While the $2.1 billion plan to build a new Mobile Bay bridge had the plug pulled on it yesterday, another bridge effort in south Baldwin County has suffered a setback as well.
A breakdown in negotiations between the City of Orange Beach and property owner George Barber has put the proposed Wolf Bay bridge’s status in limbo.
“At this point in time, we have not been able to come to a deal with Mr. (George) Barber that we feel like justifies building the bridge,” Mayor Tony Kennon said. “We’re just going to put it on hold until he reevaluates and, in his reevaluation, decides that he can work with us on what we need to make it a possibility. We need all of his property to come into Orange Beach and that’s no secret.”
Barber is a major landowner where the northern footing of the bridge will land and is also the owner of the massive Barber Marina just east of that landing site. The Barber family is also the owner of Barber’s Dairy based out of Birmingham for many years.
“There’s no bad faith or ill will with Mr. Barber it’s just that there’s differencing of opinions on what’s best for each of us,” Kennon said.
The other major property owner vital to the project is David Lawrenz and his property is already in the city limits, Kennon said. According to tax records, the Century Plaza Company is listed as the owner of several parcels as well.
Kennon says his city will still pursue the bridge but wants to make sure it’s a good investment.
“It’s important for Orange Beach to have a deal that benefits us and justifies building a $70 million bridge,” Kennon said. “It’s not to say that Mr. Barber is right or wrong or we’re right or wrong it’s just that at this point we don’t feel like we have a deal that is in our best interest and justifies it. We’re going to put it on hold and continue and negotiate and see if maybe in the future something can happen but right now it’s on hold.”
Kennon said the background work on the bridge will continue including the design which is about three-quarters done and already paid for. The Army Corps of Engineers is still processing a permit for the project.
“They told us nine to 12 months every nine to 12 months,” Kennon said. “I guess when the Corps does it the Corps does it. I don’t know what to expect but they keep saying nine to 12 months. It really is absurd that you’ve got money to build a bridge that you need and you can’t get the Corps to get the permit done. It’s really ridiculous.”
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