The attorney representing Malbis Plantation Inc. told the Baldwin County Commission on Tuesday his client considers a historic building in Malbis a liability that does not contribute to the overall historic nature of the Malbis Plantation property.
The attorney, Richard Davis, is representing Malbis Plantation Inc. in its bid to rezone a 3.78 acre parcel from residential single family to B-2 neighborhood business to pave the way for Thomas Hospital’s proposed free-standing emergency clinic. The property is located at the southwest corner of the intersection of State Highway 181 and U.S. 90.
At its Nov. 20 meeting, the county’s Architectural Preservation Review Board denied the applicant’s request to demolish the men’s dormitory on the property, which is one of 35 resources contributing to the plantation’s historic designation. The dormitory is a two-story brick building constructed in 1956 to house male members of Malbis Plantation Inc., and it currently sits vacant.
“We don’t think it adds anything to the historic value of the plantation,” Davis said. “We think it is a liability. We have advised the board to lock it up and not let anyone near it. We believe there is asbestos and lead paint there. And I don’t know if I would call something that was built in my lifetime ‘historic.’ This doesn’t go back to the early 20th century, it goes back to the 50s.”
In correspondence with the Architectural Preservation Review Board, University of South Alabama Center for Archaeological Studies research associate Bonnie Gums said losing any of the contributing historic aspects at Malbis Plantation would detract from the area’s historic significance.
Gums — a co-author of the plantation’s National Register of Historic Places nomination to the National Park Service — told the board the dormitory’s placement across State Highway 181 from other historic sites like the Big House, Malbis Memorial Church and Cemetery represents an important aspect of the Malbis Plantation Historic District.
“The [Malbis Plantation Historic District] is a century-old historical landscape that includes all of the 35 [National Register of Historic Places] contributing resources, and to lose any of these resources will greatly affect this landscape and its historical significance,” Gums wrote. “Potential commercial development at MPHD will greatly impact this historical landscape.”
Even though the Architectural Preservation Review Board voted unanimously to deny the request, it will now be up to the County Commission to make the final decision to overturn the appeal. At Tuesday’s work session in Bay Minette, Commissioners Frank Burt, Tucker Dorsey and Skip Gruber signaled a willingness to overturn the board’s decision. Commissioner Chris Elliott was not present at the work session.
The commission will hold a public hearing on the matter at its Dec. 15 meeting in Bay Minette, followed by a vote on the applicant’s appeal.
The Baldwin County Planning and Zoning Commission has given its approval to the applicant’s rezoning request, which will go before the County Commission in January. Malbis is one of four designated historic sites in the county, a list that also includes land in the Point Clear – Battles Wharf, Magnolia Springs and Montrose areas.