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Landlord wants to buy city property

Apartment owner says lot is overgrown, nutria-infested

TUSCALOOSA | Thick vegetation and large rodents spurred a Tuscaloosa landlord and some neighborhood residents to urge the Tuscaloosa City Council Tuesday to take action.

Phillip Weaver, owner of apartments in the University of Alabama area, wants the city to sell him an old railroad right of way running parallel to Riverside Drive. He owns apartments on either side of the city-owned abandoned right of way, and he said the overgrown property is becoming a nuisance.

“The property has gone down,” Weaver told the City Council Properties Committee. “The vegetation has gotten out of hand. And there are animals in it that look like woodchucks.”

Weaver said the animals are actually nutria, a nonnative import to the Southeast, that resemble very large rats. The nutria are unwanted and are coming onto people’s porches, he said.

Weaver said he only wants the property so that he can control the vegetation and has no intention of building on it.

“I don’t want to spend $100,000 and just sit on it,” Weaver said. “But I feel that I could do a better job with it than the city is doing now.”

Weaver said he is also concerned about someone else, particularly the University of Alabama, buying it. UA is buying up a lot of property in the area and he said he doesn’t want the university “in [his] back door.”

But residents of the Sherwood Drive neighborhood say they’re concerned about someone in the real estate business buying the property.

“We don’t want the city to sell it,” said Rocky Cicatiello. “We don’t feel safe if a developer gets it.”

Committee members discussed several options. The area’s master plan calls for turning it into a park-like green space. But the city has sold off other pieces of the right of way and it is not connected to other parts of the right of way.

Mayor Walt Maddox said the city is working on a grant that would turn old railroad right of way into walking and biking trails. He said his office would look into the possibility of connecting the right of way to other right of way bordering Queen City Park.

He also plans to look into granting an easement to the Sherwood Drive neighborhood so that it could maintain the right of way. The city could also add the right of way to its vegetation control program.

By Robert DeWitt, Tuscaloosa News