Among the handful of local bills that were approved in an abbreviated session of the Alabama Legislature ending Saturday was one placing the consideration of the Barnwell Landmark District on the Nov. 2 general election ballot in Baldwin County. Although it was still pending Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature Tuesday, the Barnwell district is expected to join a similar proposal in Rosinton on the ballot, which will provide protections from legislative annexation into neighboring municipalities to residents and businesses in each of the two unincorporated communities.
Specifically, the ballot language will propose “to prohibit the annexation by local law of any property within the district into any municipality except under certain conditions.” The legislation does not specify what those conditions are, but State Sen. Chris Elliott said voluntary annexation by petition would still be allowable, so long as the property is contiguous with existing municipal boundaries.
“It’s a citizen-led effort that goes back to police jurisdictions and extraterritorial planning jurisdictions and how they are enforced,” he said. “People outside these cities are saying we don’t want to be part of the city and we are amending the Constitution of 1901 in order to make a point.”
The Barnwell bill was sponsored by State Rep. Joe Faust and the Rosinton bill by State Rep. Harry Shiver. As proposed, the legislation proclaims that landmark districts “shall not be considered a legal entity and shall not have any of the following powers or authority: standing to sue or be sued; taxing authority; zoning authority; police power and public safety authority; authority to adopt ordinances, rules or regulations within its boundaries; or any other authority or power commonly associated with a legal entity.” It does not change any city’s existing policing or planning authorities.
As previously reported, citizen organizer Byrd Little told Lagniappe the Barnwell Landmark District was a “tool” in response to “egregious” planning decisions made by the city of Fairhope beyond its corporate limits in recent years.
But at 44 square miles, if the proposed Barnwell Landmark District was a municipality, it would be the largest in the county. Earlier this year, mayors of at least 11 municipalities in the county signed a resolution opposing landmark districts, in part because of the “ad hoc, arbitrary process, which may be utilized to draw the boundaries.”
“As mayors, it is understood that certain unincorporated areas of Baldwin County rightfully wish to maintain their sense of heritage and community; however, it is also true that these goals could be accomplished without creating an over-large, over-inclusive and ill-defined landmark district that seeks to impose undue limitations on existing municipalities,” they wrote.
In Fairhope’s case, it already cannot annex north due to its boundary with Daphne and cannot annex east because of the bay. So the proposed Barnwell district would effectively prohibit any substantial annexation to the south or west. Similar effects will be seen in Loxley and Robertsdale if the Rosinton district is approved by voters.
“If this passes, [in Barnwell] or in Rosinton, it will significantly curtail growth of the cities,” Elliott said.
Separately, Elliott passed a local bill that will change the organizational structure of Baldwin County’s Zoning Boards of Adjustment. Currently there are four boards, or one for each district in the county. The new law decreases the number to two boards, and also allows the County Commission to appoint alternate members to each board.
Elliott said the bill was a response to the four boards of adjustment frequently lacking a quorum.
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