The New City of Mobile Zoning Code: Kudos and Concerns

The Africatown community faces huge changes through proposed revisions to the City of Mobile Zoning Code. Advocates have released the following responses to the Planning Department. There is much to potentially be excited for, but unfortunately, there also appears to be many unnecessary and inappropriate zoning designations proposed, as well. As complex as this issue is, Africatown advocates agree that the City must wrestle with the contradictions in the current land use designations, how properties are being used, and the interests of the Africatown community to protect both its residential integrity and respect its many environmental concerns.

Build Mobile’s proposed Unified Development Code (UDC) Background

Africatown residents and regional advocates, as well as many environmental justice community leaders from around Mobile provided significant participation during the Map for Mobile project. This resulted in the creation of a Future Land Use Map (FLUM) of the entire city that provided a non-binding sketch of what a comprehensive zoning map could look like.

The next step taken in the process to modernize the City of Mobile’s long-range planning processes was to examine all of the rules around getting “planning approval” for real estate developers, businesses, and residents in the city.

This culminated as the City of Mobile’s Build Mobile program. Its mission is ostensibly to consolidate and, in some places, “streamline” the planing approval process to make the land use rules that bind developers, business owners, and residents more transparent, modern, and less cumbersome. The Build Mobile process basically exists today as a sub-organization within the city’s Planning Department.

Cover Page of the Build Mobile proposed UDCIn January 2019, Build Mobile submitted a draft of what they are calling the Unified Development Code (UDC) for public consideration, and it’s time to PROVIDE FEEDBACK. The original deadline for this general public comment period ended Friday, March 8, but the deadline has been extended another 30 days to April 8, 2019.

The entire 386 pages of the Build Mobile UDC code is available for review here. Continue reading

Down the Bay & Orange Grove EJ Petitions Delivered to US Army Corps of Engineers

MEJAC delivered a petition with 101 local citizen signatures requesting the US Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District to adhere to the environmental justice consultation process it has publicly promised would happen with the Down the Bay and Orange Grove communities during its Mobile Harbor GRR process of considering the impacts of enlarging the Mobile Harbor ship channel to expand Port of Mobile commerce.

Our organization still hasn’t received a reply to any part of the letter MEJAC sent in early April 2018 formally requesting a response to these and other concerns. But come to think of it, MEJAC has never received a formal response regarding the first letter we sent back in February 2016 about the Mobile Harbor GRR/SEIS scoping process, either. Continue reading

Planning Commission Betrays Communities Seeking Environmental Justice with Weak Ordinance

Mobile, Alabama’s grassroots environmental justice fight isn’t about “jobs versus the environment”. It is about an inclusive municipal planning process versus well-oiled advertising campaigns, cronyism, and misinformation coming straight outta Houston. But it’s 2015, we need not poison people or degrade their property in order to prosper. Much of downtown Mobile’s tourism industry, as well as public health officials and community advocates agree with this sentiment.

The zoning ordinance proposed by the Planning Commission on above ground petrochemical storage tanks is an insult to residents, property owners, and breathers everywhere – but particularly to Africatown’s many historical significances. Throughout the last two and a half years of trying to be heard clearly, downtown communities have organized together to consistently say “No More Petro Tanks on Our River Banks”. Given the size and scope of what has been previously proposed, the passion and commitment that communities bearing the brunt of the locally-unwanted land use are displaying is unprecedented for Mobile.
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Africatown Boat Safari Highlights Hog Bayou’s Mobile-wide Connections

Africatown Boat Safari Highlights Hog Bayou’s Mobile-wide Connections
Its rich heritage and ecosystem holds possibilities, perils

July 13, 2015 Mobile, Alabama – Hog Bayou rests atop Mobile to the north of Africatown’s residential neighborhood. The wetland backwaters have been used as a source of food and recreation by Africatown residents since the community’s founding by former African slaves in 1870. Major Joe Womack and other Africatown elders often recount how their relationship to the wetland ecosystem shaped their youth.

Major Womack telling stories on the water

Major Womack telling stories on the water; image by Carol Adams-Davis

Major Womack took such an opportunity last Friday afternoon on a first-of-its-kind boat tour of the Hog Bayou wetlands area. Organized by Africatown Community Development Corporation (Africatown CDC) in partnership with the Mobile County Training School Alumni Association, Mobile Branch of the NAACP, Mobile Bay Sierra Club, and Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition (MEJAC) through a generous in-kind donation by Five Rivers Delta Safari, the tour saw 40 participants from partner organizations, Mobile City Planning staff, and press obtain a fresh look at Mobile’s too-long abused wetland ecosystems in its North. Continue reading

Mobile City Council Delays Vote on Arc Terminals’ Sulfuric Acid Tank Expansion

Mobile City Council Delays Vote on Arc Terminals’ Sulfuric Acid Tank Expansion
Questions Linger over Risk Mitigation and Long-Term Plans at their Tar Sands Tank Farm
by Ramsey Sprague for MEJAC.wordpress.com

JUNE 30, 2015 12:30pm – In a 5-2 vote, Mobile City Council approved District 2 Councilman Levon C. Manzie’s motion to delay an appeal vote on the Planning Commission’s approval of Arc Terminal’s sulfuric acid expansion at their tar sands tank farm by six weeks.

Aerial Map of Port of Mobile Petrochemical Bulk Storage Facilities in Relation to Residential Historical Districts and Downtown

Aerial Map of Port of Mobile Petrochemical Bulk Storage Facilities in Relation to Residential Historical Districts and Downtown

Fourteen people testified strongly against the approval including President of the Church Street East Neighborhood Association Greg Vaughn who called for Arc Terminals to host a public information session about their long-term business plans, a sentiment echoed by De Tonti Square Neighborhood Association President Kelly Baker, several MEJAC speakers, and ultimately by Councilman Manzie. Continue reading