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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Updated: Fairhope's Central Business District To Be Enlarged?

Fairhope, Alabama

Update:  This project's developer Chris Haley informs the Times:

"One point of clarification in your article..... the county zoning data for my parcel is inaccurate (as it is on numerous parcels in the county).  You can check Fairhope zoning maps which are accurate.   IT is zoned B-2 which allows mixed use."


 Fairhope Avenue in foreground


BIG NEW MIXED-USE PROJECT PROPOSED

At its January meeting, Christopher Haley (Haley Development Llc.) asked the Planning Commission for their informal, preliminary opinion of a project he is designing for the north side of Fairhope Avenue, east of the post office (across from ACE Hardware).

Developer Chris Haley
The property is currently owned by William Hass and is zoned R-2 according to online county land data: Mini-storage units and a few other small businesses are located there now (apparently they are grandfathered in to the residential zoning).

(Pubisher's Note: See the update at the top concerning the zoning)

The 56 unit project (33 residential on top floors with 23 commercial office/retail below) on the 3.5 acre property he said he placed "under contract" last May, would be similar to one in Cloverdale (near Montgomery) where an old grocery store was re-developed into the 'A + P Lofts' - click.

One hundred and thirty parking spaces would include on-street parking on Fairhope and Stimpson Avenues and a 100 space previous surface parking lot in a back corner; a large green-space courtyard would be included as well, Haley said.


DESIGN ISSUES A PROBLEM

proposed site
Haley said that he was bringing it to the commission for direction because the design did not fully meet city regulations according to city staff: a 20 foot wide green space buffer required by the tree ordinance and the proposed new angled parking along Fairhope Avenue are problematic -- even though a traffic study (cost $8K) concluded all technical safety requirements would be met for angled (45 degree) spaces there in the 25mph speed zone.

He said he could re-design it to conform, but thought his design with angled parking like other parts of downtown and extra-wide sidewalks would be more appealing an functional.


COMMISSIONERS EXPRESS SUPPORT

Commissioners unanimously expressed support for the project -- and rezoning the property (a PUD?) or even extending the city's Central Business Commercial District were possible ways mentioned to deal with the conflicts with regulations.

Two commissioners preferred parallel rather than angled parking spaces (for safety) and another warned of chronic storm-water drainage issues in that area.

The city council would have to approve any rezoning or extension of the CBD.



Proposed design  (Fairhope Ave. at bottom)



Current Central Business District outlined in red




Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fairhope Art Center Upgrades Planned

Fairhope, Alabama



FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN UNDERWAY

A fundraising campaign is underway to raise money to expand exhibit space the Eastern Shore Art Center, update mechanical systems and add other amenities such as a front pavilion and patio.

A $200,000 donation from the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation plus various others reached the halfway point to the $500K goal. (The FSTC donation was mostly-used to upgrade the failed air conditioning system according to its president Lee Turner)

According to Capital Campaign literature provided, the original building was constructed in 1965 and has been expanded over the years and the time has come for another update to

*Create a stunning new entrance and facade
*Bring mechanical and electrical systems up to peak efficiency
*Address health, safety and comfort issues in galleries and classrooms
*Improve the layout
*Provide greater handicapped access

"In order to continue to serve our community we must build for the present and future so that our facilities keep up with our mission of bringing art to the entire community."

The ESAC is a private, non profit 501(c)(3) corporation: Kate Fisher is the current Executive Director.

For more details or to contribute click here.


Entrance plaza plan



401 Oak Street

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Updated: Education Committee Shelves Consultant's Study

Fairhope, Alabama

UPDATE: Chairman Summersell wanted to make clarifications about the meeting's discussion.

"i have been in touch with the mayor to discuss the possibility of a 3 mil but not Burrell. Also it would be 1.86 million for Fairhope feeder pattern. Lastly - the study wont be shelved in its entirety. The fact is even though some principals did not care for the individual assessments of their schools the meat of the study's recommendations regarding collaboration and professional development enhancements is well supported by the majority of our principals and was further affirmed on Wednesday by Joyce Woodburn the BCBE academic dean when councilman Brown and I met with her."



Interim Chairman Summersell second from left


PRINCIPALS DISCUSS THIS YEAR'S ALLOTMENTS

After the city council failed to provide any additional funding this year to begin enacting its findings to bring feeder pattern schools into the state's top ten by the year 2020 (about another $320K was needed), Educational Advisory Committee members began discussing how to disburse this year's usual funding of $345K among the five schools, who were represented at the meeting by their principals.

The last city council commissioned the study by the 'Akrobos Consulting Group' at a cost of $49K; several of the principals criticized the validity of the study's finding's, however.

Parts of the study could still be used at some point though, according to EAC liaison councilman Robert Brown.

This year, the principals are requesting more leeway about how their appropriation may be spent, without the restrictions placed by previous city councils (a contentious issue in the past): one said the greatest need now is a full time school police resource officer -- and proposed using $70K or more to hire a current Fairhope policeman for the job.

Another principal said the additional flexibility is needed instead of having to purchase something that may "just sit in the corner, unused" and a third cited her experience in Gulf Shores where that city supplemented the schools more freely, less strings attached.

One long-time committee member warned however that strict "accountability" about how the money was to be spent had always been a high priority for past city councils.

The five principals were to meet again to work out their requests and then bring them to the next EAC meeting for approval (possibly a specially called one) so it could come before the city council as soon as possible for final approval, hopefully by the council's last January meeting.


LONG TERM PLANS DISCUSSED

Bob Riggs
Interim Chairman Summersell said he had been in touch with the mayor and council president Burrell who indicated intentions to move forward at some point with a voter referendum to establish a new 3 mil special property tax district for the Fairhope feeder pattern along the lines of what the city of Gulf Shores currently is doing: that would raise about $1.3 million/yr that would replace the current $345K yearly appropriation coming from "community development funds" (utility bill profits).

The new school property tax would spread costs more equitably over the whole feeder pattern (not just upon the backs of Fairhope citizens) and could be used for new school construction, maintenance or academic programs: top five in the state has been mentioned as a new long term goal.

The proposed consolidation of grade levels would require more space at the current intermediate school especially.

Members praised the county commission for their recent surprise decision to make the controversial 'penny school sales tax' permanent; but Bob Riggs noted that can only be used for operational expenses, not for school construction or maintenance.


COMMITTEE HAS VACANCIES

Due to resignations, the committee currently has three vacancies: anyone interested should apply to the city clerk's office (forms available online - click).



Friday, January 6, 2017

Another Historic Fairhope Home Demolished

Fairhope, Alabama


118 Fairhope Avenue before demolition ... .


... after demolition

ORNAMENTAL CONCRETE BLOCK USED

A 106 year old Fairhope Avenue house that appears on a historically significant list compiled by the city's Preservation Committee was demolished recently: property owners are Matthew Aubrey and Leslie Skinner according to online county public records. (It was previously owned by Ruth Tillman.)

The two story home was constructed of an ornamental concrete block produced and used extensively by early home builders here.

Measures proposed by the committee to provide financial (tax breaks, grants, etc.) and other incentives to preserve such structures have failed to be enacted by a succession of city councils: another one is pending now.

No plans have been announced for the now-vacant lot, which is zoned B-2 for general commercial business.


2015 Survey:

Sligh Returning As New 'Director Of Operations'

Fairhope, Alabama

Updated (1)



Scot Sligh
The Times has received confirmation from Mayor Wilson that she has hired former Electric Department Superintendent Scot Sligh to be the city's new 'Director of Utility Operations.'

The job description includes "to manage subordinate supervisors of utility employees in the Electric, Gas, Water, and Sewer departments ... and responsible for overall direction, coordination and evaluation of these departments ... and directly supervises employees in the Revenue, Meter and Information Technology Departments ... ."

Sligh has been employed by Foley's Riviera Utilities for about the past two years: he will start back here on January 23rd, according to the mayor.


PLANNING HEAD HIRED TOO

Wilson also said she has hired former Baldwin County Planning Director Wayne Dyess for the Planning Department: He has been working in Walton County, Florida's Planning Department for the past several years.

(Publisher's Note: Current Planner Jonathan Smith will remain as well, as far as we know.)

The mayor did not  mention starting dates for the two.


Wayne Dyess

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Numerous Fairhope Sewer Overflows Reported

Fairhope, Alabama



Manhole overflowed at 550 Middle Street


SEWAGE COLLECTION SYSTEM CAPACITY ISSUES


According to reports filed with the Department of Environmental Management, several sanitary sewer overflows occurred during the  heavy rains last weekend: the biggest being overflow from a manhole in the 550 block of Middle Street (at Valley Street)  where approximately 144K gallons of un-treated sewage mixed with storm water overflowed and ran off through natural ditches/waterways into Tatumville Gully.
417 Valley Street lift station

Massive storm water intrusion into the old sewer pipes caused the lift station at 419 Valley Street to fail ... causing the nearby manhole to overflow, according to the document; the failure lasted about 12 hours beginning January 2nd at 10AM.

Smaller manhole overflows occurred on Fairwood Blvd. north of Fairhope Avenue (which flowed into Big Mouth Gully) and on Young Street (at Johnson) due to blocked sewer lines: 1250 and 200 gallons respectively.

Crews were still working to clear the blockages early this morning.

(The city is required to self-report all such overflows)


BUILDING MORATORIUM IN EFFECT TO STUDY ISSUE

A primary reason given for imposing a six month moratorium on some new development was to conduct a study of the sewage collection system to identify problems and then effect repairs.

A $13 million upgrade to the city's sewage treatment plant to increase capacity (for 15 years into the future) was completed last year; but a phase two of the project -- to upgrade the collection system piping to the plant -- has not yet begun: cost estimates the Times has heard for that are around an additional $10 million.

How to better-manage storm water was mentioned by the mayor as a priority for the city's new Economic and Community Development director, Ms. Bloodworth-Botop.

(Funding to address the chronic problem on Middle/Valley Streets had already been included in this year's municipal budget)


Fairwood Blvd. manhole overflow

Middle Street drainage


Valley Street drainage


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Fairhope Greets New Year 2017

Fairhope, Alabama


A small but enthusiastic crowd greeted 2017 tonight in pouring rain.












Saturday, December 31, 2016

Fairhope Airplane Noise Problems Continuing

Fairhope, Alabama



Attorney Henry Caddell standing

DESPERATE CITIZENS HIRE ATTORNEY

Hank Caddell (of Thirty/Caddell, LLP), approached the city's Airport Authority recently about continuing overhead airplane noise issues on the north side of town, especially the high-powered (1,100 hp engines) 'T-6' military training planes.

Caddell said he represents a group of citizens "suffering from airplane noise over residential areas of Fairhope," including one who works at night and has trouble sleeping during the day because of it and others who are suffering various other losses of use of their property (for work, recreation, etc.).

T-6 "Texan"
He blamed training of Navy pilots from bases in Florida, NAS Whiting Field and Pensacola, for the "screeching, shrill and horrific aerobatics ... reminiscent of Pearl Harbor"  for creating the "incessant nuisance problem" ... and asked Airport Authority members for  help in finding a solution.

Caddell cited "strong Federal law and legal precedent" against "taking property without just compensation ... inverse condemnation" as a basis for possible legal action but hoped it could all be worked out before that happened.

Caddell: "There doesn't seem to be any good reason on God's green earth ... when you have vast areas of the county that are rural and uninhabited ... . They could go over open fields to do training ... disturb cows and pigs ...  not Fairhope residents."

"It's degrading large parts of residential Fairhope ... to the extent it is ruining habitability."

He said he had already been in touch with Senator Sessions and Congressman Byrne and hoped to "team up" with the Airport Authority, Mayor Wilson and Councilman Burrell to communicate with the Navy about a possible Federal lawsuit to move the training away from directly over city neighborhoods.

"The very nature of Fairhope as an idyllic community ... a top ten retirement community ... our character" may be at stake.

(Publisher's Note: This problem is separate from the touch-and-go landings often seen at the airport itself. Besides orange-bottomed Navy T-6's, Air Force planes (with blue bottoms) also train here.)



Planes taking off from Pensacola: