Plan for apartments meets opposition

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Al Key/DRC file photo
Houses are shown in Savannah, a master-planned community off U.S. Highway 380. Some homeowners oppose a proposal to build an apartment complex in place of a long-promised retail and commercial center.

Savannah homeowners decry proposal for site once marked for retail

Homeowners in Savannah in east Denton County are collecting signatures on a petition opposing the proposed construction of an apartment complex on a site where community leaders had promised a long-awaited retail and commercial center.

Savannah resident Don Brooks says he has collected nearly 300 signatures since the effort began a few weeks ago in hopes of stopping construction of the complex, which is expected to contain 400 units.

Signs leading into Savannah advertise a future town center, and the community’s website features a map showing the proposed location, according to the community’s master plan.

However, a disclaimer on the website states that all plans for land or facilities are subject to change without notice.

The Savannah development sits within a special district designed as a master-planned community east of Denton along U.S. Highway 380. Infrastructure needs are overseen by a board that manages the district.

Board members recently voted to postpone approval for the apartment complex while a study is conducted to determine if the wastewater infrastructure can support a new apartment complex being planned by the developer, Westwood.

The infrastructure study is expected to continue through April, buying homeowners some time to explore possible solutions to their concerns that the development could lower home values, increase congestion and attract residents who don’t care about the community.

Residents initially began claiming they would pursue litigation against the board for false advertisement, but they have since eased back on their threat.

“Some people didn’t want to sign because they didn’t want their name to be used in a lawsuit,” Brooks said. “So now we’re using the signatures as a way to tell the board that we don’t agree with what they’re doing.”

The property had initially been owned by Huffines Communities, which built the Savannah and Providence communities in Denton County.

Huffines Communities sold the land in 2007 to another company, said Phillip Huffines, co-owner of the company. Huffines said he believes much of the uproar was based on misinformation.

“Many people thought Huffines Communities was going to develop the commercial project, and they thought we sold the land to make money,” he said. “But that’s not what we do. We developer master-planned communities.”

Huffines said he doesn’t know if the apartment complex will be built.

“As of right now, there hasn’t been any formal submission,” he said. “We’re talking about this before anything is clear.”

Huffines said he would like to see the town center be built as planned.

“When we sold the land, we included deed restrictions, which require the developer to include a town center,” he said. “But the language is open to interpretation.”

Huffines said if the project were to more forward, it would probably include a mixed-use development with both residential and commercial space.

More than 100 residents met with Huffines, who said tempers seemed to cool after he explained the process.

“I’m not sure why someone is spreading false information,” he said. “I’m not sure what their motives are, but I put 10 years of my life into this community and I only want what’s best for it.”

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.


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