The Baldwin County legislative delegation may move forward with plans to use its power to deannex a sliver of property at the Spanish Fort Town Center from Daphne into Spanish Fort’s corporate limits, but the Daphne City Council took no action to oppose the bill.
The legislation, Alabama HB 516, would deannex 4.19 acres located north of Interstate 10 at the Spanish Fort Town Center development, but within the corporate limits of Daphne. The bill would move the parcel from Daphne’s corporate limits, into the city of Spanish Fort.
On Monday, the City Council had the opportunity to vote on a resolution opposing the deannexation, but it failed for lack of a motion. Last year in June, the City Council declined to vote on a resolution to give its support to a similar bill. At the time, Daphne councilors said they needed more time to make an informed decision about the deannexation, which they claimed was put before them at the last minute.
Spanish Fort City Attorney David Conner said during the mapping and planning phase of the property’s development, the Alabama Department of Transportation needed additional right-of-way space at the I-10 interchange, and the 4.19 acres was quit claimed by ALDOT to Spanish Fort Town Center developer Cypress Equities. He said the move caused a mixup with Spanish Fort’s mapping, and the bill would help the city correct the error.
“We missed it, they missed it,” Conner said. “That’s as honest as I can be about what happened. We are not trying to hide anything, there is nothing going on behind the scenes. That’s the facts.”
Spanish Fort officials took issue with a Facebook post from Daphne City Councilman John Lake to the Baldwin County Citizens for Government Accountability page. On April 14, Lake called for Eastern Shore residents to “adamantly oppose” the deannexation, calling it a legislative overreach and declaring that officials involved are “morally bankrupt.”
“I am disgusted by the secret and actions that have been done to create this act and ADAMANTLY OPPOSED it,” Lake wrote. “This is another example of legislative overreach and back room deals by morally bankrupt officials. Please understand what makes me maddest is if you have to keep it secret from even other elected officials or from the community something must be smelly. I have many suspicions about this issue and all of them are foul.”
Conner, during time set aside for public participation, said there was nothing “morally corrupt” or sinister about the request, it was simply a move to correct a mistake.
“I had a lot of things I wanted to say when I came here tonight, and sometimes the lord works in mysterious ways and helps us decide not to say them,” Conner said. “This is an issue that needs to be resolved. I believe it was the developer’s intent for this property be in Spanish Fort, and I believe it was the city of Daphne’s intent as well. Y’all have the opportunity to help us fix a problem. There is nothing sinister or morally corrupt about this and we are not trying to do anything other than fix this problem.”
Lake said he wrote the Facebook page soon after he discovered the issue was coming up again. He decried a lack of communication between Spanish Fort and Daphne, and said he believes the citizens of Daphne, as well as shop owners who may want to stay in the city of Daphne, should have the opportunity to stay there.
“I made a post on Facebook and made my feelings known, and I did show some frustration,” Lake said. “I know I said some things on there, but I was frustrated that we had to find out about it from a third party. I hope in the future we can improve communication so this doesn’t keep happening.”
A portion of the parcel Spanish Fort is seeking to annex is inside the La-Z-Boy store at the Spanish Fort Town Center. It also includes a sliver of the Kangarooz Family Fun Center building and a parcel of land eyed for future development.
The La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery store is the center of ongoing litigation after store owner David Marks filed a complaint against the city of Spanish Fort in Baldwin County in June 2015, claiming the city violated the state’s open meetings laws by not timely making available copies of public records related to the zoning of his store that he requested of the city. Through Conner, the city denied “each and every material allegation contained therein.”
In 2012, Marks petitioned the Spanish Fort City Council to allow his property to be deannexed from the city’s corporate limits, but the request was denied.