Auburn City Council voted on April 3 to increase the height limit of buildings in the College Edge Overlay District, disregarding a recommendation by the Urban Core Task Force (UCTF) as well as its own decision in 2016 that this special part of Auburn deserved protective restrictions.

The UCTF was composed of representatives from city planning,  Urban Core property owners, and the Chamber. The vote did not follow “forum after forum” (OA News, April 22), although citizens did speak up in droves at two Council meetings and sent numerous emails opposing the building height increase.

Gene Dulaney, however, put these citizens in their place: “I do have an agenda, and I’ll tell you what my agenda is now ... I think 75 feet in all of downtown is very important because it brings about the opportunity for some significant change...”

Dulaney also stated that “this is a grand opportunity for our downtown, to improve it...” 

Oh, please — development would not have screeched to a halt if the council had upheld the city’s protective 65-foot height ordinance. A representative of the Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau has exuberantly pronounced that businesses are “fighting” to be here. 

Desirable cities make and enforce ordinances that will protect what their citizens value instead of kowtowing to developers’ demands. Mr. (Tommy) Dawson’s excuse for changing the ordinance was that the university could build higher. Is this a Tower of Babel competition? 

The council’s vote has sent the message that they don’t respect the recommendation of planning professionals on UCTF, the protection of historic structures in CEOD or the directives of their own constituents  who have legitimate concerns about compounding existing downtown traffic problems as well as about preserving the unique character of the downtown. Shame on City leaders for their blatant disregard on all three fronts.

Linda H. Dean

Auburn resident

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