Proposed 774-home Priceville subdivision draws opposition
By Wes Tomlinson
For the Enquirer
PRICEVILLE — A proposed 774-home subdivision in Priceville would impact the town gradually, according to the developer, but 10 residents objected to the project during a rezoning hearing Monday and said it would compound drainage and traffic problems.
Breland Companies wants to build the Nature’s Walk at Wheeler subdivision on a 352-acre property near Priceville High, north of East Upper River Road and east of North Bethel Road. Breland Companies President Joey Ceci said Tuesday that the single-family homes’ sale prices will range from $350,000 to $500,000.
After hearing residents’ objections Monday, the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-0, with three abstentions, to recommend rezoning the property from Agricultural to Planned Development.
Mayor Sam Heflin said that Planned Development is a mixed-use residential zoning. He said the developer’s preliminary plat shows a mix of 9,000-square-foot and 12,000-square-foot lots.
Priceville is already dealing with dramatic growth. Its population increased 32% between the 2010 and 2020 censuses, rising from 2,658 to 3,512. The planned subdivision would increase the number of homes in Priceville by 48%. The town currently has 1,600 homes, with 1,100 on the sewer system and 500 on septic tanks.
William Hollinghead, who lives on 2023 N. Bethel Road, said the municipality has not repaired the drainage system on his road, a problem he said has lingered for several years.
“Every time it rains, a lot of the rain on Bethel Road actually flows on to my property and it brings bags and bags of trash that we have to pick up,” Hollinghead said after the hearing. “I pay very close attention to the development of (Priceville) and how it’s growing because I know we have significant infrastructure issues as far as the roads and our drainage from the runoff on the side of the roads.”
Both Hollinghead and David Sharp, who lives at 570 E. Upper River Road, said they were concerned about the rapid population growth the subdivision would bring.
“We’re going in the right direction, but maybe we need to slow down and not move so fast,” Sharp told the commission. “We’re talking about doubling the population of the town. If you build (houses) they’re going to sell, but is that really the direction we want our town to go in?”
Ceci said the 774 homes will be built in seven phases.
“It will probably take 10 to 12 years until the subdivision will be complete,” Ceci said. “The first homes in phase 1 would start being built in the spring of next year. … The seven phases will go out until 2035. It’s not like 770 homes will be built overnight.”
Nature’s Walk would be the first subdivision developed by Breland Companies in Morgan County. Ceci said they have developed subdivisions in Limestone, Madison and Cullman counties and in northwest Florida.
Ceci said he is meeting with residents who live near the planned development on Thursday to discuss drainage problems.
“There is a very large retention pond lake on the property and the drainage plan will be designed so that there is no water that we’re going to put on to our neighbors,” Ceci said. “It will all go into our own development.”
Ceci said Breland will install 2 miles of landscaped berms around the project to “help with privacy for the folks we’re building for.”
Heflin said if the project is approved, Breland Companies will extend sewer into the subdivision.
“They have to install it, they have to test it, they have to make sure it’s up to code,” Heflin said. “Then we test it and approve it and then we accept it and that’s how we get sewer into new subdivisions.”
Heflin and Town Councilman Patrick Dean are both on the Planning Commission but abstained from voting on the subdivision Monday because they plan to vote on it next week when Town Council considers the rezoning. The council meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Upper River Road has become a magnet for growth on its western end in Decatur and eastern portions in Priceville. The road is East Upper River Road on the east side of Interstate 65.
Two subdivisions are underway just north of Upper River Road in Decatur. Annexation and prezoning for a major apartment complex on Upper River Road were recently approved by the Decatur City Council despite objections from residents of the neighboring Hickory Hills subdivision.
The Decatur-area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which includes Decatur, Priceville and Morgan County officials, conducted an intersection study in 2019-21 and concluded that an Upper River Road interchange would be too close to the I-65 interchange at Alabama 67.