Thursday, November 26, 2015

Big 'Black Friday' Shopping Turnout Expected

Fairhope, Alabama

While a famous homeless cat rested-up nearby, downtown streets were deserted today; but big crowds are expected tomorrow for traditional 'Black Friday' shopping as well as 'Super Saturday': Near record-setting sales have already been reported by some downtown bars, restaurants and shops -- and that could continue if the weather remains good.


Also, the city council has begun discussing councilman Mueller's proposal to relax the night-time noise limit (after 10PM) in the downtown area, at least: He told the Times no one specifically has been complaining it is too low -- just thought it was a good thing to do.

Another council-source advised that a close relative of Mueller's works for a downtown night spot that was caught-up about 6 years ago in a noise dispute with some condo owners across Bancroft Street (McSharry's Irish Pub).

The Times has not-yet been able to confirm that, though.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Alabama Politicians Score Low For "Integrity"

Fairhope, Alabama 

Alabama state flag
A recent study by the Center For Public Integrity gave Alabama politicians an overall D+ for integrity, including an a F in two categories analyzed: Public Access to Information and Political Financing (clk).

The lack of an effective means to enforce public access laws and strangely-named PACS used to disguise campaign contributions were red-flagged as examples in the report.

The state ranked higher for 'Internal Auditing' and 'Executive Accountability' however (B+); 'Ethics Enforcement' agencies did a little better too, receiving a C-.

Things are not as bad as it looks a first glance though, since most other states did far worse.

(Most state laws and standards apply to local governments as well)

Silverhill Lights Up For Holidays

Fairhope, Alabama

town library

The quirky, little town to the east of Fairhope has its own impressive light show this holiday season --  including two drive-thru light tunnels. (video at bottom)


Also, Mayor Wilson said the town recently constructed  a sidewalk and gazebo at the  'Little Bohemian Hall' under the water tower.

The LBH is available for rent for special occasions (clk).

Little Bohemian Hall

Hwy 104, Silverhill, Al.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Potential Education Consultants' Responses Opened

Fairhope, Alabama

Ames left, Hollinger right

Former School Superintendent Dr. Faron Hollinger (clk) watched as the only two proposals received were publicly-opened by Purchasing Dept. Manger Dan Ames last week: his and one from Evergreen Solutions Llc., a Florida-based company (clk).

Hollinger is currently president of the Akribos Group, Inc. consulting firm based in Spanish Fort (clk).

State law prohibits discussing fees for such professional services at this point: but sealed 'fee schedules' were in included in their packages.


Ames said  individual EAC members will evaluate the two submittals first, then the committee will hold a public meeting for thirty-minute presentations by each -- as well as a question-and-answer session (Dec. 9th at 4:30, library's Giddens room).

Then the EAC will meet again to make its recommendation to the city council, which will make the final choice.

Fairhope Council To Authorize $250 Million Bond Issue

Fairhope, Alabama


A pubic hearing will be held during Monday's council meeting to approve a request by the Infirmary Heath System Special Care Facilities Training Authority of Mobile to issue up to $250 million of revenue bonds to provide financing for:

* A free-standing emergency room facility on Hwy 181 in
* Renovating and improving oncology facilities at Thomas
   Hospital (and at two others)
* A new diagnostic facility in Saraland.
* Improvements to various other acute care and hospital facilities.
* Refunding certain outstanding debt or bonds

After the Public hearing, if no objections are raised,  the council will pass a Resolution of support.

Legal notice published in' The Courier':

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pier Passenger-shuttle Set To Roll Again Legally?

Fairhope, Alabama

'Shux Shuttle'

At Monday's council meeting, a majority of the city council is expected to consummate a deal worked out in private earlier this year between the mayor, council president Burrell and (possibly) two other council members  to amend an existing pedestrian-safety  ordinance prohibiting any vehicles on the pier -- to exclusively allow famous restaurateur Rick Gambino  permission to operate one to ferry customers out to his new 'Shux' seafood restaurant located at the marina.

According to the mayor, being able to operate the shuttle was Gambino's only condition before agreeing to assume the city-owned building's lease from Bob Pope, who operated his 'Yardarm' there for many years; but it was never discussed in public meetings at the time  or specifically addressed in writing in the lease-agreement itself.

Maintenance and supply delivery-vehicles only are permitted by the current lease.

 Gambino seated in blue shirt
When the issue finally came up at recent council meetings,  some citizens objected citing safety concerns, including long-time walking/biking advocate Charlene Lee; members of the city's Pedestrian Committee voiced concerns at one of their meetings last summer - click.


Twenty-year 'Fruit n' Nut' neighborhood resident Wanda Bell "begged" Burrell not to "take our pier away from us" by allowing the shuttle; and pointed out that the many seniors/handicapped citizens who have to use walkers/canes there for their only daily exercise would be the most affected if he approves it.

Addressing Gambino directly, she said she "wants his restaurant to be successful ... just not that cart ... on the pier."  (video below)

Gambino countered saying the shuttle is very important and only a "small group" with a vendetta against him is objecting: He had said earlier not having a shuttle will "put him out of business" -- and waved a petition of support with "hundreds" of signatures. (The petition was never formally submitted to verify the city residency of signatories.)

Council members Ford and Brewer voted  against considering amending the existing ordinance when it first came up three weeks ago: Ford told the Times he preferred an entirely new one instead (vs an amendment) and Brewer declined to comment. (She said she would have more to say about it later.)

(Note: Pope's 'Yardarm' was listed 'for sale' for $465,000 last year, but the actual amount Gambino paid has not been revealed.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

UPDATED: North Greeno Road Finally To Be Commercialized?

Fairhope, Alabama

Update: This item does NOT appear on the council meeting agenda for Monday, December 14th, but it could be added to it at the council's discretion. The Planning Commission has already approved it.


PUD proposed
A proposal that has been flying under-the-radar for several months by Fred Hayek to change his property's classification from low density residential zoning (R-1) to a mixed-use commercial planned unit development (PUD) could be approved as early as this Monday's council meeting. (Location is 848 N. Greeno Rd. across from Hancock Rd.)

If enacted,  it could bring an end to the decades-long battle to preserve the existing residential character of the city's entrance.

The project is to consist of four, two-story "residential-looking" buildings (35 ft in height) totaling 27,120 sq. ft., with 111 parking spaces and "connections" north-and-south -- possibly for a frontage road all along Greeno  now in the planning stages by the state (ALDOT).

Uses permitted in the new PUD will be for office, professional, retail, and food services -- in a yet-to-be finalized ratios.

Hayek property rezoning
The project's architect said Hayek hoped it would "set the bar high" for other similar re-zonings of adjacent properties along the highway.  

Several citizens spoke in favor (none against) or indicated approval from the audience, some of whom owned adjacent or nearby property.


After a brief discussion, the city's Planning and Zoning Commission overwhelmingly approved the measure at its regular November meeting, with only one dissenting vote (Fidler) on the grounds it did not comply with the city's current "village concept" comprehensive plan; and it may lead to the area looking like Mobile's Airport Boulevard someday.

Mayor Kant and councilman Ford, both members of the commission as well, voted for the change; but Kant seemed more cautious than the others voting for it.

area to become commercialized?
Kant observed that "traffic is the biggest issue there" and asked "if there would be turning lanes": He was told "traffic issues had not been addressed yet."

The mayor also sought assurances that the proposal would be "built as presented ... or will it change" -- and was told that Hayek intended to build as presented.

Judging by past-history, owners/developers will sell their projects after achieving new zoning status -- and the new ownership will petition the city council for significant changes to it years down down the road, according to "market" conditions.

(When asked about this prospect later, councilmen Ford and Burrell said there was nothing the current city council could do now to prevent future councils from enacting changes; Burrell indicated he was in favor of Hayek's proposal too. At a council work session later, Ford said he thought only "the market" should determine what gets built in the area.)

Designer answers questions

New Fire Station Dedication Set

Fairhope, Alabama

Timothy Lennicx station
A dedication ceremony for the city's fourth fire station (named for a deceased firefighter) on Parker Road will be held on December 5th at 11AM according to a fire department spokesperson; the city will take over ownership of the building from the Fairhope Volunteer Fire Department non-profit corporation.

Construction was delayed for several months due to engineering and other issues; funding was by federal grants, county property taxes, private donations, and various contributions from the city.

Although none of the city's stations are manned around the clock, staging equipment closer  will decrease response times for the northern part of town significantly.

The only issue remaining is that a woodpecker has taken up residence there: it is to be removed "humanely" by that time.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Planning and Police Jurisdiction Shrinks

Fairhope, Alabama


New town limit
The city's police and planning jurisdiction shrank a bit east of town after the Town of Silverhill annexed the Highway 104 right-of-way westward all the way to Langford Rd and assumed jurisdiction over about a half mile in each direction (north and south) of the road -- as well as additional territory to the west to Linn Ridge Rd.

Fish River had been the line previously.

According to a spokesperson for Silverhill, the Baldwin Sheriff's Department will still police the area (not the very small Silverhill PD) but the town's building department will now issue  permits there.

Any change to fire protection responsibility was not mentioned.

The area includes the large Fairhope Falls subdivision on the west side of Fish River.

Fairhope Plannjng Director Smith said recently he was never consulted about it -- or aware of the specifics of the changes; neither was council president Burrell who worried about the potential lost revenue.

new map
Mayor Kant told the Times he thought the Silverhill town council initiated the changes because "they needed more revenue."

The design and infrastructure for the Fairhope Falls subdivison was approved by the Fairhope Planning Commission using that city's subdivision regulations and was at one time to be developed as a "village concept."

Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt during the Great Recession of 2008 and the property sat idle for many years: It is not known if the name will remain the same, since it now falls within Silverhill's jurisdiction.

Fairhope Falls