July 22—Despite a recent wave of residential development that includes 21 new subdivisions with space for more than 1,515 homes, local officials don’t expect Decatur’s wave of residential construction to cool off any time soon .
Planner Lee Terry said the planning department’s tally of new housing estates and homes does not include new housing developments on Central Avenue and Modaus Road in southwest Decatur that just began the approvals process this week with the Planning Commission working to define zoning districts for both.
“We don’t know exactly how many homes, but these two could bring the number to nearly 2,000 new (planned) homes,” Terry said.
Planning Commission Chairman Kent Lawrence said Thursday he believes the city will reach a population of at least 75,000 – up from a 2021 Census Bureau estimate of 57,804 – a size that, in his view, would make Decatur attractive to a new class of businesses considering relocating or opening new establishments.
Lawrence estimated that the city would need about 4,500 additional single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments to accommodate this population.
“We’re still a long way from that number,” Lawrence said.
Brian Dean, president of the Morgan County Association of Realtors, agrees that recent construction of new homes has far exceeded demand.
“I think we’re safe for the next three to three and a half years,” Dean said. “We really need new homes. Right now every builder is selling a home as fast as they can get it built.”
Dean, of Dean’s List Realty, said new construction sells “as long as the house is at a decent price,” although there has recently been some stabilization in the overall sales market. Housing prices are still well above what they were in previous years.
The median home price in Decatur rose from $190,000 last year to $235,000, according to Valley Multiple Listing Services.
“The houses that don’t sell are because they stretched their asking price too much,” Dean said. “Once they lower that price a bit, the house sells quickly.”
Jeff Parker of Parker Realty has two subdivisions in development. The first phase of Legacy Cove is a subdivision of real estate lots off Point Mallard Drive Southeast. The other, Valley Park, has smaller lots and is south of the belt line in a Central Avenue Southwest subdivision zoned R-3, the most popular zoning for newer subdivisions.
“I don’t think we have to worry about how many new homes are being developed in the city,” Parker said. “We’re really just getting started.
Because of this, Parker said he needs to begin moving onto Legacy Cove Phase 2 of 42 tiny homes that will be on 5,000 square foot lots. The property is zoned R-3.
Homes in the more recently planned subdivisions of Decatur are patio-sized homes with small lots. Parker said material prices have driven up costs, making these tiny homes more efficient.
“Developers are looking for ways to build affordable homes,” Parker said.
Lawrence and Parker said a good thing about the city’s residential developments is the variety of different sizes and types of homes. They range from estate lots to patio homes with zero lot lines to starter homes, then there are townhouses, upscale apartments, and downtown lofts.
“It gives Decatur something to offer everyone,” Parker said.
In addition to new homes, Lawrence said contractors are also building many new homes on fill sites and doing a lot of renovations.
Ralph Cole of Greystone Properties and Land Services is planning a 34-acre development of patio homes and townhouses just down Parker’s Valley Park at the corner of Central Avenue and Poole Valley Road.
Parker and Lawrence said there is more land available in this area of Central Avenue south of the Beltline, so it’s more affordable than other parts of town.
“There’s land available and there’s already a sewer,” Parker said. “The land is also flat and easy to develop.”
The Planning Commission voted this week to recommend Cole’s application to rezone his property from agriculture to PRD-7, a planned residential neighborhood. City Council must approve any rezoning or pre-zoning recommendations.
Lawrence said he’s surprised that PRD isn’t used more often because he thinks it gives a developer more flexibility.
For example, the developer of the planned Quinn Oaks subdivision off Modaus Road Southwest recently got part of the development zoned for patio homes and the other zoned for townhouses. The PRD zone allows the developer to do a mixed-use development with separate zoning districts as long as the Planning Commission approves the development plan, Lawrence said.
A planned second subdivision of Modaus Road joined Quinn Oaks in the city’s planning approval process this week.
Castle Rock Global Holdings LLC has begun the process of annexing 1.86 acres south of 3102 Modaus Road to the city by having the land pre-zoned R-5, single family homes with patios. This property is close to Shady Grove Lane Southwest.
The Planning Commission voted to recommend this pre-zoning, then recommended rezoning 53.44 acres from agriculture to R-5 across from Austin High School.
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