Alabaster council OKs rezoning for new school

Published 8:01 pm Monday, September 28, 2015

The Alabaster City Council voted to rezone land for the city's new high school during a Sept. 28 meeting. (File)

The Alabaster City Council voted to rezone land for the city’s new high school during a Sept. 28 meeting. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – A project to construct a new high school in Alabaster cleared its final hurdle on Sept. 28, as the City Council voted to rezone a 306-acre tract of land to house the school.

During the meeting, the council voted to uphold the Alabaster Planning and Zoning Board’s recommendation to rezone the land from residential to institutional to allow the Alabaster City School’s System’s new high school project to move forward.

The Planning and Zoning Board voted 6-0 on July 28 meeting to recommend the rezoning move forward. Board member Gary Wright, who is a project manager with Volkert and Associates, which is handling the school construction project, recused himself from voting during the July meeting and sat in the audience.

As a result of the vote, the land will be rezoned from residential to institutional to allow for the city’s new 384,000-square-foot high school. The school is scheduled to open to students in the fall of 2017.

The Planning and Zoning Board originally was set to vote on the rezoning during its June 23 meeting, but continued the matter until July 28 after several residents expressed concerns during the June meeting. Many of the residents who voiced concerns during the June Planning and Zoning Board meeting also attended the July Alabaster Board of Education meeting, where they met with the school building project’s architects and engineers.

During a public hearing before the City Council voted to approve the rezoning, three city residents expressed concern with the move.

Susan Michael, a resident of the Kentwood subdivision, said her property has flooded twice as a result of land clearing for the new school project.

“This is the third time they’ve redone the retention pond. It hasn’t rained enough to see if it will work. I hope it does,” Michael said, also asking “why this (rezoning) is being done at the end of the process rather than the beginning.”

Ward 5 Councilman Russell Bedsole, whose district contains the 306 acres, said he “was a little disappointed that the rezoning was not brought about sooner,” but said he has since discussed the matter with the ACS superintendent and School Board members.

“Any issue that has occurred or is occurring, they are trying to be good neighbors,” Bedsole said. “It’s not as if the city is turning a blind eye with what is happening with that project. We want to take care of you.”

Alabaster resident Nick Kopp encouraged the council to table the rezoning decision “until you actually know what they will be building.”

“That is my grievance. Until they are more forward, I would ask for it to be tabled,” Kopp said.

Bedsole said he is comfortable with the new school project as it has been presented.

“I am comfortable in what I have been told, and what I’ve seen in the paper with regard to what’s going to be out there,” Bedsole said.