Gulf Shores anticipates state building new Waterway Bridge
City rezones land to build educational complex on County Rd. 8
By John Mullen
The new road the Alabama Department of Transportation is planning from the Foley Beach Express to the Intracoastal Waterway will likely start and end with a bridge.
“You’ve got to be able to tie into the Beach Express and a signal at that intersection isn’t going to happen,” Gulf Shores Director of Economic Development Blake Phelps said. “The only way to make it work and have free-flow traffic is two of the lanes, either the existing Beach Express or the new road, is going to have to have a flyover.”
Plans call for the south end of that new road project to be a bridge over the canal near the Gulf Shores airport on the north and landing on Canal Road to the south.
On the north end, where the road will start, Gulf Shores is planning an education campus on County Road 8. The council Passed an ordinance rezoning 200 acres at the southwest corner of County Road 8 and the Foley Beach Express from agricultural to education near Craft Farms North. The city hopes to use the land for a new Gulf Shores High School campus.
Craft Farms North resident Mike Powell came to the Gulf Shores Council meeting on Monday to express neighborhood concerns about what impact a new high school would have on the area. And came away with concerns about a new flyover bridge the state is planning just south of the site.
Powell found out the city would make efforts to minimize noise and light from the site. He said traffic noise from the Foley Beach Express has increased since a Shell gas station opened in the median of the roadway just south of County Road 8.
“We’ve got a site plan that shows an entryway into the campus and setbacks and landscaping on that side of the property,” Mayor Robert Craft told Powell. “That is a designed buffer away from the activity. We are well aware in all our designs that there has to be a significant buffer between the two. We don’t have any tall lighting planned for the site.”
City Administrator Steve Griffin also told Powell city leaders would meet with the residents when plans for the site are firmed up to address their concerns. Craft collected names and phone numbers of those in attendance so the city could contact them for a meeting.
Craft, however, could make no promises or assurances to residents about the possible flyover looming on their eastern horizon.
“There is a bridge, a flyover, where you can exit and go under at that location on the Beach Express,” he said. “That, unfortunately, is going to have to happen. We’re going to do everything we can to protect you but this bridge and roadway will be built.”
Phelps said the bridge on the south side will relieve stress from the Alabama 59 bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. He said about 50,000 cars a day come over the bridge and 20 percent of those head east toward Orange Beach.
“If we give them another option, a free option and potentially a quicker option than Highway 59, you’re removing 20 percent of the traffic off of Highway 59,” he said. “The largest pinch point on this island is that bridge.”
In other action:
• The council also had an initial public meeting on at new three-story Surf Style store with up to 14 condos on the upper floors. The store currently on the site is going to be torn down.
• The Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance and Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism are partnering on a marketing campaign in Guns & Garden magazine promoting the Business Where You Beach effort. The publication’s affluent audience are corporate decision makers, local leaders say. The hope is to attract new businesses to relocate or expand to the Alabama Gulf Coast. The city will contribute $11,756 for advertising in the magazine.
• The Finance Department was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the seventh consecutive year from the Government Finance Officers Association.
• The council discussed issuing a Condition of Use Permit to Gary Ellis to construct a mobile vendor court on the east side of Alabama 59 just north of Windmill Ridge Drive. City Planner Andy Bauer said the Planning Commission gave favorable approval for the project providing the development comply with six recommendations from the city panel.
• Three current members of the Board of Zoning Adjustments and Appeals have terms expiring on Jan. 7, but would like to be reappointed. They are John Tuberville, Grant Brown and Craig Olmstead.
• The council also set the meeting schedule for 2018 and canceled seven meetings that occur on or near holidays.