G.S. City Council asked to ignore planning board recomendation concerning Alvin’s Island shark
By Fran Thompson
There’s a shark attack happening in Gulf Shores but this time the victim is the shark itself. Or, at least the image of one.
During the Sept. 7 Gulf Shores City Council work session, the council again discussed a proposal by Alvin’s Island at the intersection of State Route 59 and State Route 182 to place a 17-foot great white shark in its parking lot.
In June, the city’s Planning Commission voted 9-0 against allowing the store to have the shark onsite. City staff, in a report presented to the council at the Sept. 7 meeting, came out against the structure as well. A final council vote is likely to happen at the next regular council session on Sept. 13.
“(It) is the city’s traditional center of beach-oriented tourism and its primary image in the minds of many visitors,” city documents state. “It is imperative that development design should serve to reinforce the design standards and expectations of the city, to assure that Gulf Place and the beach will offer a positive image and experience to visitors and residents alike. New development, especially in activity centers and at major gateways is intended to enhance the image of Gulf Shores. Novelty architecture is only permitted as a conditional use, because it tends to detract from the qualities of a particular area. Staff recommends denial of the (conditional use permit) application for Alvin’s Island novelty architecture.”
G.S. Community Development Director Lee Jones said the other novelty architecture close to Alvin’s Island are now nonconforming because of changes in the ordinance but are grandfathered in because they existed before the change.
An attorney for Alvin’s Island, Doug Anderson, in an email to City Planner Andy Bauer, said labeling Alvin’s Island as new is wrong. His client’s store has been on that corner for decades.
“To analyze this application as you would a brand-new development is, in my opinion, an error,” Anderson wrote. “This structure which is the subject of this application will not detract from the qualities of this area, especially considering the octopus and shark on adjoining properties. It will not have any impact on that area or the overall character of Gulf Shores.”
Literally a stone’s throw south of Alvin’s Island, customers of Souvenir City walk into the store through a gaping shark’s mouth that has become an iconic landmark in Gulf Shores where generations of visitors have paused for pictures. Marketing materials for from the local tourism board asks “have you really been to Gulf Shores if you haven’t taken this picture?” Also, a replica of a pirate ship covers most of the back side of the Souvenir City building.
Literally another stone’s throw away north from Souvenir City a giant purple octopus greets customers to – wait for it – the Purple Octopus T-shirt and souvenir store.
Anderson’s letter also argued in his email that the city’s stance on the shark regarding architectural standards, the sign ordinance, parking lot landscape standards, lighting plan and proposed use and site plan for the shark at Alvin’s Island is in err as well. The store recently underwent a $3 million revamping, Anderson wrote.
During the work session, the council also discussed:
• A rezoning proposal from owners of the Sloop restaurant on West Canal Road under the State Route 59 bridge to be included in the Waterway Village Zoning Overlay District. Owners say they want to be included in community events in the district and in the official marketing of the district by the city and Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism, city documents state.
• Approval of the demolition and removal of a nuisance structure at 300 Sunrise Drive. The home is off of Windmill Drive and is on Little Lagoon just west of the Flying Harpoon restaurant and bar. The council is considering paying Steiner Services $12,000 to take down the structure
• Approval to split the cost of a study of the drainage infrastructure around Jack Edwards Airport with Gulf Shores Airport Authority. The city’s portion would be $20,375.
• Awarding a drainage maintenance bid to McElhenney Construction to help Public Works with maintenance of drainage systems in the city at a cost of $150,000.
• Awarding a materials-only bid for new traffic signal poles and mast arms for the East Second Street/State Route 182 intersection for $56,800. This is at the entrance to the residents’ beach parking lot on East Beach Boulevard west of the Regatta Condominiums.
• Approving a more comprehensive plan regarding police officers who work for local businesses providing part time security and traffic control. Officers would not be allowed to work on labor disputes or picket lines, security at nightclubs or bars or any activity that would be a conflict of interest for the city and/or the police department.
• Considering citizens request to allow operation of golf carts on certain city streets and approval of an amendment to Golf Cart Ordinance.
• Approval of an assembly permit for Doc’s Hot Trot 5K run on Nov. 11 at LuLu’s at Homeport Marina. The event is a fundraiser for Baldwin County ARC which provides services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the county.
Pictured: Alvin’s Island legal Council has asked City Council how it can allow a shark and a purple octupus on adjacent property, but not a shark for his client.