In a meeting that at times pitted neighbor against neighbor, the Mobile City Council’s public safety committee heard from residents in favor and against closing public streets with security gates.

Twenty-one speakers from a number of neighborhoods across the city voiced their opinions on the issue today, as committee members assured those in attendance that councilors were far from making a final decision.

“We had an opportunity and I’m really glad we took it,” Councilwoman Bess Rich, committee chairwoman said. “I don’t believe the committee will make any recommendation at this point. It’s too early in the process.”

The issue of allowing neighborhoods to install security gates or fences to block access to cut-through traffic has been bubbling up locally for the past few years. Many of the most recent issues remain unresolved, which was partly what prompted the meeting. However, the issue that might have begun the debate — a request to close off a portion of Montclaire Way in the Airmont subdivision — was just given the green light to proceed by the state’s Supreme Court.

Residents were on both sides of the issue, but each side was concerned about safety. For proponents, gates could be used to prevent “dangerous” cut-through traffic. For opponents, gates could prevent emergency vehicles from quickly accessing homes.

Robin Roberts, of Audabon Square, spoke in favor of blocking off cut-through traffic in his neighborhood to curb access to Girby Road. He told councilors drivers treat the street he lives on like a “race track.”

“It’s dangerous coming in and out of my driveway,” he said.

Sharon Sokol, on the other hand, spoke against a similar request by neighbors in the Ridgefield subdivision to block off a portion of East Drive over emergency concerns.

“Please do not block East Drive,” she told councilors. “We need two exits for safety.”

Also discussed was an ongoing issue involving the request of the Regency Oaks Homeowners Association to block off a portion of Andover Boulevard. Cortez Drive resident Tessie Alberto said the issue concerned her because “everyone’s so into fighting” about it. She said she hoped there would be resolution to it without having to close the street.

Robert Matthews, of Regency Oaks Drive, said the streets in the Regency Oaks neighborhood weren’t built for cut-through traffic. Matthews said proponents of the vehicular blockade hope to be able to construct a small planter that would keep cars out and allow pedestrians and bicyclists.

Representatives from other neighborhoods also spoke at the meeting. A small group of neighbors spoke in favor of placing a gate at one of the entrances to the Rosswood neighborhood. Charles Johnson, of Oaknoll Circle, also spoke in favor of placing a gate there in order to prevent cut throughs from Mobile Infirmary.

Michelle Adams, of Ridgefield Place, argued that there’s more to the issue for proponents than just traffic and safety concerns. She said it’s an issue of “equity, influence and financial exclusion.”
“When individual neighborhoods speak of closures,” she said. “What does that do to the rest of us? When you start closing off neighborhoods, what stops you from closing them all off.”

Her husband, John Adams, asked councilors to keep this in mind and come up with a set of standards for this issue that would prevent unequal access to city officials.