Developers of the Publix shopping center in midtown have been forced to stop work on a wall along North Edington Drive because of neighbors’ concerns about the materials in use.
Colleen Ausmus, an Edington Drive resident, argued developers promised the wall would be masonry, but the one currently in place at the shopping center is a composite material.
“As we understood it, it was supposed to be a masonry wall,” she said. “We emailed [Councilman] Fred Richardson and he forwarded it to planning. Nothing we did or said stopped it.”
Ausmus said she approves of the development and is excited about it opening, but wanted the brick wall as an extra layer of separation between the neighborhood and the store.
“Traffic is a concern, they’ve cut our [cable TV] … three times total — there’s a metal compressor or air conditioning unit making a humming noise; those are little things,” she said. “We were excited to have new sidewalks and places to eat, but the final straw was the fence.”
The composite material, Ausmus fears, will negatively impact home values in the neighborhood.
Plans approved for the project do call for an 8-foot-high masonry wall along Edington Drive, according to a June 2017 letter of decision from the Mobile Planning Commission.
Developer John Argo said plans for the masonry wall along parts of Edington Drive are in place. In other areas, he said, a composite wall would make up part of the barrier.
Richardson argued that the developers have worked with residents as much as possible, but two heritage oak trees near the intersection of Edington Drive and Florida Street prevent them from building the masonry wall there.
“It’s not possible to build the brick wall back there,” he said. “The brick would have to go between the two trees. The trees would die.”
As for whether the city’s Tree Commission would grant the development a permit to cut down the oaks, Commissioner Jesse McDaniel said they generally weigh options.
For instance, he said, the commission would look at the public benefit versus the cost of losing the trees. In many cases, he said, the commission would grant the permit and require the developer to pay into the tree bank to replace the trees taken down.
McDaniel said the commission recently allowed the removal of seven trees to help a developer complete drainage improvements and build a wall near the intersection of University and Airport boulevards for a new CVS.
The delays due to the stop work order are costing the developers money, Richardson said.
As it stands now, the Publix will be open next month, but Richardson fears more planning delays could impact that.
This is not the first time the development has run afoul of city regulations. The city issued a notice of violation for the development over unauthorized tree removal in February 2017. The trees and shrubs removed from the site were originally supposed to be part of a natural barrier incorporated into the development’s plans.
Richardson, at the time, confirmed the city had issued a notice of violation to the developer as well as a stop work order until the city “receives and approves a plan to address this situation.”
“I’m thankful for the quick work of the administration and look forward to a resolution,” the statement read. “I also appreciate the voice of all the concerned citizens in the area and hopefully, working together, this problem will be remedied. The trust and support of the local community and integrity of their homes, neighborhood and quality of life is paramount.”
At the time Jon Gray, a spokesman for Argo and MAB American Management, said plans approved by the Mobile City Council called for the retention of a natural buffer at that location, but added the words “as much as is practical.”
The removal of three trees, shrubs and vines from the location, Gray argued, was practical because they were taken out to remove an old fence and a “running track” from the former school property. Gray added only one of the trees, a 30-foot oak, was large and that particular tree was scheduled to be removed anyway.
(Photo |Lagniappe) The city issued a stop work order on the midtown Publix development over this composite fence.