By RACHEL BLACKWELL
Owners of single family homes in Williams Park, a neighborhood between Saturn Parkway and Commonwealth Drive, are objecting to a plan by developer John Maher to build 336 dwelling units, including condos, in the subdivision.
Maher has asked to change the maximum density of his 32 acres of land within Williams Park II from 220 dwelling units, previously zoned for townhomes, villas or cottages, to 336 dwelling units, that would now also include condos.
Another part of the request by Maher calls for the 4.46 acres across from the proposed condos to change in use from an amenity parcel to a commercial parcel.
The Board of Mayor and Alderman passed the first reading of the rezoning request on March 20, with the second reading scheduled for April 17 when a vote will be held, resulting in a final decision on the issue.
David Fountain of the Williams Park Homeowners Association says that this new development has the potential of drawing over 700 more residents and vehicles to this neighborhood.
Resident Emily Magyar also doesn’t like the change:
“I bought in this area four years ago and loved how small the community was. Now there are new homes and new families, but the community is still relatively small. However, the traffic has increased and the addition of condos will increase the traffic here even more,” she said.
Other residents have argued that the area needs better access in and out before any more homes go up.
“It simply doesn’t make any sense for our city leaders to approve this section of our neighborhood as commercial and to allow condos to be built right in the heart of a residential neighborhood,” Fountain said.
Fountain claims that former Williams Park buyers, now residents were never made aware nor were they given any indication that the developer and the city would ever consider re-zoning the property behind their community for condos and commercial development.
Kelli Hines, a resident of Williams Park said, “If we had any idea that condos would potentially be built here, we would have never built a house in this neighborhood.”
However, Spring Hill alderman and Planning Commissioner Jonathan Duda said that Williams Park has always been planned to be a “mixed-use” development.
“Having a mixture of uses and a variety of housing options has always been planned for Williams Park, and is an important component of our comprehensive plan,” Duda said.
Duda says that this is just another one of the many changes in regards to zoning that have been made to Williams Park over the past 15 years since the plans for the area were initially approved in 2002. In fact, Duda says that with all the revisions made to the original plan, there has actually been a reduction of 20% in total residential units to 758 from the 1,093 units what were previously approved in 2002.
Duda said that the planning commission voted in February to report to the Board of Mayor and Alderman that the requested zoning revisions are consistent with the city’s plan, known as “Spring Hill Rising: 2040.”
In response to the concerns voiced by Williams Park residents who will be directly affected if this project goes ahead, Duda said he is always considerate of all citizen comments and concerns regarding every project that comes before the city.
“My decision process is generally in the view of the long-term for rezoning requests like this, and there are a number of factors that go into every decision I make, including consistency with our plan for an area, the effect a development has on existing and future services, how a project fits, what immediate and long term impact a project has, and feedback from citizens,” Duda said. “We are a board that encourages engagement by our citizens.”
Regardless, it is evident that there is still a substantial amount of opposition.
Fountain advises member of the Williams Park community as well as Spring Hill residents as a whole to be more involved and aware of what’s being presented to the mayor and aldermen, especially with the rapid growth that’s taking place.
Regarding this issue specifically, Fountain says that there are several actions that residents can take, including signing the online petition, which currently has about 200 signatures, as well as leaving comments of concern on the page.
Additionally, Fountain urges more local residents, including those in neighboring communities such as Reserve at Port Royal, Somerset Springs, Port Royal Estates and Candlewood, who could be directly impacted by this re-zoning to attend the next BOMA voting meeting on April 17 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
More than 50 Williams Park residents showed up for the last BOMA voting meeting and shared their concerns about the rezoning.
“If we can get enough citizens opposing this request, we may be able to get their attention and hopefully communicate that we do care about our city and are watching how they choose to vote,” Fountain said.