DAPHNE – Plans for a new medical overlay district and plans for Mobile Infirmary facilities in Malbis have some residents worried that the development could increase traffic and affect homes in the area.
After a first reading Monday, Dec. 19, the Daphne City Council was scheduled to vote Tuesday, Jan. 3 on final approval of ordinances to create the overlay district on property south of U.S. 90 and west of Alabama 181. The council was also scheduled to vote on annexing the property and approving a Mobile Infirmary request to rezone the area for general business.
Adrienne Jones, Daphne planning director, said the changes will allow Infirmary Health Systems to develop medical facilities in the area. The system now operates a free-standing emergency room at the southwest corner of the intersection.
“The Medical Overlay District is intended to establish regulation by which future development would happen. Infirmary Health Systems has approached the city wanting to annex the property and prezone it to B-2A,” Jones said. “In order to develop the site in accordance with the campus vision that they have, the city of Daphne has to consider these regulations to lay those down as the foundation.”
Angelo Matthews lives across Alabama 181 from the site and is president of the Malbis Memorial Foundation, which owns the Greek Orthodox Church east of the highway. He said plans for the district would make his home unliveable, but would also cut off much traffic from the historic church.
He said development would not allow southbound traffic to enter the church driveway and would not allow people leaving the church to turn south.
It’s going to cost the church money to figure out ways to change driveways,” Matthews said. “It’s really devastating to have the church no be able to be accessed by people like it used to.”
He said the plans would add more turn lanes to Alabama 181. The widening of the highway would require the state to take property from the front of the home occupied by him and his brother.
“The question there is has enough of a traffic been done,” Matthews said. “We really shouldn’t be approving something this large, this impactful without a better traffic study than what we’ve got. Then once we get some kind of determination from the state saying what it might look like once we get this done, then maybe we can move ahead, but right now, you’re going to be taking out my front yard. That’s what you’re going to be approving.”
He said his family has lived on the property for more than a century.
“We don’t intend to move,” Matthews said. “We’re not investors. We’ve been there all our lives.”
Ormand Thompson, president of Thomas Hospital in Fairhope, which is part of the Infirmary Health System, said the system will take the concerns of residents into consideration when making plans for development.
I’m very sensitive to the comments of the individuals in that area. I feel like we have gone to great lengths as neighbors up there with the addition of the office building and the free-standing ER to provide an environment that is suitable for all in that area and we will continue to do that.
Michael Neimeyer, a lawyer representing some area property owners, said the development would also funnel traffic onto Malbis Lane, a residential street.
Malbis Lane has a design or intention to direct traffic to the west, down Malbis Lane, which is currently a barely improved paved surface that dead-ends at the end of the property owners' to the west,” Neimeyer said. “We also have a concern based on what we've seen that that there's a long-range plan to connect it with a north-south road back to 90 to essentially create a major traffic artery around the project and to avoid the 181-90 intersection, which is already pretty active.”
Joe Sullivan, another lawyer representing property owners, said the area is also part of a historic district. He said the lake in the proposed district was dug by hand by the original Greek immigrants who founded the Malbis community. Sullivan asked that the council delay its final decision until residents, officials and developers could meet and discuss the proposal.
“What we’re asking is that this is of such import to the city,” Sullivan said. “Why don’t we look at some of the environmental issues with Malbis Lake, which connects to D’Olive Creek? Why don’t we look at the historic implications? Why don’t we slow this down? I’m not talking about a significant period of time: 90 days. Let’s bring everybody together.”