Times they are a-changin'

By Steve McConnell
Staff Writer
Posted 5/9/07

PERDIDO BEACH – Wolf Bay Bridge connecting the beach population to northern Wolf Bay has yet to be built; the community, Perdido Beach, waits as it remains an undiscovered country, so to speak, of pine forests and agricultural land …

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Times they are a-changin'


PERDIDO BEACH – Wolf Bay Bridge connecting the beach population to northern Wolf Bay has yet to be built; the community, Perdido Beach, waits as it remains an undiscovered country, so to speak, of pine forests and agricultural land tracts. 

But, development has been trickling in, slowly and surely.

Pines of Perdido, a typical cul-de-sac subdivision has begun selling lots, and workers, two weeks ago, laid the bricks and mortar to the entrance, creating a well-to-do façade on a steamy spring afternoon. 

Streets signs were planted firm in the ground, but not a single home was in sight, only lots for now. 

Palmetto and Soldier’s Creek snake in proximity to County Road 97, west of Lillian and East of Elberta, eventually meandering their way into Perdido Bay.

Perdido Beach, a community of a handful of paved and red clay roads, was established on a small jetty-like landmass, hugged by the creeks and fronted by Perdido Bay. 

A church, volunteer fire department, boat launches, interspersed with waterfront resort homes and “fish-camp” residences, essentially makeup the community.  No restaurants, bars, or convenience stores are to be found. 

A few miles north of unincorporated Perdido Beach, waterfront homes grace the creek shores while some prefer seclusion, invisible to passerby’s along county roads. 

Emmett Simpson, 81, has a narrow gravel driveway that can be found by counting mail boxes from Perdido Beach.  A simple turn, usually uninterrupted by traffic, takes the visitor through innumerable pines to Simpson’s residence. 

He has owned this 40 acre property with his wife since 1972 and lived at the residence since 1979. 

Simpson is fond of the simplicity of the community, its undiscovered geography, and the solitude of his home.  But, he realizes that changes are on the horizon. 

Pines of Perdido is nearly a mile from Simpson’s driveway, but he feels the development fits the mold, as best as possible under county zoning regulations, since it is zoned R-1, single family district, meaning 1 unit or residence per acre. 

The R-1 designation allows a low-density subdivision, according to county zoning regulations.  Under R-1, Pines of Perdido can build 66 homes north of Simpson. 

Simpson said the development reduced its specs to R-1, a compromise he noted that nearly matches the land-uses of the area including ER, single-family estate district that calls for 1 residence per 2 acres, and RA, rural agricultural district – vacant forests, agriculture or rural land-uses, including one home on at least 3 acres. 

But, Simpson and fellow neighbors Patsy Parker, Robert Trimble, Bob Gross, Al Tompson and Paul Stryker are concerned with a prospective development named Waterstone, the pet project of developer Tim McCrory. 

McCrory owns 72.84 acres north of Leiterman Road and West of County Road 97, according to county records.  The property is adjacent to Simpson’s and zoned RA. 

McCrory requested that the Baldwin County Planning and Zoning Commission change the zoning designation from RA to R-3, meaning that up to 3 units can be built on one acre. 

His proposal submitted to the planning commission requests a moderate density development at 174 units, which would be the largest residential development in Perdido, according to residents.   

The property’s density request differs from adjacent zonings around the parcel: 4 properties are zoned rural agricultural and one property is zoned R-1, according to planning commission records. 

In interviews held with Waterstone’s neighbors, they were alarmed with the precedent Waterstone could set for the greater Perdido Beach community by allowing a development that does not consider the community’s pattern - mostly one residence on a fair sized lot.  

They contend that the rezoning would allow too many homes in such a small space. 

“He’s putting an urban area next to a rural area,” said Simpson.  “There is the possibility of 500 to 600 people living there.”

Simpson’s main contention is the number of units that would be allowed under R-3.

“My thing is density because they are putting an urban area in my backyard,” he said. 

The group is also concerned about infrastructure, including water and sewer, and police and fire services. 

Referring to Baldwin County Sewer Service, Stryker said: “They have had many spills; apparently the investment hasn’t been there to support these kinds of developments.”

Perdido Beach has a volunteer fire department, only a few miles from Waterstone, with 10 volunteers.  The area is also serviced by the Lillian and Josephine volunteer fire departments. 

“The biggest problem is people may not be available during the day,” Simpson said, adding that he once served with the Perdido VFD.

Gross noted that “there is not sufficient fire coverage for the new developments coming in here.”

And Trimble, 39, was concerned with the density of the buildings if a fire occurred. 

“With those things packed in there so close together, it would be a disaster,” he said. 

As for police service, Simpson said “it takes 25 minutes to get a police officer here.”

Perdido Beach is served by county sheriffs since the area is not incorporated and outside the nearest municipality’s police jurisdiction – Elberta. 

Simpson said he called Elberta PD on one occasion, but “they told me to call the Sheriff.”

An added grievance with the development is the environmental sensitivity it poses, according to residents. 

The site-plan, submitted to the planning commission, shows that the development is built around 3.31 acres of wetlands.  

Gross said the site is a source of runoff into Palmetto Creek since the wetland area can act as a feeder.  The site is generally dry, but he said McCrory “needs to be aware of the consequences of runoff” since Palmetto Creek flows into an estuary.

“We are dealing with an environmentally sensitive area,” Gross said. 


Tim McCrory is not a fan of the term developer since it generally means bad news in the public’s eye and the media. 

And he is trying to overcome a typical development plan – a sprawling subdivision that is held unaccountable, environmentally and neighborly - by being the first developer in the county to follow the letter of the planning and zoning department’s conservation regulations. 

The regulation’s stated purpose is to “provide a development option that permits flexibility of design in order to promote environmentally sensitive and efficient uses of the land.” 

Its intent is to preserve natural resources including wetlands and “permit the clustering of houses and structures on less environmentally sensitive soils which will reduce the amount of infrastructure,” according to county planning department records. 

A developer is required to perform a “site analysis” that shows all the features of the property, including streams and also designate a percentage of the development as dedicated to open space. 

Open space sets aside a permanent area that cannot be developed. 

In an interview with McCrory, he said, “the movement today is toward sustainable communities,” adding that Waterstone will embrace the latest national trends in conservation development. 

“I want to go above and beyond everything happening in the county,” he said. 

Waterstone will set aside 28.19 acres for open space.  Typical lot size will average 8,400 square feet and proposed amenities will include solar lighted walking trails and a solar heated pool, according to the county planning and zoning staff report. 

In terms of requesting the R-3 density, a point of contention for Perdido residents, McCrory said, “I’m trying to reduce the footprints of the houses” in order to mitigate impact.

At 2.3 units per acre, he said it’s not so much an issue of density, but growth.

“If your growing with smart growth, it’s not that dense at all,” adding that he hopes to “set a precedent by bringing a conservation community” to Perdido Beach. 

Urban design and smart growth standards, he said, generally agree one unit per acre is not efficient growth.

Regarding environmental considerations, he said he will seek out the latest developments in stormwater management technology for Waterstone to enhance the property’s wetlands and create detention areas, limiting water runoff into Palmetto Creek.

The land-development plan submitted to county officials designates 3 “potential” retention areas. 

McCrory said he also anticipates utilizing brick roads and gravel driveways to reduce runoff. 

Overall, McCrory said Perdido Beach and northern Wolf Bay are set on a course for change. 

Wolf Bay Bridge, he said, will fuel millions of dollars in development opportunities, especially in the residential market, upon massive undeveloped land tracts. 

The bridge will connect Alabama 161 in Orange Beach to Josephine, and a probable connection to U.S. 98 or I-10 is planned.  

McCrory speculated that the Barber and Lawrenz properties, encompassing thousands of acres of rural land, will reap generous profits once the bridge project is underway. 

“My argument with Waterstone is maybe you are feeling this is coming to your backyard too soon, but I feel like this is a model for developers to follow,” he said. 


McCrory’s rezoning request for Waterstone, changing the designation from RA to R-3, was to be determined at the May 3 Baldwin County Planning Commission hearing. 

The county’s planning and zoning staff report submitted to commissioners prior to the hearing recommended denying rezoning since “staff feels that a rezoning to R-3, at this location would be premature at this time.”

The staff was “supportive of the concepts” but “concerned with the precedent which would be set with an R-3 zoning designation,” according to the report available online prior to the hearing. 

McCrory, however, withdrew his application before the hearing. 

In a telephone interview on May 3, McCrory said he plans to re-submit for R-2 zoning, which is less than the number of units he anticipated building.  

“I’m going to be a good neighbor and submit as R-2,” he said, noting that the development will contain approximately 150 lots. 

He stated that he will also submit under the county’s conservation regulations and remain true to the sustainable intent of Waterstone. 

He also said he will meet with the county’s planning staff to review Waterstone, and hopefully attain staff support for the project.

Stryker, who has lived in the Perdido community since 1999, said: “We all know that progress is coming, but at least we can manage it.”