An easy-to-miss gap in the trees off Choccolocco Road may soon be home to a new Anniston neighborhood – the first new large residential development in the city in recent memory.
In a special meeting earlier this month, City Council members agreed to set aside up to $500,000 to offset the cost of sanitary sewer lines for a proposed development called Village at the Springs, south of Choccolocco Road near Golden Springs Road. That development could bring up to 130 new units of housing to the city, according to city officials.
“It’s exciting,” said Mayor Jack Draper. “It’s the first residential development to come to Anniston in a long time.”
The city approved a plan to reimburse costs for a sanitary sewer for D & K James Construction, which owns 41 acres at the site, according to county records. Attempts to reach D & K co-owner Don James were unsuccessful Monday and Tuesday, though city officials said it was a site for future home construction.
“It’s substantial and it’s worth getting behind,” said Councilman Jay Jenkins, one of the chief advocates of the sewer project. He said a lack of sewer service has been a complaint of developers interested in the area in the past.
New house construction has been hard to come by in Anniston in recent years. Census records indicate the city’s population has been declining for decades. But real estate has been in higher demand across the country in recent years, spurred by a good economy and low interest rates – a trend that hasn’t missed Calhoun County. Real estate agents in recent months have said keeping up a supply of sellable housing may soon be the market’s biggest problem.
It’s unclear when the houses planned for the D & K James site will be completed. On Monday, all that was visible at the site was a road carved into the wooded lot and some earth-moving equipment.
Jenkins said the project is likely to cost the city only about $450,000 – not the full $500,000 authorized by the council – and will be paid for largely through funds from an earlier $3 million city bond issue. He said the city will likely get most of the money back, through an agreement with the developers to add a fee for sewer construction to the cost of new homes in the development.
Asked what will happen if the bottom falls out of the housing market before construction, Draper said the agreement with D & K protects the city from cost if the development isn’t built.
“We would be off the hook for that,” he said.
All five City Council members seem to be on board with the development. Councilman Ben Little, who represents Ward 3 on the west side of town, didn’t attend the meeting where the vote was held on the project, but did set aside $50,000 in discretionary money for the project, which isn’t in his ward.
“All I want is for the same thing to happen in all the communities in Anniston,” Little said.
Ward 2 Councilman David Reddick said he hoped to see spending in his ward as well.
“I want to support this 100 percent, but I want the rest of the council to support me,” he said.