Africatown vs. Mobile’s New Zoning Change Proposals – Part 3 of 3

This third and final blog of this series contains 2 parts:
Part 1 presents the diverse, unified response from The Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition (MEJAC) to Mobile’s proposed new Unified Zoning Code Regulations. PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO MEJAC’s BLOG AND READ OUR RESPONSES.

Part 2 provides another look at those proposed changes to Mobile’s Zoning Regulations, plus how to make comments on their proposals, appear at the hearing and live stream the event.

PLEASE mark this date on your calendar (Feb.25 at 2PM CST) to observe or be a participant in this very important event. To be a speaker please register before February 19th.


PART 1 — MEJAC Monitors City’s UDC Process for 3 Years

With the Planning Commission’s zoning code rewrite public hearing date set for Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 2pm, it’s time to step up to the plate for environmental justice in Mobile!

The Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition (MEJAC) has been engaged with the Map for Mobile Unified Development Code (UDC) process for over three years now.

Our agency was initially hopeful about the possibilities, and there are many elements of UDC Version 4 (UDCv4) which are positive steps in the right direction. For instance, Neighborhood Meeting standards for Up-Zoning, Conditional Use, and Planned Development creation/modification permit applications should help alleviate any confusion around the authenticity of positions presented as neighborhood opinions should controversy around projects brew. However, we have many outstanding concerns, which you may share.

If you are concerned about environmental justice in Africatown, the legitimization and proliferation of deceptive coal export operations in Mobile, toxic nuisance fumes from above ground oil storage tanks, water quality environmental standards, affordable housing, and more, check out MEJAC’s latest blog:
https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/19/final_udc_comments/

Yes, it’s a long one, but it’s accurate to what we’ve been saying to the City of Mobile.

You may recall a recent email we sent alerting people to a Planning Commission meeting where we suspected an important vote on the UDC was scheduled. We were told it was just a discussion about the Tree Ordinance, but it turns out they did in fact conduct a vote on scheduling a Public Hearing for the UDC zoning code rewrite. Build Mobile waited to announce that it had published the final UDC (on New Year’s Eve, no less) until after the vote. Build Mobile also didn’t publish its only written responses to previous public commentary until after the vote had taken place. With no notice, there was no way for the public to even /try/ to effectively participate on the question of setting the UDC Public Hearing date. But here we are. For what it’s worth, we acknowledge where Build Mobile responded to MEJAC’s previously stated concerns, but in many cases they never responded at all.

In the end, the Build Mobile never responded to any concerns from anybody about its proposed Africatown Overlay!

So, get ready for the Planning Commission’s Public Hearing on February 25, 2021 at 2pm. Details about how to register your concerns are on our blog: https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/19/final_udc_comments/

Please feel free to copy and paste our concerns as your own if you share them! Please let us know if you support them!

If you send your comments in, don’t forget to send them to your Mobile City Councilperson, too! Assuming the Planning Commission approves to recommend the UDC, the City Council will then conduct its own vote to codify it into law.

MEJAC publishes its concerns for the enlightenment of our neighbors and in pursuit of environmental justice in Africatown and beyond.

As always, thank you for your interest in and support of the work of environmental justice in Mobile!

This MEJAC UDC blog was reviewed and approved by:

  • Mae Jones, MEJAC Treasurer, Africatown resident
  • Ruth Ballard, Africatown resident
  • Louise Moorer, Africatown resident
  • Major Joe Womack (ret. USMC), Africatown~C.H.E.S.S. Executive Director, Africatown residential stakeholder
  • Christopher L. Williams Sr., Pastor of Africatown’s historic Yorktown Missionary Baptist Church
  • Lella Lowe, MEJAC Secretary, Mobile resident
  • Nashid Rushdan, Mobile resident
  • Ramsey Sprague, MEJAC President, Mobile resident
  • Carol Adams-Davis, Sierra Club Mobile Bay Group Vice Chair, Mobile resident
  • Teresa Fox-Bettis, Center for Fair Housing Executive Director, Prichard resident


Part 2 — Join Us During the Meeting

  • Watch The Meeting on Feb 25th, 2021:  The meeting will be live streamed at 2 PM on the city’s website at Live Stream : City of Mobile
  • Register To Speak by Feb. 19th: Click on the box below

Learn more about the UDC,  click below                                                To view the proposed code, click below

 


BONUS

Watch this 2013 video posted to YouTube by MEJAC, showing how long we have been on the front line battling for Africatown to protect our nationally historic district from further industrial encroachment.

MEJA Coalition YouTube Video
—————
MOBILE, ALABAMA, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2013, 10AM — As multiple new tar sands infrastructure proposals on Mobile’s waterfront reveal themselves, the anti-tar sands movement of greater Mobile has set its sights on the question of how tar sands is entering the community to begin with. Plans for an expanded tar sands unloading depot by the Canadian National Railway (CN) in partnership with Houston-based corporations Plains South Cap, American Tank & Vessel (AT&V) and ARC Terminal have outraged Mobile residents. Fed up with the lack of consultation and led by the newly-formed Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition (MEJA Coalition), affected residents and supporters marched to GM&O Terminal to “Draw the Line” on tar sands in Mobile.

“I may be a resident of Africatown, but today I’m marching for all residents of Mobile and our efforts to stop Plains South Cap, CN and the rest from bringing tar sands into or around Mobile County. We really don’t appreciate the way that they’ve done their business,” explained Joe Womack, resident of the Africatown Historic District, the sight of intense opposition to the
proposed tar sands projects. “It should’ve been above board and the community should’ve been brought in from the beginning.”

The tar sands train depot, as described in City of Mobile planning documents dating from October 4, 2012, will expand the existing CN railyard adjacent to GM&O Terminal and pipe tar sands under the Mobile River to ARC Terminal tar sands storage tanks on Blakeley Island, formerly operated by Gulf Coast Asphalt Company but acquired earlier this year by ARC in February.

Currently, tar sands are brought in via rail through rural southwestern Alabama communities over the Escatawpa River where trains have derailed twice in the last decade. The CN tar sands tanker cars then wind their way through the hearts of Saraland, Chickasaw, Prichard, and Africatown to the existing CN railyard near GM&O Terminal. To unloaded the cars into tanker trucks the tar sands slurry is taken to ARC Terminal’s Chickasaw depot, formerly Mobile Asphalt. From there, they travel yet again through the heart of Africatown across the Cochrane Africatown USA Bridge to ARC Terminal’s Blakeley Island tar sands storage facilities. The new tar sands depot near GM&O Terminal and the Plains South Cap pipeline under the Mobile River would shorten the circuit and allow for a dramatic increase in the volume of tar sands coming through Mobile for export.

Carrying colorful signs and banners reading “Environmental Justice For All,” “No Tar Sands In Mobile,” and “Africatown Not Tank Farm Town” while symbolically wearing blue and black, the marchers gathered in Cathedral Square before shoving off to the GM&O Terminal where tar sands tankers remain nearby until their unloading at ARC’s Saraland depot.

Foley, Alabama resident Kimberly McCuiston described the symbology of the black and blue color coordination, “We’ve already been deeply bruised by the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. The illnesses, the damage to our waterfront, those things still haven’t been addressed appropriately, and I’m sick of living in a dirty energy sacrifice zone. At this point, certain underrepresented communities like our neighbors in Africatown, Prichard, and Chickasaw are necessarily organizing like Selma in ’63 and I’m here to help. I’m not gonna sit idly by while environmental injustices and human rights abuses on the part of these tar sands corporations are perpetrated on my neighbors.”

Joe Womack agreed, “These projects are hazardous to the entire Gulf Coast, especially Africatown which has been repeatedly dumped on already. It’s time to clean Africatown up and stop making it a dumping ground for hazardous waste and materials in this section of the world.”

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