Forest Fight 

A group of Cordovans want to keep their woods.

When Joby Dion was shopping for a new home last year, he wanted something in a woodsy area. The self-professed “tree-hugger” finally settled in LaGrange Downs, a subdivision located near the corner of Macon and Raleigh-LaGrange roads, in a house that looks out on a small forest.

Now nine months later, a proposal for a new subdivision, to be called LaGrange Commons, puts 16 acres of the woods in jeopardy. Developers Al Yearwood and Sam Reeves proposed the 133-lot development assuming there’d be no fight, but neighbors want to keep their woods. The proposed neighborhood was approved by the Land Use Control Board (LUCB) on May 12th but must also be approved by the City Council and County Commission before any construction begins. Dates for those meetings have not been set.

Besides the woods, neighbors have a number of concerns, including traffic congestion during rush hour and the size of the proposed lots.

“This new development has smaller yards than ours, zero lot almost. We’re afraid this could lower our property values,” said resident Mary Ellen Smith.

The developers have attended a couple of neighborhood meetings, and when the issue was brought up, they agreed to make changes in the plan. But when they came back with a revised plan, the number of homes had only decreased from 133 to 130.

“The lots have to be smaller because the price of the land is so high. It’s zoned commercial. But it can still be a nice subdivision with smaller lots,” said Ronald Harkavy, the developers’ attorney.

Harkavy said the lot sizes are consistent with every development in the area built within the last six years.

The plan was recommended for rejection by the Shelby County Division of Planning and Development because it left no room for tree-lined streets, but the LUCB approved the plan anyway.

Harkavy said they have considered the advice of Planning and Development, and they’ve added one tree in the front yard of each home.

But the neighbors want more dramatic changes. While most say they’d rather not have this development in their backyards at all, they’re willing to compromise.

“Even if they went from 130 to 100 homes, that would make a huge difference,” said Dion. “We’re willing to work with them, but they’re only thinking with their pocketbooks.”

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