DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) - The Decatur Planning Commission Tuesday afternoon unanimously approved the rezoning of commercial property along Sixth Avenue, despite the objections of people who live next to the area. The residents worry their neighborhood will soon become the back yards for new businesses the city hopes to attract to the area. Some even fear eminent domain laws could be used to allow new businesses to force their way into the neighborhood.
One of the areas the city hopes to see some improvements is the Decatur Shopping Center.
City planners believe an entire stretch on the east side of Sixth Avenue could be better developed and attract new businesses, and consequently new revenue for the city. But the people who live behind these old stores are asking at what expense. They say they don't want the view from their front doors to be the back doors of these new stores.
John Nugent lives on Seventh Avenue in Decatur. He says its a quiet residential neighborhood, despite the fact a half block away is the city's Sixth Avenue business district. He worries a view like this might become the view from his front door.
"Right across the street here, I will have the rear end of a business right in the face of my home. And I'm sure that'll do something to our property values," Nugent told WHNT News 19.
That was among many concerns expressed by residents to the Decatur Planning Commission. Yet another resident told the Commission, "Is this something you would want in your neighborhood where you would walk out the front door of your home and have to look at the back of a business or an 8 foot tall wall?"
City Planning Director Wally Terry told the Commission that Sixth Avenue has been evolving for many years and will continue to do so.
"The question is will we start managing the change that is coming or will we continue to allow the change to manage us," Terry asked?
In the end, the planning commission unanimously approved the rezoning of the area. It still must be approved by the city council and we're told that vote will happen on April 7th.
We also spoke with City Attorney Herman Marks about the resident's concerns related to the use of eminent domain laws to help develop the area. He says the law does not allow for eminent domain to be applied for commercial developments.