Pelham planning for the future

Published 4:05 pm Thursday, July 16, 2009

The city of Pelham is preparing for the future, and they need your help.

That was the message Tuesday and Wednesday as the city and architectural firm Goodwin, Mills and Cawood held an open house for concept review as part of furthering the strategic development and design plan, which was unveiled in 2000.

The meetings, which were held at Valley Intermediate School, were designed in two parts — the first meeting as a brainstorming sessions and the second meeting as a presentation.

The purpose of the meetings was to find ways to create a better “sense of place” for the city, said GMC Planning Coordinator Larry Watts.

Members of the community discussed their ideas and concerns Tuesday night, and then architectural renderings of those ideas were presented Wednesday night.

While the meetings centered around the main corridors, Watts said the city must place an emphasis and importance on being a place that surrounds a state park.

“That’s a lot of your identity there,” Watts said of Oak Mountain State Park.

Watts also talked of creating city centers to establish more identity for Pelham.

Ideas for the city centers included expanding the current area where city hall and the police department are to include more city buildings.

In addition to adding buildings near the current city hall, he said the city should also consider adding additional institutional buildings near the Civic Complex and near the County Services Center off Shelby County 52.

Having multiple centers, Watts said, would be advantageous for a city spread out by a state park.

But with more city centers comes connectivity problems, which were also discussed during the meetings.

Among the ideas to cure congestion and traffic woes were possibly widening U.S. 31 to six lanes and a possible bypass bridge from U.S. 31 to Shelby County 52 to eliminate the dogleg that snarls traffic near Donut Joe’s.

Watts also discussed current plans for Alabama 261 to bypass downtown Helena.

In addition to the obvious plans for changes to Alabama 119, U.S. 31 and Shelby County 52, Watts also said it is vital the city work to get ahead of the imminent growth along Shelby County 11.

Because strip commercialization happened along U.S. 31 and Alabama 119, Watts said the city must prevent that from happening again to ensure the land is used in the best way possible.

“Don’t let what happened to (Shelby County) 11 happen to (U.S.) 31,” Watts said.

But with expanded growth along these corridors, Watts said the city will need additional means of getting people from one side of the city to the other, and crossing Oak Mountain State Park isn’t an option.

In an effort to bridge these gaps, citizens and planners came up with citywide greenways, which will allow for bikers and walkers to get from one place to another via sidewalks, bike lanes or trail space.

While the plans discussed Tuesday and Wednesday were merely conceptual ideas and nothing is definitive, City Council Place 1 representative Teresa Nichols said it is vital that Pelham citizens voice their concerns about planning for the city’s future.

“One of the things that we — the mayor and council — are trying to communicate with the public is that we work for them,” Nichols said. “We developed this in response to their plan.”

And Nichols sees a future where people come, play and then stay in Pelham.

“We are a destination city,” Nichols said. “We plan to emphasize and embrace that.”