Alabaster addresses residents’ concerns over Walker Springs development
Published 5:44 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2023
By NOAH WORTHAM | Staff Writer
ALABASTER – Many Alabaster residents have recently expressed concerns over the proposed Walker Springs residential development off of Highway 119.
The development, situated next to Ebenezer Swamp, is set to add 970 homes and residents have expressed concerns over the increase in traffic from the development.
“We are already experiencing serious traffic issues all over Alabaster and this will only add to that challenge,” local resident Patrick Bush said. “Alabaster is growing too quickly—services everywhere are overwhelmed.”
The Alabaster City Council originally approved annexation and zoning for the Walker Springs subdivision development master plan off Highway 119 in December 2020 after the annexation was recommended by the Alabaster Planning and Zoning Commission earlier that year. The City Council then approved a minor revision to the already-approved master plan on Nov. 14, 2022.
A town hall meeting was held by developer Newcastle Homes on July 27 at Alabaster City Hall as part of Newcastle Homes’ process to obtain the permits for the planned subdivision.
During the meeting, local residents provided feedback, which was taken and submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
During a city council meeting on Monday, Aug. 14, resident Michael Gerrells appeared before the council during community forum and asked about the development.
Gerrells asked the council if the development was a “done deal.”
“There’s no action on this council at this time at all,” City Council President Sophie Martin said.
Mayor Scott Brakefield said that the development is currently in the hands of the Army Corps of Engineers after the recent town hall meeting in which the developer received feedback from the public.
“There’s been information out there—there’s been a lot of misinformation out there,” Brakefield said. “We’re very transparent. We have nothing to hide. This has been a development that’s been in the works for the past two years. We did nothing different than we’ve done in previous developments. We’ve built hundreds of homes on the south end of (Highway) 119 before this development was ever considered. All these protections and everything are in place.”
Alabaster City Administrator Brian Binzer addressed some of the concerns that have been cited with the development.
“The city is taking the lead working with ALDOT to try to widen (Highway) 119,” he said. “It’s underway now with Phase One. We’ve gone back to ALDOT to procure funds for Phase Two. We’ve got a letter of commitment from ALDOT to do that. We’re doing all we can from that standpoint on our major thoroughfares to address traffic concerns.”
Binzer also shared that there is going to be a 5,000-foot roadway that will connect Highway 119 to Smoke Road.
“That’s going to help alleviate traffic (and) give people different options, not just for this development, (but) for everybody that’s on Smokey Road where it’s going to tie in with a new traffic signal at Veterans Park,” Binzer said.
Residents have also expressed environmental concerns as a portion of the property is located on wetlands and the development is next to Ebenezer Swamp.
“(The) wetland, mostly intermittent, is to be destroyed—leading to more flooding in existing homes (and) neighborhoods,” Bush said. “Intermittent wetlands are also very key to the environment as habitat to amphibians, pollination specialists and vital insects. The builder basically downplayed the importance of IW’s as weed traps and eyesores.”
In 2006, a lawsuit previously prevented a limestone quarry from being constructed on Ebenezer Swamp due to the ecological impact it would have.
Since then, the following developments have been made nearby:
- Silver Creek
- Tanglewood by the Creek
- Golden Meadows
- Shelby Farms
- Dawson’s Cove
“Walker Springs will pose no greater environmental impact than any of the subdivisions near Ebenezer Swamp since 2006,” read an official release by the city of Alabaster.
Binzer said that, from an environmental standpoint, the Walker Springs project is developed around wetlands and that it mostly stays out of them. Any wetlands that are impacted, have to have the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is a federal process.
“From a local process, they have to meet all of the ADEM standards , (Alabama) State Department of Environmental Management, that we review to make sure that they do that so they can’t flood out their neighbors,” he said. “We have to make sure that they have detention ponds or those kinds of things to capture their storm water. Then they have to have what are called, ‘best management practices,’ as they build the road so you don’t have soil that moves off their property and goes into their neighbors and those kinds of things.
“From traffic to environmental—all those things are taken into consideration and the city’s really doing its best to make sure that those are abided by and, as much as they can, exceed those standards.”
Binzer also emphasized that the project will take time be completed and for the homes to be sold.
“This is not going to be built overnight,” he said. “You’re talking about 970-1,000 homes. It takes a long time to sell that many homes, let alone build that many homes. So, this is probably a 10-12 year build out.”
After discussing the issue and sharing his questions with city leaders at a city council meeting, Gerrells share his thoughts on the project.
“We brought them (questions) all up and a lot of them were answered here, and I’m just going to have to wait and see what happens,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that are way more affected than I am going to be affected. There’s a lot of really nice people that I know that will be here and I’m sure they have some legitimate concerns and it looks like they’re being addressed and I just want to find out for myself. The questions I had have been answered.”