If Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson’s first town hall meeting is any indication, she’s going to need a bigger room.
About 180 people showed up for the meeting at the public library Feb. 16. Even after extra chairs were brought in, the meeting was still standing room only.
“The number one concern is the way we grow,” Wilson said. “That is taking most of our time.”
Wilson plans to hold town hall meetings every other week in various locations. Future meetings will cover specific issues. The idea, she said, is “keeping you engaged with not only what we’re doing, but listening to you.”
Wilson announced that she will create what she called a community design center, where citizens and developers can learn about the city’s rules and regulations in matters of planning and zoning. The center is still in the planning stage.
She said she hopes to be able to use Restore Act funds available because of the BP oil spill to study stormwater runoff and flooding issues regionally as well as putting together a comprehensive plan for Fairhope.
People attending the meeting asked questions about the mayor’s conflicts with the City Council, sewer discharge problems in Daphne, Fairhope schools, the need for diversity, the amount of construction taking place, walkability and the conflict between the mayor and the Airport Authority.
Wilson was asked what citizens can do to help the mayor and council members get along better.
“It is a fight,” she said. “Don’t think that this is something everybody wants about smart growth, protecting our assets, doing all these things that we just talked about. I promise you there is going to be a group that is fighting me night and day to not change anything. I am going to fight for it. We are going to get along.
“We get along great,” she said, drawing laughter in the audience.
Only one City Council member was seen at the meeting, that being Jimmy Conyers who sat at the head table with Wilson. Conyers, in his first term, said the initial months since Wilson and three new council members took office have sometimes been like “drinking out of a fire hose. I think you’ll see things smooth out,” he said.
The next town hall meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 7 at Quail Creek Golf Course.