City leaders ponder annexation proposal

By Jenni Vincent
Staff Writer
Posted 5/5/07

DAPHNE — What should City Council members do about controversial plans to annex the neighboring Belforest community? Is it time to step back and reconsider those plans? Or not?

The answers to those questions seem unclear, even to council …

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City leaders ponder annexation proposal


DAPHNE — What should City Council members do about controversial plans to annex the neighboring Belforest community? Is it time to step back and reconsider those plans? Or not?

The answers to those questions seem unclear, even to council members themselves.

Mayor Fred Small said earlier this week that he’s unsure the city should proceed with its annexation proposal.

Councilman John Lake said he agrees in theory with Small’s initial plan to annex land toward west of Alabama Highway 181, but he worries that community members have been inadequately informed about the proposal. That may have resulted in some miscommunication and mistrust, Lake said.

“I worry that some people may have been talking out of a lack of information,” he said Thursday in a phone interview. “And I think they may feel differently once they get some additional information on Daphne.

“We are a proactive, caring town; We care very much about our city, neighbors and quality of life,” Lake said.

Annexation wasn’t meant as a way for the city to simply “gain” additional land or power, he said.

“We’re not out to grab at them, but for us to help and protect them,” Lake said.

Lake has a couple of ideas to help deal with the current impasse.

First, he believes it may be wise to schedule additional community meetings.

“I also think it might be wise for council to consider hiring a professional — someone in public relations — to work in this area, to insure that the lines of communications are kept open,” he said.

Councilwoman Cathy Barnette, who has had “concerns from the start,” said she favors reassessing the city’s plans.

“In fact, I already think we may have gone too far, too fast,” Barnette said. “So we do need to pause and look at our plans.”

Barnette said she understands the citizen outcry and would like to see city officials have better answers to their questions.

“We on council have never been given the costs on the annexation, so I can understand the public being skeptical,” she said.

Some specifics, such as the discharging of firearms in the city, might also be tough to mediate, Barnette said.

“Just in terms of equity, I’m not sure you could let that happen in one area of the city but not others.”

Barnette said policy makers might also want to consider establishing a rural agricultural zone in the Belforest area.

“I do think it is important for people there to know that no one on council is interested in incorporating this area simply by a legislative act. We’ve always said it would be voted up or down by the people,” she said.

Councilman Ron Scott said he believes the proposal is dead — at least for now — regardless of what Daphne officials plan.

“I don’t think it will be reported out of the legislature, quite frankly,” Scott said.

“I mean, the bottom line is that our representatives also get telephone calls and e-mails from the citizens, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t already heard from some upset people,” Scott said.

Last month, council approved an annexation resolution by a 5-0 vote, which allowed the proposal to be advertised, as required by state law.

After being approved by legislators and the governor, an election would have been scheduled so that citizens could vote on the proposal.

City leaders said at the April 16 council meeting that time was running short if the part-time legislature — which adjourns in June — was to approve the proposal this session.

Councilman Bailey Yelding said he isn’t sure if the same people attended all three public meetings or if there truly was opposition from all fronts.

“It’s just hard to know if these people who are against the annexation represent the majority. Or is there a silent majority that actually supports it,” Yelding said.

Yelding recommends that council members talk with Small and then each other before making any decision.

“But overall it does seem to me that we probably need to step back and do a little more planing,” Yelding said.

Council president Greg Burnam said the annexation will not be an agenda item at Monday night’s meeting.

He believes that it will most likely be discussed instead at a council work session.

Burnam also isn’t sure if additional public meetings on the proposal will be scheduled.

“I have mixed feelings on this issue,” he said. “But overall I do think that it is a good idea to annex all the way out to Route 181.

“And realistically, I guess you have to expect that some people will be against that kind of change.”