Work can continue on a composite fence at the midtown Publix development after a stop work order was lifted on the opinion of Mobile City Council attorney Wanda Cochran. The fence in question was briefly taken down, but was partially replaced as of Monday, Feb. 13.
City attorney Ricardo Woods said he didn’t know the exact reason the fence was taken down, but told Lagniappe it was in the wrong place, according to plans submitted to the city.
In a memo sent to District 1 City Councilman Fred Richardson, Cochran wrote that the developer, John Argo, built the fence along South Edington Drive according to plans submitted to the city planners. This is contrary to the belief of many residents who live in the neighborhood at the intersection of Edington Drive and South Edington Drive, who had asked the developer to build a brick wall separating the back of the Publix from residential areas.
“If the city refuses to release the stop work order and accept a compromise, the developer would have no choice but to file suit,” Cochran wrote. “In that event, the developer’s best argument is that the ordinance did not require the wall to be along South Edington Drive, that he justifiably relied upon approved plans and that the city is now estopped from making additional changes.”
While Cochran wrote that the city could argue the intent was to place a brick wall along South Edington Drive, in addition to Edington Drive, “there is nothing in the documents that have been provided to date that would support the claim that the intent was to require a masonry wall along South Edington Drive.”
Currently, Argo and contractors plan to place a brick wall along 25-30 feet of the backside of the Publix development where it intersects with Edington Drive. The street curves and becomes South Edington Drive until it reaches Florida Street.
An 8-foot masonry wall along Edington Drive is required as one of the conditions for the project’s approval through the planning commission. Many residents in the neighborhood are upset, however, because they believed Edington Drive went all the way to Florida Street.
“Truthfully, we refer to both streets as Edington Drive,” resident Janet Burns said. “We didn’t dot our ‘i’s and cross our ‘t’s. There was an error and someone is taking advantage of it.”
Residents requested the wall be built to buffer the sound and view of trucks loading and unloading goods into the store, Burns said, adding that the composite fence won’t be a good buffer.
“The plans mention a wall at the base of our street,” Burns said. “It will look absolutely silly next to that fence. It doesn’t cover all of the trucks.”
Burns, who is 74 years old and has lived in her home on Edington Drive more than 20 years, said at first she didn’t want the grocery store or its development, but noticed that many residents were eager for the store.
“In the end, I will shop there,” Burns said. “I’m not viewing this as being against Publix.”
Despite calling the decision to build the fence “crooked,” resident David Mayhall will also “absolutely” shop at the store. He still wishes the developer would go ahead and build the wall.
“I don’t see the big deal with building the wall there,” he said. “It will block noise from the loading dock.”
Like other residents, Mayhall said he fully expected the brick wall to be built to the Florida Street intersection and “didn’t think anything differently” until the fence was built.
“It’s cheesy,” Mayhall said of the fence. “It doesn’t look good at all. As nice as the project looks, to have that kind of wall is like putting bald tires on a brand new Cadillac.”
Mayhall and Burns joined other residents in complaining about noise coming from what they say appears to be a large HVAC unit on top of store. On Saturday, Feb. 3 at roughly 12;40 p.m. Councilman Fred Richardson posted a video to Facebook, seemingly contradicting his own constituents.
In the video, Richardson said some humming could be heard from the unit, but he couldn’t understand why that prompted two complaints to his office.
“There is a little humming, but it’s no louder than the air conditioner next to the house in which I live,” Richardson said in the video. “I’m at a monsterous store and you hear the same thing I hear.”
Richardson said the complaints were blown out of proportion because the store is about to open.
“I believe what we have is citizens who fought this venue from the start,” Richardson said. “The citizens have become aware the store will become open and this is the last thing to complain about.”