Loss of local landmark sparks controversy in Alabaster

Published 12:33 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2018

ALABASTER – City officials and residents in Alabaster said they were taken by surprise when the silo that stood off of Alabama 119 was demolished on the afternoon of Saturday, March 24. The silo was originally part of the Kent Dairy Farm, which operated in Alabaster for decades since 1929.

According to Alabaster resident Michelle Kent Brakefield, whose family owned farm for five generations, the silo served as a local de-facto landmark.

“We grew up on the farm. For me, it was about the memories,” Brakefield said.

While the farm was sold almost a decade ago, Brakefield said the silo held a lot of meaning for her family and other community members.

“It was a part of our lives, and it was a big part of the history of the city of Alabaster,” Brakefield said. “It wasn’t just our family that was affected.”

Brakefield said she was under the impression that the city was discussing plans to officially declare the silo as a landmark, and was disappointed to see it come down with very little notice.

“I would have been nice to let us have those last moments,” Brakefield said.

“We knew that at some point, they would have to tear it down. I just wished that somebody would have given us a call,” said Brakefield’s father, Mike Kent, who was the last official owner of Kent Dairy Farm before it was sold. “We would have taken a family portrait in front of it.”

Brakefield, whose husband is Alabaster City Council President Scott Brakefield, also said she wanted to clear up any misconceptions that the City Council was at fault.

“It wasn’t a City Council decision,” Brakefield said. “If my husband had known about this, we would have known.”

Mayor Marty Handlon said city officials were not notified of the decision to demolish the silo until the morning before it occurred.

Handlon also said Western REI, LLC, the developer that owns the property, did not have a demolition permit, but had a land disturbance permit from the city. Handlon said she believes the developers mistakenly thought they were permitted to demolish the silo, and they have since met with her and paid the penalty fees.

City officials confirmed that the silo’s property is currently in the process of being sold to the Alabaster Water Board.

“The Alabaster Water Board will be using the property to begin serving city residents, and will be building a new facility to better serve its customers. According to the Alabaster Water Board, it was recommended the silo be removed due to it being structurally unsound and a public safety issue,” read a statement from the city.

In a statement released by President Jason Spinks, Western REI had initially wanted to preserve the silo.

“For generations, the Kent family has contributed greatly to the Alabaster community. Many residents have fond memories of their experiences growing up and seeing a working farm. For almost 60 years, the silo was viewed as a landmark for residents and visitors alike,” the statement read. “For these reasons, we had hoped the silo could be salvaged. However, upon examination by a professional engineer, it became apparent that the silo presented too great a safety risk to remain.”

In the Western REI statement, Spinks also apologized to the Kent family and other locals affected by the silo’s removal.

“We are sorry for any heartache caused by the demolition of the silo to the Kent family and area residents,” the statement continued.

Since the news of the silo’s demolition spread throughout Alabaster, Brakefield said she and her family have been overwhelmed with support from fellow residents.

“We’re very appreciative of the support of the people who have reached out to offer sweet comments and share their memories,” Brakefield said. “We’re thankful for the support of the community.”

Despite the disappointment that came with the silo’s removal, Brakefield and Kent said the family is staying positive and moving on.

“There was daylight the next morning, the sun came up and life is still good,” Kent said.