta Road continued at Opelika’s city council meeting on Tuesday night. The land that was being considered for rezoning is near Storybook Farms, a therapeutic horseback riding facility and farm that provides services to families with special needs throughout the area.

The 51-acre farm offers six programs: Hope on Horseback, Storybook Tails, Short Stories, Horse Sense, Flat Stanley’s Discovery Trail and the Secret Garden and all programs are provided at no cost to the families.

The proposed ordinance would rezone the acreage in question and would then allow the development of a new subdivision and the building of approximately 242 new homes. The Opelika Planning Commission presented this proposed ordinance with a recommendation for approval.

Founder and Executive Director Dena Little, spoke to the city council last month on Oct. 19 when the proposed ordinance was first presented to the council.

“Unfortunately, the introduction of 200 and some odd homes will disrupt and undermine what we have all invested in, what members of this community have invested in right alongside me,” Little said. “I believe in my heart that this development is going to have an impact and it is going to be a negative one.”

During that Oct. 19 meeting, the council failed to make a motion to introduce the ordinance for first reading, so the motion died. During the next city council meeting on Nov. 2, the council did introduce the motion for first reading.

Several people attended Tuesday night’s meeting speaking both for and against the proposed ordinance.

Ward 5 Council Member Todd Rauch addressed those assembled.

“If we do not rezone this property, it can still get developed, and then you have a bigger issue at hand,” he said. “Because then you have 23 driveways that go right onto Cussetta Road, instead of two entrances.

“I think this is probably the most prudent thing that we could possibly do.”

Trademark, the developer, has agreed to double the size of the buffer, from the original proposed 25 feet to 50 feet and to install fencing.

“I just ask for your patience and willingness to continue to work with Trademark Homes … I just ask that you be open and willing to give them [the] chance. That’s all I ask,” Rauch said.

Ward 1 Council Member George Allen added, “Based on all the information that I have received, and the conversations that I have had, I truly believe that you can coexist and it will be better for the city of Opelika.”

The council voted 3 to 1 to approve the proposed ordinance.

IN OTHER BUSINESS:

– Mayor Gary Fuller recognized Cory Bracknell, Brandon Lee and Kevin Baxter with Certificates of Bravery for their roles in helping save a woman from a domestic violence situation. Their actions saved the woman’s life and helped prosecutors get a conviction against the perpetrator.

– The OHS Cheerleaders were recognized for winning the State of Alabama South Regional Championship.

– Fuller read a proclamation declaring November 2021 as National Home Care Month.

– Keep Opelika Beautiful Director Tipi Miller introduced the 2021 Yard of the Year Award Winners.

– Fuller appointed John Sweatman to the Planning Commission.

– The council held public hearings on four weed abatement assessments and later voted to approve the assessments for:

504 S 4th St.,

454 S 10th St.,

814 Donald Ave. and

707 Grove Ave.

– The council approved a bid for the Westside Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvements.

– The council approved the purchase of a Polaris Ranger Crew XP 1000.

– The council approved a resolution for certain tax abatements and exemptions for Cumberland Plastic Systems, LLC. 

– The council approved an employment contract with Brent Poteet.

– The council approved a professional services agreement with ESG Engineering, Inc.

– The council approved several annual appropriation contracts with various organizations as follows:

• A-O Discover!,

• Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County,

• East Alabama Healthcare Authority,

• Valley Haven School and

• East Alabama Arts Association.

– The council approved a special appropriation for A-O Discover! in the amount of $1,000.

– The council approved a special appropriation to Arturo Menefee from the Ward 2 reserve discretionary fund in the amount of $1,000.

– The council voted to approve an ordinance to amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map to rezone 3.2 acres located 1200 block South Fox Run Parkway.

– The council voted to approve an ordinance to amend the zoning ordinance — Sections 2.2, 6.4, 7.3, 7.6, 7.8, 8.14, 8.18.1, 8.24, 8.26, 8.27 and Section IX and specifically by adopting new sign regulations.

The next council meeting will be held on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. Meetings are held in the municipal court building located at 300 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Opelika.

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