Magnolia Springs to revitalize comprehensive plan with resident input

Editorial Assistant
Posted 4/16/24

MAGNOLIA SPRINGS — In an effort to map out its future development trajectory, the Town of Magnolia Springs is undertaking a revision of its comprehensive plan.

This initiative marks a …

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Magnolia Springs to revitalize comprehensive plan with resident input


MAGNOLIA SPRINGS — In an effort to map out its future development trajectory, the Town of Magnolia Springs is undertaking a revision of its comprehensive plan.

This initiative marks a pivotal moment for the community as it seeks to address evolving needs, preserve cherished assets and foster sustainable growth.

A comprehensive plan serves as a strategic roadmap, outlining a municipality's long-term vision across various domains, including development, housing, transportation and environmental conservation. In Alabama, municipalities carrying out planning programs are required by State Code to prepare and implement a comprehensive plan.

"It allows the planning and zoning commission to set where the community wants to go in the future," Magnolia Springs Planning Commission Chairman Mark Mattox said, "but it is provided for by the Code of Alabama, so this is a legal thing."

For Magnolia Springs, however, this endeavor is not merely procedural; it's a concerted effort to uphold the town's unique character while embracing opportunities for progress. If you drive through Magnolia Springs, you may see evidence of ways the town has kept its charm, such as the Dollar General that is not your typical box style store you may see in other cities and towns but rather aesthetically designed to match the style of surrounding buildings.

The town has a certain aesthetic they would like to keep throughout according to their comprehensive plan. Unlike other Dollar General stores which almost popup overnight, you won't see a typical box-store here as evident by the Dollar General in town which took a few designs to pass the town council. / Whisper Edwards, Gulf Coast Media

The current plan, established in 2009, laid the groundwork for Magnolia Springs' development over the past years. Typically, towns and cities reevaluate and revise their plans every 10 to 20 years to keep up with growth and issues. However, recognizing the rapid pace of growth in Baldwin County, officials in the area say that every five to 10 years may be a more practical reevaluation time.

"Our plan currently is from 2009, and a lot has changed in 16 years, and typically you redo the plan about every 10-20 years, and since Baldwin County is growing so fast, it's actually more advised to do it more often than that, and so I guess in 2009 our vision was a little different than it is in 2024," Magnolia Springs Town Clerk Hannah Driskell said.

Among the issues raised by residents when creating the 2009 comprehensive plan, which can be found on the town's website, is the need to retain Magnolia Springs' distinctive ambiance, protect its natural assets — such as the Magnolia River — and address traffic congestion and safety concerns. The desire for controlled growth, preservation of architectural heritage and enhanced recreational amenities were also featured prominently in the public discourse when the town was creating their initial plan.

Additionally, public feedback during the formulation of the 2009 plan highlighted the significance of striking a balance between commercial expansion and the conservation of green areas, nurturing community cohesion and guaranteeing fair access to public services and facilities.

While the plan may be changing to incorporate new ideas and areas of focus, many of the concepts from the 2009 plan will be upheld, such as the desire to control growth and development.

"One of the reasons for trying to prevent massive development is that the geography of Magnolia Springs all the way around it sits in a bowl, and in the middle of that bowl is the Magnolia River, and we've had huge issues lately with flooding because of increased development," Mattox said. "So, a very overriding thing we are trying to do is protect the river as far as our conflicts."

Due to issues with flooding because of increased development, the town is looking for ways to protect the Magnolia River, which runs directly through the town. / Whisper Edwards, Gulf Coast Media

But how can officials and planners create a plan gauging the long-term vision of the town and ensure nothing is forgotten? According to Mattox, the key to this reevaluation and revision process is extensive community engagement.

"Our planning and zoning committee, in attempt to revise the plan, has actively gone out to get public input by using the questionnaire, a survey to get the opinion of the municipality as well as the folks in our planning jurisdiction on where they want to go, where they see the Town of Magnolia Springs going," Mattox told Gulf Coast Media.

In collaboration with Magnolia Springs, the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission (SARPC) has been instrumental in guiding the revision process, according to Driskell. One of the ways SARPC was able to assist the town was the creation of the comprehensive survey Mattox spoke of.

The survey sought input on various aspects, including residents' connections to Magnolia Springs, demographic information, such as age, and their perceptions of quality of life. Additionally, residents were prompted to identify the town's primary strengths and challenges and offer opinions on annexation, potential development zones, commercial expansion and infrastructure enhancements. The questionnaire also delved into preferences regarding development types, river access, daily services, satisfaction with municipal departments and proposals for future public amenities.

With a population of approximately 828 residents, the town received 292 completed surveys by early April. While the survey has been closed, residents can contact Magnolia Springs Town Hall at (251) 965-9888 to give their feedback.

Or they can attend an upcoming Comprehensive Plan Town Meeting and let their voices be heard.
To facilitate dialogue and collaboration with the community, Magnolia Springs is hosting the town meeting to get additional feedback, suggestions and potential issues from the community. The meeting will take place at the Magnolia Springs Community Hall, 14775 Oak St., on April 24 at 5 p.m.

Crafting a comprehensive plan is not a simple feat, but according to Mattox, the responses the town has received so far may differ in ways, but the Magnolia Springs community agrees on one thing.

"The feedback we are getting from the community," he said, "is that we want to keep what makes Magnolia Springs special."

A portion of the Wesleyan Church property in Magnolia Springs. One of the questions on the survey the town sent out to residents was if they wanted the town to purchase and develop the Wesleyan Church property. / Whisper Edwards, Gulf Coast Media