Indian Springs Village residents debate long-range plan

For Indian Springs Village resident Jim Wyatt, one of about 20 founders of the North Shelby County municipality, talk of change is not a welcome sound.

Wyatt spoke at an impromptu meeting last week at the barbecue pavilion behind Indian Springs City Hall. He was one of about 80 residents of the 12-year-old city who were in attendance.

The debate centers on city officials’ wishes to develop the city’s first comprehensive plan. Late last year, city officials hired KPS Group, a Birmingham-based consulting company, to help them develop a plan which will serve as a long-range road map for decisions like zoning, road improvements and how to further develop a tax base.

&uot;This is a small community &045; always has been. That’s why we formed the town,&uot; Wyatt said.

&uot;Now, (city officials) come along with this comprehensive plan and want to annex all these properties, four-lane Cahaba Valley Road (Highway 119), raise taxes, start a police force and fire department, hire a city attorney. We don’t need all that stuff.&uot;

The city, which has a population of 2,225, is largely residential with a median family income of about $97,000 per year, according to the 2000 census. Many residents pride themselves on their large rural lots. Some even have horses.

The city has a small tax base and does not have a sales tax. Building permit fees, utility fees, alcohol fees and vehicle registrations fees are collected, however. The city is largely operated by volunteers.

Darrell Meyer of KPS held a town hall meeting last winter during which residents made suggestions as to what they wanted to have as a part of a long-range plan. From those suggestions and others from city officials, he developed a draft of a long-range plan.

The plan lists suggested land uses, discusses the possibility of implementing a sales tax and annexing more property to prevent further encroachment from neighboring cities. The plan also shows Cahaba Valley Road four-laned through the city.

In addition, Meyer proposed that the city seek to develop a Village Center along Highway 119 which, he said, would spur

commercial development.

Wyatt is not alone in his views. Many who spoke Tuesday night echoed his sentiments.

However, city council member Herb Robins, the only city official in attendance at the meeting, disagrees with Wyatt’s glum outlook of the proposed plan.

He said he is not in favor of all elements of the plan but said residents must be open to debate as to the city’s future.

&uot;My feeling on the comprehensive plan is that it has the potential to help the town council and planning commission better control future development, rather than open it up to uncontrolled development,&uot; Robins said.

&uot;The idea behind hiring somebody to come up with a plan offers us the opportunity to have a better framework for future decisions.&uot;

Those are not welcome suggestions to Wyatt.

&uot;What sums up our meeting (Tuesday) night &045; one guy said if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,&uot; he said.

Wyatt even goes as far as saying city officials are using &uot;scare tactics&uot; to implement the long-range plan.

&uot;We have our town circled where we actually don’t need any more outside land. Hoover and Birmingham can’t get to us. Pelham tried that when we first incorporated … but we settled that in court,&uot; he said.

But Robins said Indian Springs needs to have a legal document that will hold up in court should the city face a legal conflict.

He said a long-range plan would greatly help city officials with zoning decisions as well.

&uot;Having a plan itself is a good start. This one needs a lot of fine tuning and citizen input,&uot; Robins said. &uot;We don’t want to mess up a good thing. A lot of people think change means progress and that’s not always the case.&uot;

Robins said he has faith the right decisions will be made.

&uot;This is just some growing pains we are going through. The town founders, they knew this was a great town and they are going to do what they have to to protect it and I am right there with them on it.&uot;

Wyatt said residents can further debate the subject on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the barbecue pavilion, when he will help lead another discussion on the merits of the plan.

The city will sponsor an official public hearing at city hall on the plan on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m