As MEJAC has documented elsewhere, the Rezoning Application for 1490 Telegraph Road is coming at a time when there is heightened interest in zoning activity in the Africatown community.
On Tuesday, October 19 at 10:30am, the Mobile City Council will conduct a Public Hearing for the proposed re-zoning of 1490 Telegraph Road in the Africatown Planning Area from Residential-1 to Industrial-2, from the City’s most restrictive to the City’s most permissive zoning designation.
MEJAC and partner agencies are requesting that the Mobile City Council deny the rezoning for the following reasons:
- Residents on nearby Lee Street weren’t spoken to at all. At least some of the homeowners on that block want the rezoning application stopped and the applicant to hold a public meeting about their intentions with the property. Lee Street falls outside of the City of Mobile’s Africatown Planning Area, somehow, but Lee Street residents and other Africatown advocates don’t understand how that happened.
Lee Street residents drive down a gravel road to get their homes. Some have lived there their entire lives.
As illustrated in the graphic to the right, taken from page 9 of the Mobile Planning Commission Staff Report for the rezoning application, Lee Street is mapped on the City of Mobile’s Future Land Use Map describes this small residential enclave as all Industrial-2 despite the current Residential-1 designation for the homes there.
This concerns many advocates, because it suggests an intent to dispossess the neighborhood for industrial business interests. Rezoning in the vicinity of Lee Street without consultation with residents in a neighborhood where industrial interests appear poised to dispossess residents of their homes is disrespectful.
- 1490 Telegraph Road falls within the Africatown Planning Area, but at the September 2, 2021 Mobile Planning Commission meeting, the rezoning applicant admitted to not having met with any Africatown community organization to discuss the development plans for the site. In official planning documents going back decades, the City of Mobile has recognized the imperative for Africatown community organizations to play a proactive part in reviewing development plans with Africatown-area developers.
1490 Telegraph Road is currently zoned Residential-1, like several neighboring parcels, including several occupied residences on Lee Street. Despite this zoning designation, a commercial warehouse was sited on the property. This is not uncommon in the Africatown area.
Many feel that the City of Mobile’s business community has acted in collusion with City administrations to slowly and intentionally erode Africatown’s residential integrity to continue to locate derogatory businesses in the neighborhood. Certainly, Africatown residents and stakeholders have been fighting for the residential integrity of the community for decades, and developers should be made to appreciate the sensitivity by at least entering into dialogue with Africatown community groups for transparency’s sake before applying for a new zoning designation.
1490 Telegraph Road currently has a commercial warehouse the property, which is in violation of Chapter 64 of the City of Mobile Municipal Code. “Nonconforming uses” like this are too common in Africatown, given credence to resident concerns about business and government collusion against their interest in the residential integrity of the area.
As can be seen in the map to the right, taken from page 8 of the Mobile Planning Commission Staff Report for the rezoning application, 1490 Telegraph Road is currently zoned Residential-1 (white). Neighboring properties are also zoned Residential-1 to the immediate east and southwest of 1490 Telegraph Road. Other neighboring zones include Industrial-1 (periwinkle) and Industrial-2 (gray).
The 1490 Telegraph Road rezoning applicant hasn’t shown that an Industrial-2 designation is necessary when other, less permissive zoning designations, could apply for a commercial warehouse. At the September 2, 2021 Planning Commission meeting, the applicant asserted that they had no interest parties to provide guidance on the need for the requested Industrial-2 zoning designation.
As can be seen in the graphic to the right, warehouses like the one at 1490 Telegraph Road are described in the City of Mobile Chart of Permitted Uses as being permitted land use in Business-3, Business-4, Business-5, Industrial-1, and Industrial-2 zones. Industrial-2 is the most permissive zoning designation of all those currently offered by the City of Mobile.
MEJAC believes that, ideally, Zoning should fit like a glove in terms of an owner’s interests and their obligations to their neighbors. Without transparency about the use of the 1490 Telegraph Road property, a Rezoning to an I-2 designation from an R-1 is, at best, inappropriate.
Without a clear imperative for the most permissive zoning designation the City can afford, the City exercise caution in the Africatown Planning Area to not zone land use activity contrary to the interests of residents and residential stakeholders by continuing to “up-zone” and “over-zone” parcels of land like 1490 Telegraph Road that fail to justify permissive zoning.
- Denying the application today does not deny it tomorrow. After the adoption of the proposed zoning code rewrite (the Unified Development Code), the new code’s Neighborhood Meeting standards would apply and would demand community engagement for this exact type of rezoning application. That is what our priority concern is and has been.Many Africatown residents and residential stakeholders are weary of the business community continuing to deny agency to the community’s environmental concerns by cherry picking leadership instead of simple conducting open and transparent community engagement guided by the sort of common sense and basic public participation principles described in the UDC’s Neighborhood Meeting standards.A decade’s worth of official City of Mobile documents describe the need for Africatown to be equipped with enough information to independently review Zoning and Development proposals in their communities before adversarial Public Hearings. This application is a great opportunity to implement the aspirational best practices described so many times before.We can and want to do better, but that can only happen if residents, stakeholders, and developers are working together and communicating.
In conclusion, it is important that the City of Mobile deny Rezoning Application ZON-001743-2021.
If you agree, please join us in raising concern with the Mobile City Council ASAP:
To submit Verbal Public Comment:
Go to Mobile City Council Chambers, Government Plaza, 205 Government Street
Mobile, Alabama 36601 on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 by 10:30am, and sign up to speak RE: Rezoning Application ZON-001743-2021. You will be given 3 minutes to speak.
To submit Written Public Comment via Email:
Write your Public Comment, addressed to all Mobile City Council members, and send, by 4pm on Monday, October 18 to:
District 3 Council member CJ Smalls (firstname.lastname@example.org)
– due to the untimely passing of District 2 Council member Levon Manzie