During the Dec. 17 meeting, the Mobile City Council was in a jolly mood for their last meeting before Dec. 25. However, that didn’t mean everyone got what he or she wanted.
The council voted down an agreement that would stop pending litigation and held over two ordinances that would affect the fast-food businesses and certain industries in Mobile.
In a vote of 1-6 with Councilman Joel Daves in favor, the councilors denied vacating right-of-ways behind the GM&O building. There is a pending suit against the city of Mobile in which GM&O is asking a judge to decide who owns the right-of-ways in question.
The land has not been used by the city for more than 100 years and GM&O feels that is grounds for abandonment. However, City Attorney Flo Kessler said the way to go about granting GM&O use of the right-of-ways to sell is through vacation. The city denied that request today.
Council Attorney Jim Rossler and Kessler did not want to talk about pending litigation, but spoke to the council previously about the matter. During the Dec. 17 pre-council, many councilors seemed in favor of the vacation. Between the pre-conference and regular meeting, things changed and only Daves supported the issue.
This in effect means the city will go to court with GM&O unless an agreement is reach another way. Therefore, the councilors and attorneys did not speak about the litigation.
Councilman Fred Richardson also held over two ordinances — one dealing with regulating two-lane drive-thru menu boards and the other allowing gravel surfacing for storage yards for businesses zoned I-1.
The ordinance regarding fast-food restaurants would regulate the sound level emitted from the menu boards. Urban Development’s Richard Olsen said the ordinance would only affect certain restaurants.
“Many restaurants have already put in the two-lane drive-thrus so this would only be for the new two-lane drive-thrus,” he said. “The other existing ones would be grandfathered in.”
City Council President Gina Gregory felt the city should get a handle on the issue.
“They have already been built and now we are trying to clean it up,” she said.
Richardson asked that the ordinance regulating fast-food menu boards be sent to the council’s Public Services Committee, which he chairs. Gregory agreed, but did deny one of Richardson’s other requests.
The second ordinance Richardson held over would allow businesses zoned as I-1, which is a light industrial zone, to have gravel surfacing for storage yards instead of concrete or asphalts.
“I don’t know why we are letting one person have gravel and another have concrete or whatever,” he said. “The council needs to take some time and look over this first. I think we should send this to committee.”
The recommendation to approve the ordinance came for the Planning Commission, on which Councilman John Williams serves.
He said the council should already be familiar with the proposed change.
“This has been talked about to great extent in the Planning Commission,” he said. “However, this originally came from the City Council. This body sent it to the commission. People have been waiting for a year for this ruling.”
Richardson argued that Councilors Daves, CJ Small and Levon Manzie are new to the council and therefore should be brought up to speed.
“This might have been before the council a year ago, but the council who did that is gone,” Richardson said. “We have three new councilors and they should be as intelligent about the information before us.”
However, Small was already serving the unexpired term of former Councilman Jermaine Burrell when this came before the council in December 2012.
Williams took great umbrage to Richardson’s claims.
“I thin it is very disrespectful to the previous council to say that,” he said. “If we are going to do that, then we would be setting a bad precedence. We would have to rewrite the rules every four years when a new councilor is elected if we ignored what happened before.”
Gregory sided with Williams and said that the new councilors could look over the matter before the next council meeting, which will be Dec. 31.