Pelham records 49-percent growth in 10 years

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham saw a nearly 49-percent population explosion over the past 10 years, leaving virtually no undeveloped residential land in the city limits, said Pelham Mayor Don Murphy.

From 2000 to 2010, Shelby County’s second-largest city saw a population growth of nearly 7,000 residents, bringing Pelham’s population from 14,369 to 21,352.

Most of the city’s residential growth occurred in the Stonehaven subdivision off U.S. 31, in the southern end of the city and in the Ballantrae neighborhood off Shelby County 11.

Because of the extensive residential growth during the past decade, Pelham has nearly exhausted land in its city limits suitable for residential development, Murphy said.

“Until we get to a point where we can get more land to develop to the east, it’s going to be a challenge for us to grow any more as far as residential goes.

“We can’t go north because you’ve got Hoover. You can’t go south because you’ve got Alabaster. You can’t go west because you’ve got Helena,” Murphy added. “Really the only place for Pelham to grow is to the northeast and east.”

Expanding to the east likely will present many issues for the city, as much of the terrain is mountainous and difficult to develop.

Pelham is already in the process of expanding its sewer and water lines along Shelby County 11 and other areas east of the city, and recently changed the way the sewer system is funded.

For several years, the city supplemented its sewer budget with money from its general fund. In 2009, the city enacted a gradual sewer rate increase for everyone on the city’s line.

“Most cities go on the premise of a user fee, and that’s what we didn’t do for several years,” Murphy said. “And some cities had ADEM come in and say ‘you’re going to have to install a new chemical feed building.’ That’s a $5 million project, and someone has to pay for it.”

Because of the way the state’s tax structure is organized, sales and other business-related taxes typically fund a large percentage of city departments, such as police, parks and recreation and fire.

Pelham does not have a large shopping center, such as the Colonial Promenade in Alabaster or the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, which is a sort of double-edged sword, Murphy said.

Pelham has been able to handle the explosive growth over the past 10 years with its retail offerings, but does not have a large single source of sales taxes like Alabaster and Hoover.

However, the city’s lack of a large shopping center could also be a blessing if the economy continues to decline, Murphy said.

“It’s good and bad,” he said of Pelham’s lack of a large shopping center. “All of our eggs are not in one basket. If the economy crashes, and all those tenants move out of the shopping center, the city still has that debt it’s got to service.”

The city’s Hispanic and Latino population percentage also rose from 6.4 percent in 2000 to 14.9 percent in 2010.

“We don’t look at it as one nationality or the other. We don’t pay any attention to that,” Murphy said. “Everyone’s just got to abide by the same law no matter where they’re from.”