October 7, 2022

Residents of the Highland Pointe subdivision are voicing their concerns about development in the crowded neighborhood. At the Baldwin city council meeting this week, two residents spoke up in protest over variances being issued to developers and builders.
The most recent request was for a 10-foot reduction in the setback of a property at the corner of Highland Pointe Drive and Trojan Lane. The setback reduction- from 35 to 25 feet – would allow the owner to build closer to the road, saving him around $50,000 on the cost of a retaining wall on the back side of the property
Todd Murphy, who lives on Trojan Lane spoke against the request.
“The council has approved 24 variances in this area for the decrease (in setbacks), with only two denials,” Murphy said. “I have come to the point where I’m fed up. They [developers/builders] have used every inch of Highland Pointe and now you want to use the rest of the inches.”

The parcel requiring the variance is highlighted.

Highland Pointe subdivision is located off Charlie Davis Road near GA 365. It was platted out in the early 2000s. According to the Tax Assessor’s map, there are approximately 157 parcels within the subdivision.
The development sat dormant for several years during the Great Recession. Only a handful of homes were built from the late 2000s to early 2010s. When the housing market began rebounding around six years ago, construction in Highland Pointe boomed.
Murphy’s complaint stems from the placement of homes on lots with steep grades.
“It’s just where they put them, it’s atrocious,” he said. “How are you gonna have kids, when you have a hill that deep that goes into the woods? How are you going to mow your grass? Especially if you’re an elder individual that wants to buy this house. There’s no quality of life there.”
Murphy also questioned the builder’s process.
“If you haven’t been down there, they’ve already sectioned it off so they can pour the concrete. They have already got the pipes in the ground. And I fail to see how they can’t be professional enough to know that this land is not big enough,” Murphy said.
“I’m against it. Any more variances that come up, I’m going to be against them too because we want our kids to play in this place.”

Another resident shared similar concerns.
“My issue is the same. There is a sign here that says variance but it has already been piped in. I misunderstood, the variance is supposed to be 35 feet from the edge of the road to the house, is that correct?” said Michael Hutchins.
Baldwin City Clerk Emily Woodmaster clarified the variance request. “From the center line of the road to the edge of the property line is 25 feet and an additional 10 feet from that line.”
“Ok, just less than an hour ago, I measured from the curb to the end of the driveway at the carport and it’s 24 ½ maybe 25 feet. So, unless the property is magically going to change, it’s not going to be able to fit in that space, as you just said,” Hutchins replied.
Hutchins also expressed his concern with on-street parking.
“You can put four cars in our driveway, two cars in our garage. All of the houses have two-car garages, yet still, with all of these new houses and variances that have been changed, people are parking, trying to park two cars in the driveway, four cars on the street and people are parking now in the yards. It has become atrocious.”
Hutchins says the cars are blocking traffic. He recounted seeing a school bus attempt “an 18-point turn” trying to get out of the cul-de-sac on Trojan Lane.
Woodmaster says this latest variance request was the result of a mistake that the city made.
“The reason this is before council is because the initial setback requirement was missed in the building plan review process. So, they were issued a building permit under the assumption everything was ok. When the building inspector went out there for the first inspection, he measured the setback and he was like there is no way this can work, came back to City Hall and asked what the requirements were. We told him and we called Mr. Zaragoza to come into City Hall and have that conversation and he said, ‘Let’s follow the process.’”
Woodmaster continued, “We had no idea it was wrong. It wasn’t, just to be clear, it wasn’t, the intention never was to pull a fast one on the city or to do the wrong thing and got caught doing it. They thought they were doing the right thing. We the city missed it.“
“It’s pretty much impossible to build on that lot unless we get that setback variance,” the owner said during the meeting. “Otherwise, there’s nothing that can be done. That’s why we’re here.”
As for the complaints about on-street parking, Baldwin Police Chief Chris Jones said there’s not a lot the department can do because no one is breaking the law. However, he did state that the department has issued warnings in the past and it helps for a while. Jones, Woodmaster, and the Baldwin city attorney will work on an ordinance in the near future to address on-street parking.
The city council approved the variance with an amendment to lengthen the driveway by four feet. Councilwoman Stephanie Almagno abstained from the vote.

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