Baldwin County has recently been introduced to the traffic intersection known as a roundabout.” The modern roundabout is a beautiful thing. Traffic flow is improved, they look nice and they are safer than traditional intersections. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Status Report about Roundabouts, they cite research from the University of Maine that found a 39% reduction in crashes, a 76% decrease in injury-producing crashes, and a 90% decrease in collisions involving fatal or incapacitating injuries when studying a sample of 25 intersections turned into roundabouts. Other research finds that while roundabouts are safer than traditional intersections, they also have the potential to reduce traffic delay by up to 75%.”
So why build a gas station on a roundabout? Fairhope has received many accolades that have made our community a Norman Rockwell village sprinkled with flowers. Well folks if we wind up with a gas station at the roundabout located at highway 13 and Fairhope Avenue, we deserve a new award…perhaps a Red Neck Roundabout award or maybe the Good Ole Boy Never-ending Circle Award.
Baldwin County Commissioner Chris Elliott issued a statement that clearly represents the County’s position.
“I’d like to clarify a few points about the roundabout and rumors of a gas station. I figured some facts would help. The intersection of 13/48 is in a partially … in the city and partially in the county. It’s also governed by something called extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ). This means that while portions of this area are in the county, the City of Fairhope issues (or refuses to issue) building permits and has subdivision authority over this property. It’s worth noting that the city (no matter the mayor and no matter the council makeup) must issue permits and permissions if all requirements are met. For any candidate for elected office to tell you differently is disingenuous and disappointing.
The corner in question (North West) is in the county and has not been annexed into the city. (The property owner would have to request it). When county zoning was adopted by the voters some time ago, this area decided not to go along and consequently this area is un-zoned. Yep…un-zoned and that’s what the voters decided. Should we ask the voters again? YES and soon and that’s the ONLY way to address this issue and many like it county wide. But it’s the voters decision not any elected official so please place blame appropriately.
So, we’re left with an un-zoned parcel on the North West corner of a major intersection at one of the gateways to the City of Fairhope.
A portion of this property needed to be acquired in order to construct the roundabout at 13/48.
One of the requests of the owner while negotiating the price of the right of way to be acquired was access to the remaining parcel. This is completely normal in the right of way acquisition process and is routine. As you can imagine, sellers want to know how (and where) they are going to access their property once the road improvement is constructed. As a result of this negotiation, the 13/48 roundabout project (and the project plans) included two aprons constructed only on right of way to allow access to the remaining parcel.
As I understand it, during the right-of-way acquisition process, the owners of this property (who live just to the west and have owned both parcel for some time) entered negations to sell the remainder of the corner and completed the sale some time after the right of way acquisition process was completed.
The new owner of the remaining parcel owns and operates a number of gas stations in Baldwin County. Accordingly, I can understand where the rumors began.
Since the property is un-zoned, but in Fairhope’s ETJ any building permit or change that required subdivision approval would be approved (or denied) by the City of Fairhope. However, as of today, I know of no application to the city of this kind.
Any speculation about the future of this corner is just that at this point but I would stay involved and make your opinion known to your city leaders. I’ve discussed this with many of them and feel that they agree with your concerns.
I hope that this gives you in depth understating of this issue and again appreciate you taking the time to decipher the rumors. Please feel free to contact me any time if I can be of further assistance. My cell phone number is 487-1567 or please feel free to get me anytime at [email protected]”
This puts the burden of responsibility on the City of Fairhope. Fairhope’s planning department and permitting department will explain that they are saddled with regulations that limit their ability to object or deny such an application, if all qualifications are met. There lies the problem–not thinking outside the box or listening to common sense or the overwhelming opposition to a gas station at a roundabout.
Public Participation is a necessary ingredient in rejecting this application and as fate would have it Fairhope has a newly elected Mayor who, unlike the last mayor, is sympathetic to the concerns of the overwhelming opposition to the gas station and its location. Fairhope could refuse to supply utilities to the applicant. Alabama Dept of Transportation should be involved and they should be asked to set a standard for traffic flow and public safety around roundabouts.
If in the end we are awarded the “Good ole Boy Award” and the majority is once again ignored or constrained by our own regulations and ordinances, then public participation should take over in the form of a boycott. If developers and investors are only interested in the bottom line, then we as a community should identify them and their business locations and boycott not only the one gas station but all the stations those individuals own in Fairhope. If they have no sense of community then the community should unite with an organized campaign to boycott their business, for a prolonged period. The Ripp Report will be happy to follow this story and inform the public just who the owners are and what gas stations that are targeted for boycott.