The Mobile Planning Commission held over to May 7 a subdivision and rezoning application to allow a surplus military vehicle storage and sales facility in Africatown.
Gary Cowles, of Cowles, Murphy, Glover and Associates, told commissioners there would be more information given at the Thursday, May 7 meeting to alleviate concerns over the use.
The applicant, Pender Ridge, plans to use the property for storage and sales of surplus military vehicles, like trucks and Jeeps, but no armaments.
Despite the holdover, Africatown residents and environmental activists spoke in opposition to the application that would change the property’s zoning from residential to business. Those opposed said there were bigger and better plans in store for the Africatown area.
Resident Joe Womack told commissioners the property at 400 Bay Bridge Road and 2201 Paper Mill Road was once the site of a credit union for Scott Paper Company, even though it’s zoned residential. Womack said citizens allowed it because it was a benefit to the community, but the current application is different.
“This doesn’t benefit the community,” he said, arguing it is too close to homes and a church. “We’re against changing the zoning.”
Commissioner John Vallas pointed out there is a vacant building currently on the site and asked how the commission could help the community. He said the community could be helped by a new business that brings in jobs.
Womack said community members were interested in converting the building into a museum and business development center.
Thayer Dodd, with the Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition, said the group is opposed to the application because it doesn’t fit in with a comprehensive plan already in the works for the area and it could affect future funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Daryl Pogue, a representative with the Africatown Community Development Corporation, asked commissioners to allow time for his group to present what he called an “international plan” for the future.
“Let’s show respect for ourselves, for the people in this community and the history and heritage of this community,” he said.
Commission attorney Doug Anderson said this was the second application in the Africatown area where residents spoke about having a plan for redevelopment. While it’s fine to give them time to present a plan, Anderson said at some point the commission could be sued for infringement of personal property rights.
Commission Chairman Jay Watkins discussed briefly the possibility of having a business meeting with residents in the future to allow commissioners to hear presentations from them on future plans.
In other business, the commission approved a subdivision and rezoning application that would allow for a hotel at 5753 Old Shell Road — the former site of The Shed barbecue across the street from the University of South Alabama.
The commission also announced a public hearing to be held on a request from Mobile Infirmary Medical Center to remove crosstown loop 3 from Dauphin Street to Springhill Avenue from the city’s major street plan. The hearing will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 7.
Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted the author of this article is related to Gary Cowles by marriage.