Baldwin County Commissioner Chris Elliott announced at a Friday press conference in Fairhope that Gov. Robert Bentley’s office plans to remove a controversial wall at the governor’s beach mansion at Fort Morgan. As of Friday, the state had not set a timeline for the removal of the wall.
The 60-foot long, 8-foot high concrete wall was constructed on a county right-of-way near the mansion in Fort Morgan and commissioners were alerted to the problem in March when residents of the Surfside Shores neighborhood complained that the wall was blocking access to their beachfront property near the corner of Gulf Way Drive and Beach Shore Drive.
Elliott said commissioners had a “productive” meeting with Franklin Johnson and Zach Lee, representatives from governor’s office, on Friday. Shortly after the meeting, Elliott said the Commission was notified that the state planned to remove the wall using their own contractor. Records indicate Gulf Shores-based Phil Harris Construction is a contractor for the reconstruction of the dilapidated governor’s mansion.
“This Commission has maintained that the public’s access to county rights-of-way shall be maintained,” Elliott said. “That’s especially important when around our water accesses are in jeopardy. Our water access areas are critically important to our residents. We understand how critically important that is to us having access to our waterfront.”
Elliott said the governor’s office had not provided a timeline for when it would remove the wall.
The Surfside Shores neighborhood is located between a pair of state owned properties, adjacent to the governor’s mansion. Elliott said not only does the wall block access to Surfside Shores, it also blocks access to state owned beaches open to the public.
While the governor’s office has not responded to a request for comment, last month a representative from Bentley’s office said they are working with nearby property owners to resolve the issue.
“We have been working with the neighborhood association on the project,” the statement read. “We are aware of the current issue with the project, and will work with the neighborhood association and the Baldwin County Commission on a reasonable resolution.”
The mansion became a source of controversy at the beach after Bentley’s office revealed in December it was being renovated with $1.8 million in BP funds. The mansion has been abandoned for almost 20 years after suffering damages in 1997 by Hurricane Danny.
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