Annexation plans unclear
Published 4:27 pm Wednesday, March 3, 2004
When Atmoreannounced a plan to create an ambitious new industrial park near I-65, not everyone thought it was a good idea.
There's no question that most residents of this area would love to see the quality, high-paying jobs that come along with a major industry. There's also little debate about the need to take steps to make this area more attractive to prospective employers.
We agree the city needed to take ambitious steps to lure industry to our area, and lower as many obstacles to that goal as possible.
But business owners like Chris and Joe Terry feel they've been hoodwinked by the city's annexation of property to build its industrial park.
The city carefully crafted its annexation lines to avoid residents – and the ensuing local annexation vote – but left every business along S.R. 21 either inside the new city limits or just within the city police jurisdiction.
A few weeks later, the tax notices come. Now, those very businesses that were built outside the city will have to apply for city business permits and pay higher city sales taxes.
The question here is, what are those businesses getting in return? It is hoped that, down the road, they may get more business from a vibrant retail/industrial area nearby, but for now, they're stuck paying for city business licenses and higher sales taxes with no discernable increase in benefits.
The city's handling of the annexation issue, and specifically Mayor Howard Shell's statements prior to the annexation, leaves us concerned.
In the July 13, 2003 edition of the Atmore Advance, Shell clearly states, "We are not going to annex any residential areas."
Shell certainly had just as much opportunity to tell the public in no uncertain terms that the city intended to annex the businesses north of town.
The city should have been more forthright in the early going. As it stands now, the city's newest business owners feel betrayed, and are considering legal action against the city.
When affecting a significant number of businesses and families in regards to any issue, the city should be as clear, transparent and open as possible. Let us not forget Lincoln's words of wisdom for all governments large or small: that they be of the people, by the people and for the people.
We still feel the city made the right decision to create the industrial park, and growth is a positive force for the local economy, but clarity should rule the day when a city's actions affect a significant number of businesses.