Columbiana considers master plan

Two architects familiar with Columbiana urged members of the city council Tuesday to begin work on a master plan for how the city-owned “Summer Classics” property could be developed.

The city of Columbiana purchased the property, about five acres located at the corner of College and Walton streets, in January 2007.

At one time, the property was owned by Summer Classics, a furniture company, and used as a manufacturing facility.

Since buying the property, the city donated a portion of it to the Shelby County Arts Council, on which that group plans to construct a building.

W. Lee Bryant, who lives in the Columbiana area and is an architect with Lathan Associates Architects P.C., along with Charles L. Sowell III, a landscape architect who helped design the city’s downtown streetscape, teamed up to make a presentation to the Columbiana City Council during its Tuesday evening work session.

“This is a rare opportunity,” Bryant said. “It’s not often you get to start a project like this with a clean slate.”

The two presented a very preliminary drawing as to how the property could be developed.

Columbiana Mayor Alan Lowe emphasized the drawings were only conceptual and were presented to the council as simply a way to help visualize what the property could become.

Bryant, who grew up in Columbiana, suggested the property could include a park area, a permanent Farmers’ Market location, an amphitheater, a library and art museum and green space that could have a variety of uses by community groups.

“There are 20 years worth of projects out there,” Bryant said. He and Sowell tossed around ideas with council members.

“Columbiana is an area rooted in agriculture,” Bryant said. “Instead of the usual landscaping, maybe we would plant apple trees and blueberry bushes and other plants that would change with the seasons. Maybe an area could be maintained by local farmers or an students in an agriculture class, where they could grow corn or watermelons — kind of like a living museum.”

Columbiana’s successful downtown streetscape project came about through ideas generated by a series of “charrettes,” or brainstorming sessions, during which community members discussed their ideas for downtown.

Bryant and Sowell suggested using the same concept — gathering input from a wide range of community members — in developing a plan for the Summer Classics property.

Several council members expressed enthusiasm for the property, saying their goal is to develop an area that would be a type of city center and would attract the many who visit Columbiana for the annual county fair and rodeo into the downtown area.

Councilmember Jim Strickland said the council is working now on its 2009-2010 fiscal year budget and any action on moving forward on the master plan will depend on funds available in that budget.

“Once we know our budget numbers, we would be in a better position to make a decision on this master plan,” Strickland said.

In other action Tuesday evening, during its regular meeting:

Lowe reappointed Billy Jones to the Columbiana Housing Authority; proclaimed Sept. 17 through 24 as Constitution Week; and proclaimed September as Senior Citizen month.

The council approved an agreement with M4A regarding the Senior Citizens Services; approved the purchase of a truck for use by the sewer department; approved the fire chief’s request to seek bids for a new fire truck; and approved the purchase of a computer for use by the city clerk.

Councilmember Ouida Mayfield announced the Columbiana Christmas Parade will be held Saturday, Dec. 5, at 3:30 p.m. The annual tour of homes will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day.

“Last year, our parade time conflicted with the SEC championship football game, and we anticipate the same could happen this year. By moving the parade to 3:30, people would have plenty of time to get home and watch the ballgame after attending the parade,” Mayfield said.

Councilmember Dr. Stancil Handley announced the third Saturday car cruise-in continues in September and October. He said the event typically attracts about 50 cars and three or four tractors.

Councilmembers approved use of the city credit card for up to $600 for meals and accommodations for Fran Sammons to attend the annual Court Clerk/Magistrates’ Conference in Orange Beach in late September.