The Mobile City Council on Tuesday approved the annexation of the Darby Creek subdivision into the city, but members were resistant to the idea of a blanket set of rules concerning adding more residents to the population in the future.
In a 6-1 vote, the council agreed to annex the subdivision’s 47 lots and 43 households into the city. Councilman C.J. Small was the lone dissenting vote. In a lengthy pre-conference meeting, Small said he couldn’t support the annexation when the city is struggling to deal with issues within his District 3 communities.
“I think this opens up a can of worms,” Small told fellow councilors, referring to a number of communities waiting for annexation. “I can’t say I’m really going to support this. We’re already struggling. I’m not in favor of taking on more responsibility and more headaches.”
Small said residents in Hollinger’s Island have already begun reaching out to Councilman John Williams and himself in hopes of being annexed in. Small said he wouldn’t support that either, not with the south Dauphin Island Parkway area of his district struggling. He added that in some cases only one Mobile Police Department officer is available to patrol the area. Instead, he suggested recruiting for growth inside the city limits.
“I can’t support Hollinger’s Island’s request,” Small said. “We have plenty of houses in District 3. We’re already struggling with the blight situation and the tall grass and weeds.”
Other councilors supported the addition of Darby Creek, but were unsure how they’d feel about similar applications in the future.
“This is a major decision we’re making,” Williams said. “There are like communities along Cody Road …. They’re watching us right now. We have to have a standard.”
Others wanted to take the annexation issue on a case-by-case basis. Council Vice President Levon Manzie said he doesn’t think the city needs a “hard-and-fast” rule for future annexations.
“I will look at each incident on its own merits,” he said. “I want to grow the city, but there’s a lot internally, too.”
Councilman Joel Daves agreed, saying he’d like to look at the financial aspects of each annexation application before making a decision.
“I think this one is a good one,” he said of Darby Creek.
Councilwoman Gina Gregory agreed, adding that Darby Creek would benefit the city.
“In terms of cash flow … this is positive,” Gregory said. “This is an easy one, but others may be more difficult.”
While Councilman Fred Richardson voted to approve Darby Creek into Councilwoman Bess Rich’s district, he previously said he would oppose any annexation that does not bring additional sales tax revenue into the city.
In the case of Darby Creek, Finance Director Paul Wesch told councilors the annexation would bring in a surplus of roughly $3,000 through an increase in property tax, given the volume of ambulance calls residents in the neighborhood made over the last three years.
City spokesman George Talbot said the administration is “100 percent” in favor of the annexation of Darby Creek. Going forward, he said, the administration would look to the economic impact of any annexation before supporting it.
The push for annexation from western neighborhoods began when the city pulled back some of its responsibilities from within the three-mile police jurisdiction. For instance, residents of Darby Creek would be served first by a county ambulance service, and Mobile Fire-Rescue service would give “mutual aid” response in the neighborhood.
Rich fully supported the annexation, adding that while there are concerns over not being able to afford adding new communities into the city, Darby Creek would cost less in resources than the neighborhood would bring in.
“It’s a positive, in my opinion,” she said. “It’s very positive.”
All 47 lot owners agreed to the annexation, Rich said, and unlike annexations through referendums, residents of Darby Creek would immediately begin paying an increase in property tax.
In other business, the council discussed but ultimately held over a resolution, sponsored by Small, asking the state Legislature to allow the city to better regulate firearms left in unlocked vehicles.
Public Safety Director Jim Barber said that while law enforcement is frustrated with the issue of guns left in unlocked vehicles, he pushed back on the idea of “criminalizing otherwise law-abiding citizens” by making leaving a gun in an unlocked vehicle a crime.
Instead, Barber said, he and Sheriff Sam Cochran were looking at linking the issue to handgun permits in the future. He also pushed the council to support a bill being introduced by state Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne, that would elevate possession of a stolen gun from a misdemeanor to a felony.
The council is also looking to pass a resolution to oppose a bill that would prohibit cities in the state from banning plastic containers.
“We have a plastic container crisis in this city,” Daves said. “We’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to catch it all and it eventually ends up in the bay, where it’s an environmental catastrophe.”
Daves announced a committee meeting on the sale of city property would take place at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23, in the council’s conference room on the ninth floor of Government Plaza.
The council tabled an item that would allow bars and restaurants to remain open to 3 a.m. most days. Manzie, who represents the downtown area, said the owners who had supported the measure will go a different route.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).