By Josie Shaw, Managing editor of production
In the Nov. 14 Alabaster City Council meeting, Alabaster Mayor Scott Brakefield addressed both the public and the council about an issue of communication throughout the process of amending the Walker Springs housing development that surrounds UM’s Ebenezer Swamp.
Brakefield said, “Many years we will run off council meeting after council meeting with very little attendance, and not a lot going on, but these past couple of meetings we’ve had a lot of questions. And their questions that you know, during this time allows also a time of reflection of what we could have done better.”
Brakefield went on to comment that he and the council plan to do a better job on educating the public on information.
“During these last couple of meetings, a lot of things have come up from our residents mainly concerned about a potential development coming in on Highway 119, and there’s a lot of information that we probably could have headed off some concerns before this got out, but you go back, this development was actually approved almost two years ago,” said Brakefield.
Brakefield emphasized that even though this development is already approved, concerned citizens have been attending meetings that are focused on amending the developments master plan. He attributed the community’s topical misdirection towards the council’s absence of publicizing information.
Brakefield mentioned that since a 2006 lawsuit prevented a quarry from being built around Ebenezer Swamp, the city of Alabaster has approved and developed a number of housing developments in swamps surrounding the area, mentioning Silver Creek, Tanglewood by the Creek, Golden Medows, Shelby Farms and Dawsons Cove.
“I say that because since 2006, we know that the most important thing is that anything that gets built around there, needs to have protection against anything that would intrude or impede or have a problem or cause problems with Ebenezer Swamp,” said Brakefield.
“So fast forward, and we have this development coming before us. I don’t think anybody would argue that and would say that it’s easier to develop a neighborhood in today’s climate than it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago. So, when we, or you, approve this devlopment, you approved it knowing that other agencies have safeguards built in, and that the developer Newcastle would have to clear all those agencies,” continued Brakefield.
He addressed a number of concerns regarding the development, starting with traffic congestion on Highway 119.
Brakefield clarified that the City of Alabaster received a federal grant to expand Highway 119, and they are currently in phase one of the expansion. Brakefield hopes that once this expansion is finished, concerns about traffic congestion will be alleviated.
He also addressed concerns about an influx of students in the Alabaster school system due to the Walker Springs development, and said that the school board is excited for the development. Brakefield attributed this excitement to the influx in students bringing in more state and local funding for the school system.