I remain willing to work with interested parties to resolve the conflicts surrounding this issue. There are several paths forward to achieve this annexation request - with and without an alcohol license being issued, but a greater opportunity for public involvement must be a part of the process.
As always, please feel free to contact me should you have further questions.
Semper Fi - Bill
Legislative Annexation Timeline
4 May - HB579, a local bill regarding annexation of property approximately 7 miles outside of the established city limits of Athens passes the Alabama House of Representatives. To say that this bill passed the 105 Members of the House is rather disingenuous; actual vote count? Passed 23-0 with 65 members of the House abstaining. The legislature is not normally involved in the annexation process as property annexation request contiguous to existing city limits only requires a vote of the city council. To my knowledge there is only one other instance of an "island" annexation in Athens/Limestone County - Blacks Landing - and this occurred several years ago. This is the first annexation by legislation request that I've seen in my 7 years of service in office.
8 May - A formal agreement between city and property owner/developer is signed. In the agreement the property owner acknowledges that even though the property would be considered a part of Athens, the city would not be required to provide fire, police, trash services and that the city could de-annex the property at any time.
9 May - I received an email from the city with the agreement from 8 May attached. It is important to note, while I had heard rumblings of a proposed legislative island annexation this is the first time that I had been contacted by the city regarding the proposed annexation. I briefly met with HB579 bill sponsor, Rep Danny Crawford and fellow Limestone County Senate Delegation, Senator Orr and Senator Melson on the Senate floor that afternoon to discuss having had no previous interaction with city/county regarding this legislative annexation and initial concerns regarding the lack of fire/police protection for a city annexation and possible impact of the city granting an alcohol license. I will not speak for my colleagues but understood they shared similar concerns.
12 May - (My Birthday!) began receiving emails - about 30 in all - from residents living around/near the marina asking that I support the annexation. I replied to each email and included a copy of the agreement that had been signed by the property owner and the city along with an explanation of my concerns. I received replies back over the next couple of days - some supporting the annexation, others opposing primarily based on potential for increased property taxes with no city services. Important to note - my email was shared with others as I began receiving responses from people that I had not initially emailed and these responses were not in favor of the proposed annexation. This was my first public interaction/feedback regarding this proposed legislative annexation.
13 May - After several phone calls and text messages between the property owner/developer and myself, I responded to him via email. This is a tricky email to read as the owner/developer had sent me several text messages that I copied into an email and responded to each text. I courtesy copied fellow legislators and city/county officials, detailing my concerns - including the possibility of an alcohol license being issued. Several city/county elected officials called to discuss my email. Additionally, my research of earlier press reports on the possible annexation revealed several instances where the owner/developer stated an alcohol license was not the main reason for the annexation and that they wanted to be annexed into the city regardless of an alcohol license being issued. I felt these statements supported my request for the agreement to be amended.
15 May - In further phone call/text message discussion with owner/developer, he agrees that they'll amend the agreement so that an alcohol license would not be issued by the city. I agree to meet with fellow Senators and "sign the bill out", effectively moving it into position for final passage contingent upon the agreement being amended prior to the last day of the legislative session.
17 May - received letter from Mayor's office regarding my request to amend the agreement with language regarding issuing an alcohol license. The response struck me as odd considering the agreement between the city and owner/developer expressly stated no city services for fire/police. While the city can put in writing that they will not provide fire, police or trash pickup they somehow can not put in writing that they won’t issue a liquor license until (this is what the property owners agreed to in the email shared above) one of two conditions are met; the property becomes contiguous to Athens through future annexation, or Limestone County becomes wet. (edited 5/24 to clarify this statement)
18 May - received email from local Volunteer Fire Department expressing liability concerns and that while informal discussions had taken place, no formal agreement was in place with the city. Excerpts from that email follow:
I saw in the paper where Senator Holtzclaw had questions about the annexation of Bay Hill Marina before voting. I have not been approached by anyone about this except for one informal meeting with Mayor Marks and Chief Thornton. The paper is also reporting that Athens has secured an agreement with Clements VFD, which they do not. The favor is, would you make Senator Holtzclaw aware of this and that I would be glad to have a conversation with him about all of this. I’m really concerned that there may be some misinformation flowing through that will ultimately hurt Clements VFD.
19 May - Last day of the Legislative Session. HB579 is in position to pass but it is apparent that their are several outstanding issues regarding this annexation by legislation that need to be addressed. A decision was made to not pass the legislation this year.