Alabaster postpones rezoning request during heated meeting

Published 8:14 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Alabaster Planning and Zoning Board likely will decide in September if it will recommend the Alabaster City Council rezone 27 acres of land in the Camp Branch Community from residential to heavy industrial.

The announcement came during a brief July 26 Planning and Zoning Board meeting, during which board members voted unanimously to continue the issue until their Sept. 27 meeting.

During its June meeting, the Planning and Zoning Board voted to delay the vote until the July 26 meeting, and requested more information from the county. The Shelby County Commission voted to ask the Alabaster Planning and Zoning Board to delay voting on the matter until September to allow the county time to gather the requested information.

Shelby County officials previously asked the city to rezone the property so the county could remove chert from the land. The county’s Highway Department uses chert to pave roads.

“We asked the county for more information on this during our last meeting, and I think it’s only fair that we give them a chance to get that information together,” said Tommy Ryals, a member of the Planning and Zoning Board.

During the July 26 meeting, about 50 people packed the Alabaster City Hall Annex building to voice their opposition to the county’s plan to remove chert from the land. Before the meeting, residents displayed a sign reading “Save Camp Branch,” and urged meeting attendees to sign a petition opposing the rezoning.

Several Camp Branch residents previously said mining chert from the land could lower their property values and damage the community’s image.

The Planning and Zoning Board did not allow those in the audience to address the board before the board voted to continue the motion, which caused most in the crowd to shout angry comments at the board members before leaving the building.

Comments such as “You just put us off,” and “This is not business, this is a joke,” rang out, and at least one person shouted profanity.

However, after the board cleared its agenda, the board members allowed a few audience members still at the meeting to voice their concerns.

“I want to apologize for any previous outbursts,” Ellison told the board. “Lots of us took off work to be here tonight.”

Ellison accused the county of “playing politics” with the land to seek revenge for Alabaster’s consideration of forming a city school district.

“I see things happening now because people are mad at each other,” Ellison said.

Ryals called Ellison’s claim “garbage,” and said he will vote “according to the facts.”

“I’m sure (the county) is not happy about the schools, because we are looking at them. But that has nothing to do with it,” he said. “For me, this is a matter of should they be able to mine chert from that land or not?”

If the Planning and Zoning Board votes in favor of the rezoning request, the matter will then move on to the Alabaster City Council for final approval or denial.