In what Daphne Industrial Development Board Chair Toni Fassbender called a “great step forward,” the Daphne City Council approved a modified version of the controversial Daphne Innovation and Science Complex (DISC) project on Monday.
The council voted 4-3 to approve the modified DISC project, with councilors Tommie Conaway, John Lake and Pat Rudicell voting to deny the city’s Industrial Development Board the right to use $426,000 in unused BP oil spill funds to fund a portion of the initial 30-acre land purchase for DISC, which will be located at the southwest corner of State Highway 181 and Champions Way. Councilors Robin LeJeune, Ron Scott, Angie Phillips and Randy Fry voted for the measure.Fry — who voted in September against a move to annex the parcel into the city to pave the way for the original project — offered councilors a compromise version of the project which included a B-3 professional office zoning designation instead of the requested PUD (Planned Unit Development) designation, which is less restrictive. The B-3 designation in Fry’s compromise resolution allows for construction of buildings no more than four stories or 50 feet tall, while the original PUD designation would have allowed for buildings five to six stories high.
“The B-3 zoning is more restrictive than what was originally planned for the project,” Fry said. “It will allow for professional offices, law practices and other things the IDB wants to pursue, but it will give us more control over what goes there.”
Fry’s resolution will allow the IDB to use the BP funds to purchase the land with the stipulation it will be annexed into city and any real estate purchased by the IDB’s funds in the future will be zoned under the B-3 designation. The approved resolution also lowers the IDB’s allocation of lodging tax revenue from 13 percent to 10 percent and places the leftover 3 percent in possession of the city to use for other projects.
District 7 representative Angie Phillips, who replaced Joe Davis III after his resignation following the September rejection, said the compromise is something residents should feel comfortable with.
“This isn’t smokestacks, it is clean, white collar, high paying jobs,” she said. “The IDB is interested in making this a beautiful site with green space, setbacks and landscaping to shield parking from nearby residents. We can’t ignore the fact that it is on 181, which is going to look a lot like 98 in the future. In the IDB we have an entity with our best interest at heart, and this is our chance to have a say in how this part of 181 is developed.”
In voting against the resolution, Lake said he thought the council’s September vote had settled the issue.
“We continue to go back and make changes to this after people think it has been decided,” Lake said. “People think they can let down their guard but they need to remain vigilant. I fear that with this coming up just before the holidays, people aren’t paying attention. This doesn’t send the right message to the public.”