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The Decatur Country Club and golf course. The Crossings developer George B. Tomlin wants to convert 50 acres of golf course land into a “power center.”
Daily file photo by Jonathan Palmer
The Decatur Country Club and golf course. The Crossings developer George B. Tomlin wants to convert 50 acres of golf course land into a “power center.”

No for-sale signs at Country Club?
Residents don’t want shopping center replacing golf course

By Eric Fleischauer
eric@decaturdaily.com · 340-2435

Residents near Decatur Country Club are not enthused about the prospect of a shopping center replacing the golf course.

A local real estate broker said such a development would damage the value of nearby property that remained residential but could increase values for property that could be sold for commercial use.

George B. Tomlin, owner of GBT Realty and developer of The Crossings, said Tuesday he wants to develop a 450,000-square-foot “power center” on 50 acres owned by Decatur Country Club, near the northeast corner of Alabama 67 and U.S. 31.

The Crossings, on 26 acres and anchored by Target, is on the southeast corner of the same intersection.

“We’re definitely against it,” said Rhonella Evans. “I don’t want a shopping center at my front door.”

Evans lives on Country Club Lane Southeast, which abuts the south boundary of the Decatur Country Club.

“I’ve lived here 43 years, and I enjoy the view,” Evans said. “I don’t want to replace it with a parking lot.”

Tomlin said he made a proposal to Decatur Country Club that would permit it to keep its main building, swimming pool, tennis courts and a driving range. He said club members were considering the proposal, which would require them to relocate the golf course.

Dr. Kinney Copeland, chairman of the board of directors of Decatur Country Club, did not return phone calls. Other country club officials either did not return calls or declined comment.

The country club owns 95 acres north of Country Club Lane and west of Country Club Road.

To facilitate direct access from The Crossings to the country club parcel, Tomlin would need to run a road across a narrow, 2.8-acre parcel of land between U.S. 67 and the golf course. The land is used as a display lot for Lynn Layton Chevrolet.

The owners of the parcel, according to Morgan County records, are John W. Lee and Gloria Anna Lee of Hartselle. The Daily was unable to locate them.

Lynn Layton, according to county records, owns the land east and west of the Lee property.

Layton was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Tomlin did not respond to phone calls or to an e-mail asking if he had an option on the Lee property.

Debbie Lake, a broker with ReMax Decatur, said locating a shopping center at the golf course would hurt the value of nearby residential property.

“There are some beautiful homes out there,” Lake said. “There are several older homes that are worth $600,000 to $700,000. It would definitely have a negative effect on them.”

The development could have the opposite effect on property south of the golf course, she suspected.

“If it goes commercial in there, it could have a dramatic (positive) impact on the property values,” Lake said. “Commercial land at Highway 31 and the Beltline is so expensive you can hardly touch it,” she said.

Houses on Country Club Lane, which have a view of the golf course, are appraised by the county for tax purposes in the $200,000 to $300,000 range. Houses on Fairway are in the $300,000-plus range. Some of the houses on the east side of Country Club Road are appraised at over $600,000.

Residents in the area fear the worst.

“I sure can’t see it enhancing property values out here,” said Hugh Hillhouse, who lives on Fairway Circle Southeast, immediately north of Decatur Country Club. Hillhouse is a director of the Decatur Municipal Utilities board.

Excessive traffic

In addition to detracting from the area’s appearance, Hillhouse said, it would create excessive traffic on the neighborhood’s streets.

“Traffic on Country Club (Road) and Somerville (Road) is already really heavy. That’s one of the main ingresses and egresses to the city,” Hillhouse said. “I think it’s going to get heavier with people trying to bypass The Crossings shopping center. It’s a two-lane road with a 30 mile-per-hour speed limit.”

Many in the area are long-time residents.

“This is my home, and it has been for 40 years, and I don’t want a shopping center here,” said Betty Dinsmore of Country Club Lane. “I don’t want that traffic around my house. I love it here and I love that golf course. I say no.”

Lane Price of Country Club Lane said a shopping center would be a negative for residential properties in the area.

Nice, quiet street

“We moved there in 1979 because it was a nice quiet street,” Price said. “It’s not going that way anymore.”

He said he could imagine the development adding value to some lots near U.S. 67.

“I don’t know if it would improve or degrade our property value,” Price said. “I could see all that residential property near the corner of Country Club Road and Country Club Lane heading toward commercial values rather than residential property values at that point.”

Is it needed?

Hillhouse wondered whether the area needs more retail space.

“When I walk through Colonial Mall, I see all these vacant spaces,” he said. “I really wonder if we’re utilizing what retail we have.”

Tomlin said he also wants to buy 12 acres immediately east of The Crossings from the Morgan County Board of Education. He said a national retailer is interested in locating there.

In April, he offered $200,000 an acre for the school board property. He said he wanted to use it for a 117,224-square-foot Phase 2 of The Crossings. Superintendent Bob Balch said the land was worth more than $750,000 per acre.

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