Residents of Cloverleaf Subdivision speak out

Mar. 18—Residents of the Cloverleaf Subdivision addressed the Athens City Council at their February 27 meeting to voice their opposition to a new subdivision being developed adjacent to them.

"We had it so nice here and now, it's one of the most least desirable place to live. It's gone from one extreme to the other," long time Cloverleaf resident Bill Davis said.

"This thing has the potential of changing the entire character of the adjoining subdivision," Davis said. "My property borders the floodplain that's been rezoned to a residential subdivision. I got a letter on this of the required meeting on the 25th (July, 2022) and the agenda for this meeting, a legal requirement, happened on the 19th (July, 2022). I was notified a little bit late wouldn't you say?"

According to the City's rezoning process for legal notices, "Fourteen days prior to the Planning Commission meeting, the ES & CD Department will place a legal advertisement in the Athens News Courier giving a notice of public hearings on submitted requests, Also, the ES&CD department will place a sign on the property at least ten days prior to the meeting giving notice that 'This property is being considered for (RE)ZONING, for more information call 233-2224.'"

At the meeting, a city worker said he placed two signs: one at the entrance of Edison Street and on Cloverleaf at the dead end. Residents of Cloverleaf claim to have not seen the signs where they were placed.

The Athens City Code states in regard to written (mailed) notice, "Written notice shall be required in the following circumstances by the party indicated in the time allotted:

—Subdivision of property- provided by the City via certified mail to owners of all adjoining properties at least 5 days prior to public hearting."

The residents of Cloverleaf Subdivision that The News Courier spoke to all received their letters on July 25, 2022 — six days after the meeting. However, the letters were postmarked July 13, 2022.

Another long time resident of Cloverleaf Subdivision, Ms. Joan Orman is also unhappy and believes the letters were delivered when they were for one simple reason.

"They were sent to us on the wrong day because they did not want us to come," she said.

The News Courier has seen a copy of the certified letter postmarked on July 13, 2022 ahead of the July 19 meeting. The city claims they did their part to send out the letters in advance of the meeting.

"Myself and other people in the subdivision feel like this has been kept under the radar — undercover. We feel like we have been ambushed with it. The devil is always in the details and the letter says, 'To whom it may concern,' and if you are going to have two major corridors running through your subdivision running east and west, I'd say it concerns everyone in that subdivision," Davis said. "This thing has the potential of changing the entire character of the adjoining subdivision."

"Nothing probably can be done about this now, but most of the people there — I've been there over half my life. I am trying to subdue my passion because I am angry and upset about it. But, this is not about property value, this is about my home and you have taken away all the aesthetic value of my home," Davis told the council.

Davis asked the City Council if any traffic or environmental studies done prior to the rezoning of the property. One of Davis' major concerns is the increase of traffic in what he considers the most congested portion of Hwy 72.

"Supposedly, there's going to be 150-180 homes built on both the left and right of us combined. I don't know what they are going to do about leaving their subdivision on the east side of us. If you leave Edison going to Hwy 72, there is no red light. They are going to connect our roads, that dead end, to this new subdivision so they would have access to our subdivision to get to the red light at Cloverleaf. That's not going to be good because there is another subdivision being built to the west side of us as well. My main concern is, was there was a traffic study done?," Davis' neighbor Suzanne Henderson said.

Perhaps the greatest concern to Cloverleaf residents regarding the development is the location of the subdivision within the Town Creek floodplain and the environmental hazards they could be facing.

"What we are dealing with now is an abandoned site. They took down the trees that were basically a wind barrier. We also have a drainage ditch in the back and the new lake that has formed from the destruction of the trees. The mosquitos, that's another environmental hazard," Anthony Longo said. "This area is listed as a hazardous flood zone and all the homeowners here are required by FEMA to carry flood insurance. If FEMA is telling you this is an agriculture wetland flood zone, I think it would be worth it to get FEMA back out to see what has happened and how the condition has gotten much worse."

Another resident Doris Welch said,"Our homes are the most expensive things we invest in and this little neighborhood has been so nice. Other than feeling as if I am going to be flooded, if they put 80 houses or whatever they are talking about out here, it is going to flood us all."

Cloverleaf resident Malcolm Morgan explained, "I think the concern with flooding is a very valid issue. I am on Congress, one street over from Cloverleaf and we already have that problem over here because of Town Creek. Those with the sewer department, for the past ten years, have been dumping thousands of truck loads of dirt over here behind us next to the fire department training building. They have filled in probably about 2 football fields about 70-75 feet high. Basically, they have filled in the flood plain for Town Creek. Now, when it rains, we have a river in our back yard that comes up to the house."

The concern the residents have is that the City hasn't done its due diligence to address existing issues nor conducted proper studies to prevent future issues. More residents reached out to voice their concerns and in hopes to finding answers to their questions. The News Courier reached out to the City Engineer about the new subdivision being developed on the east side of Cloverleaf Subdivision but he did not return our call or email.

The News Courier also reached out to Seth Burkett with ALDOT to learn more about possible traffic studies regarding the potential increase in traffic at Cloverleaf Drive and Edison Street onto AL Hwy 72. As of press time, he had not responded.

"I haven't had a good night sleep since I found out this was going on," Davis said, "There's gotta be away to have development without totally disrupting those already here."