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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Affordable Insurance Group Plans Wind Policy Rollout

Fairhope, Alabama




ACT II, Michelle Kurtz at left


EASTERN SHORE AREA GROUP MEETS

The All Churches Together organization (ACT II) met last week to plan for their roll out of the  Alabama Insurance Underwriter's Association's (AIUA-click) new wind pool policy for Baldwin and Mobile counties that could reduce home owner's insurance by as much as 27%.

The initiative began about ten years ago with ACT II's founding in Gulf Shores and subsequently discovering there was no data to justify coastal homeowners being charged up to 600% higher premiums than elsewhere in the state.

The HHII organization, Homeowner's Hurricane Insurance Initiative (click), grew out of it; their Facebook page is here (click).

It continued with the Governor's appointment of a Coastal Insurance Working Group two years ago and then bills introduced in the state legislature earlier this year; then reached fruition when the State Department of Insurance and AIUA agreed that the private, non profit corporation would offer a new wind policy to homeowners in coastal areas beginning this August.

The new policy reduces premiums, provides more deductible ranges, and for replacement costs vs, the usual lower actual cash values after claims, according to ACT II's chairperson Michelle Kurtz.


INSURANCE COMPANIES "PANICKED" IN 2005

According to group members and a private insurance agent who attended the meeting, insurance companies concede they "panicked" after the 2004-05 hurricanes  -- and over-zealously raised premiums: there have been no storms in the 15 years since.

There is no way to "get the money back" though.

Even private wind rates have returned to near their 2005 levels now; the establishment of the alternative AIUA wind policy probably contributed to the decline and should act as a check to prevent such unreasonable premium rate spikes in the future.

"The AIUA policy is the reason they are coming down; consumers have an alternative now."


NOT A "FLY BY NIGHT COMPANY"

Kurtz emphasized the strength of the AIUA  calling it "strong, not a flimsy new company" -- and how it is backed by all other insurance companies operating in the state and by re-insurance.

It's also is regulated by the Alabama Department of Insurance, she said, giving citizens input into its operation.


PLANS TO GET THE WORD OUT

The group is planning to distribute flyers at the August 5th Art Walk downtown and possibly hold a town hall type meeting later in the month to educate the public about how to obtain the new AIUA policy.

The only way is to access through private insurance agents, not directly to AIUA, but this may prove problematic because not all agents are well-informed about it and others may be reluctant to refer for various reasons (lower commission, too much added paperwork, etc.)

Customers are urged to ask their agents about it.

Some members criticized media reporting so far, particularly one Mobile television station, for inaccurate coverage of their effort  to "get the word out to the public."

Another roll-out planning meeting is to be held at 6;30PM  this Thursday at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Fairhope on S. Mobile St. (in back, behind the main building).

The public is welcome to attend.







Monday, July 25, 2016

Update (#3): Fairhope Avenue Roundabout Falls Behind Schedule?

Fairhope, Alabama

Update #3: Commissioner Chris Elliot just notified the Times that he thought it will open on August 1st as planned.  There seems to be some confusion about it.  Mayor Kant indicated August 2nd yesterday and "before school opens" on August 22nd last week.  It could be that it will open without the lanes being permanently striped ... . Check back for updates ... .

Fairhope Avenue/CR 13 roundabout


DETOUR HEADACHES CONTINUE

Due mostly to numerous weather delays, the roundabout at the intersection of Fairhope Avenue and CR 13 (Oberg Road) will not be completed by the August 1st target date, according to the mayor at a meeting last week.

City crews have already installed small trees and other landscaping.

It should definitely be finished by the opening of the school year on August 22th though: paving is expected this week but the asphalt will have to "cure"  some time before the striping paint can be applied.

At last weeks MPO meeting, County Commissioner Dorsey said all pressure possible has already been put on the contractors for  completion.

This is officially a county/state project, with help from the city (clk).


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Silverhill Council Member To Challenge For Mayor

Fairhope, Alabama



Silverhill town council


IN WAKE OF POLICE CONTROVERSY

According to somewhat contradictory notices posted in the town post office, current place 4 council member Shirley Stephens has qualified to challenge incumbent Timothy Wilson for mayor of the historic little town east of Fairhope.

Also qualifying for town council are:

Place 1 --Toni Norden; (incumbent Bert Jones is not seeking re-election)

Place 2 -- Alan Norden and Steve Williams; (incumbent Mick Allegri is not running)

Place 3 -- Jared Lyles (incumbent)

Place 4 -- Wayne Gruenloh (current place 5 incumbent); current place 4 incumbent Shirley Stephens is running for mayor.

Place 5 -- Steve Brooks and Revel Hill (incumbent Gruenloh switched to run in place four)


The mayor and council voted unanimously to dismiss the former police chief last year.

The election is August 23rd.

(check back for updates ... .)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Updated: Fairhope Soccer Complex Opening Delayed

Fairhope, Alabama

Update: Bob Keyser of the Fairhope Soccer Club told the city council that the Fall Halloween tournament will be held at the complex after all; portable restroom and concession trailers will be brought in.



Manley Rd. Fairhope Soccer Complex



FUNDING SHORTFALL

According to  recreation department director Sullivan, the Manley Road soccer complex will not be completed for Fall tournaments in October, as was hoped.

At least an additional $600K is needed to finish it: construct restrooms, concession stands, and other amenities.

Using yearly land rent from its lessees, directors of the private Fairhope Single Tax Corporation recently voted to provide only half of that amount; the additional $300K will have to made up from other sources, possibly from the city itself.

The city council began discussing the possibility of additional funding at its last work session.


SINGLE TAX CORP. CONCERNS

The FSTC considered providing the whole amount at one time, but decided to fund a new parking lot and more landscaping behind the library instead (for about $450K) with their limited yearly funds.

When asked about it by a Times reporter, FSTC president Turner questioned the wisdom of not including the cost of basic facilities like restrooms in the original design costs.

Bleachers for the fields, especially the two championship ones, will be another big additional cost, according to the mayor.

Portable facilities (restrooms) could be brought is so that the fields could be used sooner for practice sessions, at least.

City employees could help with more in-kind services too (time permitting), such as installing utility services and irrigation.


PRIVATE FUNDRAISER UNDERWAY

The Fairhope Soccer Club (click) is currently conducting a fundraiser to raise money for goals, nets and other miscellaneous equipment -- click.

Mayor Kant told the Times it may be less costly to just provide the funds to the private soccer club and let them finish the project themselves -- instead of the city doing it and being subjected to costly extra regulations that only apply to governments.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fairhope Municipal Election Candidates Finalized

Fairhope, Alabama


The qualifying period ended today at 5 PM for the August 23rd election; here is the list of candidates provided by the city clerk.  (Pending clearance of filing the appropriate state documentation).

Seven-term incumbent councilman Mike Ford is not seeking re-election due to health problems; Page n' Palette bookstore owner Karin Wolfe Wilson is challenging four-term incumbent Timothy Martin Kant for mayor. 

 (Anonymous comments will be screened before publication)


Monday, July 18, 2016

One Waying of De La Mare Avenue Approved (Updated)

Fairhope, Alabama


De La Mare looking east


PAVING CREATED OPPORTUNITY

After consulting with some downtown merchants who voted 6-1 in favor, the mayor and council passed a resolution to make De La Mare one way (westbound) to gain more (45 degree, angled) parking spaces and improve safety at the dangerous Section Street intersection where visibility is restricted.

More "green space" and pedestrian friendly components will be added as well to what one councilman calls Fairhope's "social street."

Additional room in mid-block will be allowed for delivery trucks too, who service businesses on the street -- and others on the south side of Fairhope Avenue through their back doors.

Police chief Petties told the Times he was on board with it, after his concerns about left turns at the Church Street intersection were addressed.

The design mentioned is preliminary and subject to further changes; no timeline for the change was mentioned.

north is up

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Rapid Growth Continues On City's East Side

Fairhope, Alabama


New Morphy Ave. subdivision entrance


NEW MORPHY SUBDIVISION APPROVED

Fox Hollow
The planning commission has approved Fox Hollow, a new 109 lot residential subdivision with its main entrance off of Morphy Avenue, two blocks west of Thompson Hall Road.

The volunteer fire department asked for additional restrictions on lots adjacent their  training facility, but the commission decided they were not necessary by state law. (Fireworks are stored there, besides training)

The phased development adds to the hundreds of lots already approved in the Hwy 181 corridor area -- and puts even more pressure on infrastructure, particularly concerning traffic issues.

At one time, the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation was exploring funding a sidewalk down Morphy in the area, but that project became bogged down in drainage and right of way acquisition squabbles with a few property owners along the road.



 181 CORRIDOR SPRAWL A GROWING CONCERN
Hwy 181 sprawl worsening

One senior city official told the Times that more big box stores are "probably inevitable" in the area along Highway 181 especially -- because much of the area is un-zoned  and beyond the city's control being not within city limits.

Zoning has never been enacted by the county there either.

He also said he had heard a large piece of property known as the Klump Airfield (between Fairhope and Gayfer Aves.) was up for sale -- and worried "some big thing" could pop up there too.

Some time ago a representative from the state highway department told the Times that the widening of the highway to four lanes is not expected to happen until the year 2022, if funding can be found.

That could relieve traffic congestion but actually spur even more rapid development in the area, he said.



'VILLAGE TASK FORCE' STILL NOT APPOINTED

A new village plan task force, recommended by last year's update of the city's comprehensive growth plan to help implement the complex village model has still not been appointed.

 
From part six of the city's comprehensive growth plan:


"During the planning process for this update, the Planning Team heard from various residents who were disappointed that more village‐style development had not taken place. It must be realized that the” Great Recession” in 2008 essentially stopped all development activity for a number of years and that the development market has not yet returned to the levels of 2005 and 2006. In fact, it seems that development activity is unlikely to return to those frantic days anytime soon. Therefore, appropriate expectations must be set. It has become clear that a detailed recommended “roadmap” must be developed in order to provide appropriate guidance to City Staff, so that the steps needed to help create additional Villages can be taken. Therefore, the following narrative is intended to provide this roadmap, which requires proactive action by the Planning Department. Simply reviewing and reacting to development proposals will not create the success that the City desires.

Step 1. Village Development Task Force:

This task force, to be comprised no more than 10 people, is to be appointed by the City Council. The purpose of the task force is to bring together interested people with varied skillsets necessary to understand and undertake village development. The task force should include an Engineer, a Banker, a Developer, a Commercial Real Estate Agent, a Lawyer, an Architect, and City representatives. This task force is to provide assistance to staff in working with landowners, who are interested or are potentially interested in creating a village. These professionals can advise and help form the basis for preliminary development plans."

 

Staffing of the city's planning department is inadequate to address the problem at this time, according to informed sources.

Citizen surveys were conducted, and several  town hall and stakeholder meetings were held from 2013-15 to update the plan -- click.




Hwy 181 discussed at comprehensive plan meeting


many other new subdivisions too

Highway 181 problems

 traffic congestion worsening

new Morphy Ave. subdivsion approved

Fox Hollow phase one

Fox Hollow subdivision under construction

Klump airfield property for sale on 181?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

More Thomas Hospital Parking Approved

Fairhope, Alabama



Area in gray is the new parking lot

 PARKING SHORTAGE CRITICAL

The planning commission approved the site plan for a much-needed additional 60 parking spaces on .84 acres of residentially-zoned property (R-4) on the south side of Thomas Hospital.

Parking is a permitted use for residential property in the medical overlay district; the lots are located  at the end of Northrup Street.
parking expansion here

There will be no access from Northrup and a privacy fence and vegetative buffer will be constructed adjacent the residential property along the cul de sac.


NUMBER OF SPACES REDUCED

There was some confusion during the planning meeting about whether a ten foot wide vegetative buffer called for by the city's tree ordinance applied in the medical overlay district: the plan was approved without the 10'  buffer, but it was added later by the applicant; and the number of spaces reduced from 60 to 54, according to Planning Director Smith.

HMR is the engineer for the project.

The city council will still have to approve the plan.






Northrup St. side