Mobile City Councilwoman Bess Rich lost a vote she was hoping to win Tuesday, but her district will still receive funds for a multimillion-dollar road extension project as a result.
The council voted 5-2 to move forward with a project to extend Nevius Road using county pay-as-you-go funds and $1.5 million in city money on Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s suggestion, despite Rich’s objection over the design of the project.
At issue for Rich was the “substandard” design the county would use to complete the project aimed at reducing congestion at the intersection of Hillcrest and Cottage Hill roads, ignoring city streetscape suggestions for curbs, gutters and lighting.
“It won’t have a positive result,” Rich said of the project during a pre-conference meeting. “It is a major corridor and should follow the city’s guidelines for curb and gutter. I never dreamt this road would be built to a rural standard. It’s a suburban area.”
Rich also questioned why the county would take the lead on a project that’s within the city limits.
Instead, Rich had wanted the council to pass an ordinance that would delay the project, but reserve the current funding until additional funding could be found to move forward with a project she felt was better suited for a suburban street. The vote on her ordinance failed by a vote of 2-4, with one abstention. Only Councilman Fred Richardson supported Rich’s position. Councilman C.J. Small abstained.
In remarks during the council meeting, Stimpson said the county approached his office about the project and told him it would take the lead on it. Stimpson also argued the road is not ignoring city standards.
“It is being built to city standards,” he said. “There are several standards that exist around the city.”
Stimpson used examples of streets that were built without curbs, gutters or sidewalks previously, including parts of Government Boulevard, parts of Cody and Howells Ferry roads, as well as Llyods Lane and Paper Mill Road, as well as others.
“It’s impossible for the city and county to get approval for a project if it doesn’t meet current design standards set by [the Alabama Department of Transportation],” Stimpson said.
The extension would open up more than 700 previously undeveloped acres of land for development, and Stimpson mentioned the project as a way to increase the city’s population. Small said he couldn’t support Rich because he was an advocate for helping to grow the city from the inside. He also argued he didn’t want the money to be earmarked and just sit for years when it could be used to help one of the city’s seven districts.
Rich argued the project would have the opposite effect because would-be residents would be turned off by the lack of curbs, gutters and other infrastructure along the roadway. She said residents support new zoning rules and guidelines that the city should follow.
“Why not bring people to the table?” she asked. “We know what they want. Why do we keep ignoring people and then shake our heads when they don’t move into the city?”
In other business, the city will delay a vote on further regulations of short-term rentals to at least Tuesday, Jan. 19.
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