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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Major Fairhope Subdivison Expansions Delayed

Fairhope, Alabama

Fairhope Falls on Hwy 104 at Fish River


At its last meeting, the Planning Commission delayed approval of additional phases of three major residential subdivison developments that would add 147 lots to developments already underway -- to allow time to review utility service capacity.

In the case of Fairhope Falls (click) phases two and three (67 lots) located east of town in the planning jurisdiction on Hwy 104 at Fish River, the capacity of the water supply was in question.
Old Battles expansion

A water line installed about 8 years ago from the city's tank next to Walmart by the development's previous owners was not the right size (12" vs. 16") and  new flow model tests are required.

In the cases of the Greenbriar phase three located along S. Hwy 181 (30 lots, west of Quail Creek Villas) and Old Battles Place phase three (43 lots west of Huntington Woods, off of Twin Beech Rd)  -- sewage lift station capacity issues need to be studied.

The proposals are expected to be discussed again at tomorrow's regular December Planning Commission meeting under "old business."


A large home is now under construction there by national home builder D. R. Horton, but the original plan was approved over 8 years ago by Fairhope's planning commission: that developer was forced into foreclosure during the Great Recession and the property lay dormant for many years - click.

About two years ago, the town of Silverhill annexed Hwy 104 right of way west to Langford Road and then-mayor Kant told the Times that town would exercise planning and policing authority for about a quarter mile in every direction from the highway -- click.

The building permit for the new home under construction there today was issued by Silverhill not Fairhope; the county has some jurisdiction there as well.
Fairhope Falls Plan

No one could explain to the Times why the current expansion plans are not being considered by Silverhill's Planning Commission, since they are issuing the building permits.

Planning Department Head Jonathan Smith, Planning Commission Chairman Lee Turner, and Council President Burrell said they were not consulted about the changes of jurisdiction two years ago.

Former Mayor Kant told the Times the changes were made because Silverhill "needed more revenue"; it was never discussed during any public meeting.

Old Battles Twin Beech Rd. entrance

Saturday, December 3, 2016

'Ghost Bikes' Mark Tragedy Site Or Advertising Ploy?

Fairhope, Alabama

This is an updated version of an earlier report.

N. Greeno Road last Friday


What appeared at first to be a memorial to a beloved cyclist who was run over and killed at the exact spot on N. Greeno Road ten years ago may have turned out just to be an advertising gimmick by a sporting goods store.

A Times reporter noticed the bikes chained to a fence on the east side of the highway about a week ago; at night the bikes appeared white in the amber street light, but turned out to be orange in full daylight.

We assumed they were a form of a riderless "ghost bike" tribute, but based on feedback from our readers and the fact they have been removed (since yesterday) -- they probably had some less-noble meaning.

At any rate we hope the publicity will raise awareness for bicycle safety and encourage motorists to share the road as required by state law.

Check back here for updates.

From "Ghost Bikes are small and somber memorials for bicyclists who are killed or hit on the street. A bicycle is painted all white and locked to a street sign near the crash site, accompanied by a small plaque. They serve as reminders of the tragedy that took place on an otherwise anonymous street corner, and as quiet statements in support of cyclists' right to safe travel.

From a media report about the fatality there in 2005:

"A hit-and-run driver killed bicyclist and environmental enthusiast Larry McDuff, 65, as he was riding in Fairhope on Monday, a little more than two years after the victim's wife, Ann, was fatally struck by a motorist while biking. 

Larry McDuff was headed south on the western shoulder of Greeno Road, about 200 yards south of Volanta Avenue in Fairhope around 8:40 a.m., when he was hit by a black Jeep Cherokee, according to Fairhope Police Cpl. Craig Sawyer. 

Investigators said they found a slightly damaged 1991 Cherokee parked in a wooded area near Young Street and Kirkman Lane around 3 p.m. After matching the vehicle to materials recovered from the crash site, police said they believe the driver of that SUV struck McDuff. 

About four hours later, the owner of the Jeep came to Fairhope Police Headquarters with her 17-year-old son and investigators interviewed him about the collision, police Cpl. Craig Sawyer said in a news release. 

After being questioned, the teenager was released to his mother's custody "in accordance with established juvenile procedures" pending a formal charge of felony leaving the scene of an accident, the release said. 

The name of the youth, a Spanish Fort resident, was withheld because of his juvenile status, Sawyer said. The Baldwin County District Attorney's Office will evaluate the case to determine whether he will be prosecuted as a juvenile or adult, and whether there will be additional charges, he said. 

Investigators believe that when McDuff was hit he was at least two feet from the closest traffic lane on Greeno, which is also known as U.S. 98. 

Crews had been working on a pedestrian and bicycle trail on the side of the busy highway, but Sawyer said McDuff had been riding several feet from the construction site. 

McDuff was wearing a long-sleeve, lime-green reflective shirt and a helmet when he was clipped by the vehicle, according to authorities. It was initially unclear whether McDuff was knocked from his bicycle or run over, Sawyer said. 

A longtime nature lover, gospel musician and vegetarian, and now-retired salesman, Larry McDuff's cycling procedures changed dramatically when Ann McDuff was killed in 2003 while riding on Baldwin County 27 (now Alabama 181), friends and relatives said Monday." 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Fairhope's 2016 Christmas Parade

Fairhope, Alabama

Mayor Wilson, second from right

Newly-elected mayor Karin Wilson and her family led other celebrities and floats though the streets of downtown tonight during the annual Magical Christmas Parade.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

New Magnolia Avenue Project Proposed

Fairhope, Alabama

212 Magnolia Avenue and adjacent lots


The city's Board of Adjustments unanimously approved variances to allow for a group of mixed-use (usually commercial businesses on the bottom floor and residences on top) buildings on several adjoining lots along Magnolia Avenue -- and the alleyway in the rear (Saxe Avenue).

James and Beverly Reid requested the usual 20' front building street setback requirement be cut to 10' for several adjacent lots they own there  -- to save three large live oak and one magnolia tree to be used as an "oak park" interior courtyard between the buildings.

Project architect Katherine Hall Kaiser said she actually lived in one of the existing homes there years ago, and the entire project will be designed around the "green space interior trees," with only one ingress and egress for cars, designed in a creole style similar to Mobile's De Tonti Square (click).


Site plan, north is up
Planner Jonathan Smith recommended approval of the request because the topography of the site, saving the large trees, did create a hardship and preserving trees/green space is a priority for the city.

Several neighbors spoke who generally favored the plan, but a main concern was parking and an increase of traffic particularly on Magnolia Avenue; Smith said the 28 new off-street interior parking spaces would be more than usual number required, and other traffic issues should be taken to the city's Street and Traffic Committee or police department (ie. speeding on Magnolia).


Complete plans will still need to be submitted to the Planning Commission and city council for final approval, and must "substantially comply" with the one at right.

The property is zoned B-2 (general business) but is just outside of the designated central business district (CBD).

James Reid

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Fairhope Baptist Church Expansion Plans OK'd

Fairhope, Alabama

At its November meeting, the city's Board of Adjustments and Appeals granted a variance to the "maximum lot coverage allowance for a principal structure" -- to allow the expansion of the church's main building located at 300 South Section Street (R -2 zoned property).

The city's zoning ordinance sets a 37% maximum coverage for R-2 and the current building covers 33% of the lot; but the proposed expansions would increase that to 41.43%: the church requested it be changed to 45%.

The existing building is approximately 46,388 square feet and the proposed additions would add another 12,000: the church owns another 112,530 square feet of nearby property being used for parking as well.

Planner Smith said that while there appeared to be no extreme circumstances in this case, it could be surmised that because there is no specific mention of lot coverage requirements for places of worship in the city's zoning ordinance, some hardship could be claimed: Staff made no recommendation and left it up to the Board.

5 year master plan; new buildings in blue (north is up)


Scott Hutchinson of HMR Engineering who represented the applicant said other cities have more specific requirements for coverage (Daphne's is 50%) and if the other church property is considered (used for parking lots) only 23% would be built upon.

He said no expansion is planned for the grassy parking lots (master plan above) -- just the two blue colored buildings on the White Avenue side.

Northwest corner view of new buildings


presentation committee
Rapid church growth, and security concerns for pre-school and other childrens' programs were cited by various other speakers; and one group gave a 3D walk-thru video tour of the proposed expansion (video below).

Making sure there is one main entrance, "one spot to drop off and pick up children" (one way in, one way out) -- and "repurposing" other parts of the existing building for current needs is how one described the master plan.

Retired pastor Jerry Henry also emphasized safety of children: "It used not to be a problem in Fairhope ... but ... its increasingly a problem in our world ... need to keep our children and babies secure."


Rev. Henry 
Church representatives said they had already met with adjacent property owners in the neighborhood to discuss the plans and some fencing and shrubbery were to be added to allay concerns.

One Nichols Street neighbor spoke at the meeting and said he did not really oppose the proposal but already had concerns about the large scale of the existing building compared to surrounding neighborhoods: parking issues on Nichols Street and other traffic issues generally were his concerns as well.


Nichols St. neighbor's concerns
Citing the long-time benefits of the church to the community, and infrequent use of the facility for worship (only Sunday, Wednesday, etc.), the Board voted unanimously to approve a 42% lot coverage variance -- not the 45% requested.

No time-frame for construction was mentioned.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Municipal Pool Has 'Stucco Problems' Too

Fairhope, Alabama

Fairhope municipal pool

The back (west) side of the Municipal Pool in Volanta Park has been shored-up due to problems with the stucco veneer, according to a Recreation Department official.

No repair estimates were immediately available; but structural issues are not involved and the pool remains open.

The library also has long-standing stucco problems that have yet to be repaired -- and an exterior brick wall of city hall had to be replaced earlier this year after a partial collapse.

Updated: Popular Fairhope Takeout Restaurant Relocating

Fairhope, Alabama

Updated: According to an informed source, 'Courntey and Morris Real Estate' and 'Feather Your Nest Interiors' will also be locating in the S. Mobile Street building.

Mobile St. at Nelson Dr.

The 'Chive Talkin' (click) restaurant/caterer currently located on S. Section Street across from the city's Public Works facility is relocating to a vacant building on south Mobile Street at Nelson Drive, according to a building department official.
Current S. Section St. location

The building was formerly a gas station but has been vacant for over ten years.

Two other businesses may locate in parts of the building as well, according to the official.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

City Gets International Recognition For Floral Arrangements

Fairhope, Alabama

Mayor Wilson presented Saskatchewan, Canada flag


Fidler, second from left
City Horticulturist Fidler presented Mayor Wilson with the flag of the Province of  Saskatchewan, Canada  where the city was recognized recently during the International Communities in Bloom competition symposium held there in the city of Regina.

Fidler said last year's award for 'best in class city' at the 'America in Bloom' competition in Michigan qualified the city for the international competition this year.

Two international judges visited here last summer and evaluated for criteria like tidiness, floral arrangements, landscaping, heritage preservation and overall impression.

Competing against five other cities in the class, Fairhope came in second this time with with a '5 bloom silver' designation, just two points out of first place -- and honorable mention for floral arrangements.

Fidler said she spoke to the group for about twenty minutes about our year round growing season and how we "celebrate every season with flowers": some of the competition from northern climates plant only for one or two.

Jo Hogan of the tree committee accompanied Fidler to the event.

(Note: Ms. Fidler often dresses for such events in the traditional fashion of her Czech/Bohemian heritage)

Fairhope's flag exchanged in Canada