What piqued his interest was the Klumpp PUD. The 70-acre mixed-use development on the corner of Fairhope Avenue and State Route 181 was annexed into the city last November, with the site plan calling for 67 single-family homes, 232 apartments and 16 commercial lots.
Joshua Gammon had just purchased a house in a smaller subdivision adjacent to the property and when the PUD was proposed, he got a crash course in zoning ordinances and subdivision regulations as it worked its way through the Planning Commission.
“The more I saw, the more I felt like something needed to change and my friends and family started to encourage me to run,” Gammon said about his campaign for Place 5 on the Fairhope City Council against incumbent Kevin Boone.
An employee of the Retirement Systems of Alabama’s PCH Hotels & Resorts, Gammon is assistant director of services at the Grand Hotel and has a degree in business administration from George Washington University. He settled in Fairhope three years ago with his wife, a veterinarian and Auburn University alum.
“I try to focus on families and that’s multi-faceted,” he said. “There are not just young families here but also folks that have retired. We’re having trouble with growth and there are some intricacies there — whether property is zoned or unzoned — and sometimes the city is put in a tough position. But other times I think the city has an opportunity to push back a little more and that long-term vision isn’t always being considered. These developers are thinking 15 to 20 years down the road, but the City Council is only thinking five to 10 years down the road. How is it going to impact our roads and our schools in the long run?”
When the Fairhope Planning Commission and City Council considered both the Klumpp PUD and a new 99-home development known as Live Oak Estates beginning last year, Gammon said he believed residents’ concerns were not properly considered or addressed.
“[The city’s] hands weren’t tied at all,” he said. “Neighbors said they didn’t want dense development, but [the city] still went with the developer.”
Gammon also focused on Fairhope’s environmental legacy and what he perceives as a lack of civility between the mayor’s office and the City Council.
“Everybody knows about the sanitary sewer overflows,” he said. “The state is suing the city. Some were caused by mechanical failures but how many can we have foreseen? Are we moving fast enough and doing everything we need to do in that regard? Because the environment is huge for Fairhope, the bay is almost everything and it’s our responsibility as citizens to not leave it worse than we found it.”
With his career in hospitality, Gammon noted his primary responsibility is to work with people to resolve problems and ensure a pleasant experience. He believes that skill could serve the Council well.
“I think it’s clear there is a lot of personal animosity and nothing good comes from people not being able to cooperate,” he said. “We have a lot of challenges in our city and we need to be working together to solve those problems. I have people screaming at me all day and I can’t scream back. I have to maintain my composure and treat people with respect and at the end of the day you get a lot more with that, even if you disagree.
“I’m not going to pretend there will never be disagreements in government. Passions will run high, but to me, when you’re a public official in a public meeting, you have to conduct yourself with a certain level of decorum. And when you watch and see people literally yelling at each other … We’re supposed to model citizens, we’re supposed to be leaders of our community and what are we showing our children?”
Gammon said he’s also questioned the “trust aspect” of those currently serving in elected office, curious whether some are “acting within the best interest of the city.”
“Whenever there is a question of whether a person has a business connection, you want to put it immediately at the forefront and sit it out,” he said. “If you can’t be out in the open about that, that’s a problem.”
Gammon’s employer, the Retirement Systems of Alabama, owns hundreds of acres in Fairhope planning jurisdiction that are ripe for development and have often appeared before the Planning Commission and Council in recent years. But Gammon said he’s simply an employee of the hotel and does not represent RSA’s development interests.
Kevin Boone is seeking his third term on the council. The election is Aug. 25.
“I know it’s going to be an uphill battle, but I wouldn’t have run if I didn’t think I could win,” Gammon said. “I think the city is ready for change. You’ll know when you’re successful when you’re making the news not for your arguments, but for your accomplishments.”
For more information, visit Joshuaforfairhope.com.
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