Baldwin County’s Comprehensive Plan Voted Down and All But Shouted Down

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BAY MINETTE, Alaba­ma — Egged on by a large crowd invok­ing prop­er­ty rights, Unit­ed Nations Agen­da 21, the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion and even the Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo, the Bald­win Coun­ty Com­mis­sion killed the Hori­zon 2025 com­pre­hen­sive plan today.

Fol­low­ing the 3–1 vote, many in the audi­ence sang “God Bless Amer­i­ca.”

This bat­tle is about more than just plan­ning,” said com­mis­sion Chair­man Bob James. “This bat­tle is to pro­tect the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed States and, to me, the Ten Com­mand­ments.”

The res­o­lu­tion “repealed, rescind­ed, void­ed and nul­li­fied,” the plan, with that phrase bold­faced and in all cap­i­tal let­ters. It also remand­ed the plan to the Plan­ning and Zon­ing Com­mis­sion with “instruc­tions to pre­pare a revised Mas­ter Plan and cor­re­spond­ing Map” for coun­ty com­mis­sion to con­sid­er. The new plan “shall not unlaw­ful­ly infringe on pro­tect­ed pri­vate prop­er­ty rights with­out due process of law.”

Hori­zon 2025, which laid out guide­lines for land use and devel­op­ment, was approved three years ago. Com­mis­sion­er Charles “Skip” Gru­ber, who vot­ed for it in 2009, was the only com­mis­sion­er who vot­ed against the res­o­lu­tion Tues­day.

With a cou­ple of breaks, the free­wheel­ing pub­lic hear­ing on Hori­zon 2025 last­ed about four hours. The commission’s meet­ing room was filled to capac­i­ty ear­ly on, and out­breaks of applause were com­mon both dur­ing and after speak­ers’ com­ments. Some peo­ple car­ried small Amer­i­ca flags.

Thir­ty-eight peo­ple spoke on the issue. Of that num­ber, 31 want­ed Hori­zon 2025 killed, while sev­en favored keep­ing it in place. Speak­ers were giv­en no time lim­it, and James asked only a few to wind up their remarks.

The peo­ple who cre­at­ed this plan have left no stone unturned in their attempt to reg­u­late every square inch of land and every drop of water,” said Richard Hyland of Span­ish Fort. “If we don’t rescind it today, I think the next time we meet you’re going to have to rent the Mobile Civic Cen­ter.”

Hori­zon 2025 was rec­om­mend­ed by the coun­ty plan­ning com­mis­sion. It cost $280,000, and involved an out­side con­sul­tant.

Sev­er­al speak­ers derid­ed the lan­guage in the plan that described it as being advi­so­ry only and offer­ing guide­lines for devel­op­ment. James agreed, say­ing that Mao Tse-tung, Adolf Hitler and Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni espoused philoso­phies that were orig­i­nal­ly guide­lines, and mil­lions of peo­ple were killed.

Richard Thomp­son of Fairhope pre­sent­ed com­mis­sion­ers with copies of the 10 planks of the Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo from Wikipedia. “We’re get­ting real close to the com­mu­nis­tic plan here. Maybe with a lit­tle “c,” not a big “C.”

Speak­ers also said Hori­zon 2025 was tied into U.N. Agen­da 21, which pro­motes sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, and a few even tried to con­nect it with what they said was an attempt by the U.N. to get the Unit­ed States to repeal the Sec­ond Amend­ment right to pos­sess arms.

I tru­ly believe in the con­spir­a­cy,” said Leonard Smart, who lives on Ala. 104 between Fairhope and Sil­ver­hill. “I’m not going to go into it, but I believe in it.”

Also com­ing in for crit­i­cism were the “wildlife cor­ri­dors” out­lines in the plan. Intend­ed to pro­tect wildlife, the net­work of cor­ri­dors runs through cities, across water and across the “meg­a­site” being mar­ket­ed to attract a major indus­try.

Orange Beach Coun­cil­woman Pat­tisue Simp­son asked an ear­li­er speak­er to bring back a map he had brought of the cor­ri­dors. Once it was post­ed, she said it showed that if the wildlife cor­ri­dors were made part of the plan­ning process, it would end up divid­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

It will move us back­ward. We will almost be de-civ­i­liz­ing our­selves,” she said.

Dick Charles, a long­time mem­ber of Fairhope’s Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, said com­mu­ni­ties need some kind of plan, but Hori­zon 2025 went too far.

I’ve been on the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion now since 1997. We think this is just a lit­tle bit over­done, to say the least. Our com­pre­hen­sive plan is about one-tenth the size of this,” he said.

The few speak­ers in favor of the plan made no head­way with most of the com­mis­sion­ers.

Com­mis­sion­er Frank Burt not­ed that he vot­ed against Hori­zon 2025 in 2009 and was against it from the begin­ning. Com­mis­sion­er Tuck­er Dorsey said the plan was one of the rea­sons he ran for his posi­tion.

Although Hori­zon 2025 is said to be advi­so­ry, Dorsey said he found lan­guage to the con­trary. The word “pol­i­cy” appears 778 times; “shall,” 525 times; and “must,” 51, he said.

Dorsey not­ed that although sev­er­al pub­lic hear­ings were held when the plan was being draft­ed, he could find no min­utes. Only 30 “real peo­ple” attend­ed the meet­ings, he said; the rest were offi­cials or oth­er peo­ple con­nect­ed with gov­ern­ment.

As for the argu­ment that rescind­ing the plan would amount to throw­ing away $280,000, Dorsey said, “That mon­ey was wast­ed by the last com­mis­sion. They buried that mon­ey.”

Coun­ty Attor­ney David Con­ner told com­mis­sion­ers Hori­zon 2025 con­tra­dicts some zon­ing reg­u­la­tions and could open the coun­ty to legal lia­bil­i­ty on the grounds that it amount­ed to tak­ing of prop­er­ty.

Most remain­ing in the audi­ence were more than ready for the plan to be vot­ed out. James praised them for turn­ing out and said com­mis­sion­ers will also be look­ing at sub­di­vi­sion reg­u­la­tions, agen­cies that receive coun­ty funds such as the South Alaba­ma Region­al Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and the county’s own plan­ning com­mis­sion, which did not allow any pub­lic com­ment dur­ing its recent meet­ing on Hori­zon 2025.

This is just a start,” James said. “You need to stay involved.”


Watch video of the Bald­win Coun­ty Com­mis­sion Pub­lic Hear­ing:

On August 7th, 2012 the Coun­ty Com­mis­sion of Bald­win Coun­ty, Alaba­ma rescind­ed the County’s Com­pre­hen­sive Plan. Intent on pro­tect­ing pri­vate prop­er­ty rights, over 200 cit­i­zens attend­ed the pub­lic hear­ing which pre­ced­ed the momen­tous vote. This one hour eigh­teen minute video is an excerpt from the day­long event.

Relat­ed sto­ry:  Bald­win Coun­ty Alaba­ma Com­mis­sion­er Seeks to Rescind Hori­zon 2025 Plan

About Jane Nicholes