Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jamestown Villas, Where Tuscaloosa Planned to Fail

 Jamestown Villas, (Video) Where Tuscaloosa Planned to Fail 

These photos accompany the video below.

Jamestown Villas is a subdivision in the Holt Cottondale area that was in my opinion gerrymandered into the City of Tuscaloosa against the will of every citizen living there.

At the first planning meetings there were many citizens who came out to object but the planners paid them no attention. They did amend the plan to make the owner put in a second entrance to lessen traffic concerns. You see Jamestown Villas now lies in an island of city surrounded by Tuscaloosa County with the exception of a tiny strip of land purchased so the property line would touch the city boundaries. This is according to Webster’s Dictionary…

“gerrymander |_jer__mand_r|
verb [ trans. ] [often as n. ] ( gerrymandering)
manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class.
• achieve (a result) by such manipulation : a total freedom to gerrymander the results they want.
noun an instance of such a practice.
gerrymanderer |_d__ri_mønd_r_r| noun
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: from the name of Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts + salamander , from the supposed similarity between a salamander and the shape of a new voting district on a map drawn when he was in office (1812), the creation of which was felt to favor his party: the map (with claws, wings, and fangs added), was published in the Boston Weekly Messenger, with the title The Gerry-Mander.”

In essence Tuscaloosa created an island of voters in a district where not one person could vote. In the police jurisdiction, where Jamestown was located before the gerrymander, we cannot vote in any city process. Not one person who is adversely affected by this could vote for or against any city elected official who ignored this quiet little neighborhood or any city project that could condemn our land.

The streets leading into and out of Jamestown are on average less than 17 feet wide with mailboxes along both sides of the streets. Here is an exert from comments submitted to the city council on 10/14/08…

“A. Currently none of the streets surrounding this project meet the requirements to be annexed or used for “city streets”.
6Th street measures only an average of about 17 feet throughout.
42Nd street measures only 17 feet
Vassie Dr. only 16’10”
Cumberland Rd at Bay St. only 17’4”

Mailboxes along 6Th St. are on average 19 feet apart across traffic.

None of the existing infrastructure will support this project.”
The city ignored this.

The city requirement for streets within the island of now gerrymandered city property must be a minimum of 30 feet curb back to curb back with a right of way on each side wide enough for utilities and sidewalks. None of the streets leading into or out of Jamestown even have sidewalks or covered drainage ditches. What will happen when a city school bus meets a county school bus on a street that is less than the width of the combined buses?

It was estimated that the traffic increase would be about 180 cars a day for a total of 180 cars a day coming out in the morning and then 180 cars coming back in the afternoon. That comes to 360 cars a day, on streets that are less than 17 feet wide, in a neighborhood with no sidewalks, open ditches, and kids walking to and from at all hours of the day. I call this a disaster waiting to happen.

We went further to suggest this…

“Each resident of ownership living along these streets will have to sell the extra right of way at taxpayer expense. We believe that at no time and under no circumstances should city money be spent to improve infrastructure or assist in any way the facilitation of this private endeavor.
A. The contractor must pay for any right of way purchase for sewer infrastructure and or road improvements.

4. The only means of access to Hwy 216 is over Cumberland Road, which is far more dangerous than even 6th street. It has steep hills with blind curves and very narrow. To increase the flow there by as many as 180 more cars per-day is not only dangerous but also irresponsible.”

It is my opinion that the city planned a failure here.

The environmental aspect is another part of Jamestown that is a failure. Steep slopes and extremely erosion prone soil combined with the extensive history of violations by the owner led us to make these comments…

“9. Due to it's proximity to Hurricane Creek, extreme measures will have to be taken to assure the federal mandate to reduce pollutants expected with this project such as sedimentation and turbid discharges. Retention ponds will be difficult to install and maintain. The city has a responsibility to reduce the risk of further pollution through sensible planning. In our opinion this will not be feasible to adequately control. If annexed, the city should require minimum impact development techniques. The current slash, burn, and bury techniques will not work here and are a recipe for disaster.

10. This contractor has an abysmal record of environmental non-compliance. FoHC and Hurricane Creekkeeper have been monitoring this contractor since Dec. 07. Hurricane Creekkeeper as well as the Alabama Dep. of Environmental Management have registered several complaints. There has never been a single day of compliance at this location, yet every building inspection was approved, and houses are now for sale that stayed in violation of state and federal laws during their entire construction phase. This poses another problem for us in the PJ. No fines or prosecution of these violations has taken place in the entire history of Tuscaloosa’s storm-water permit that can be found. Many times I have asked for that information from Joe Robinson, Chad Christian, and the mayor and they have all danced around the question without answering.
A. If this annex takes place, no construction should commence until a bond-per-acre is placed on the entire increment. The bond should be sufficient to cover any cost incurred due to environmental non-compliance. In the event of project failure, the bond should be set high enough to totally reclaim the property and return it to a state of compliance.
B. No annexation should be granted until this contractor proves total environmental compliance through inspection. This inspection should be carried out by city engineers and or ADEM and should include every site in Tuscaloosa that is under Burns Construction’s control.

In closing I would like to point out that this is another example of people in the PJ being forced into compliance with the wishes of city leaders we have no voice in electing. We cannot vote for or against this development that will, essentially create an island of "city" property in the midst of our county neighborhood. If this annexation is approved it should at least include the entire area and connect all of 6th street within city limits.

All of the residents should be given the right to say whether they want 90 new houses on their street. A street that in no way will facilitate this venture.

With all due respect, we ask you to deny this annexation. “

Once again the city refused to listen. Now we have what I can only compare to an ongoing disaster. The steep slopes have indeed, begun to erode huge amounts of silt into the receiving stream just above a private lake. The entire stream is now inundated with mud. It has spread out into the surrounding flood-plane and wetlands. I followed the flow all the way from Jamestown Villas and confirmed the path to Hurricane Creek through Stone Creek. It enters Hurricane Creek directly across from the “Hurricane Creek Park” owned by Tuscaloosa PARA.

All of this could have and should have been prevented. The city engineer, Joe Robinson got up in the council meeting when this was approved and stood up for the owner even though he knew there was a history of non-compliant behavior with him. Mr. Robinson stated on the record that he and his people would remain vigilant in maintaining the environmental controls and prevention. He stated that the large-scale retention pond would hold all the mudflow from entering the stream.

No such vigilance took place. The site is dumping huge amounts of mud into the stream and lake below.

Mr. Chad Christian, city engineer in charge of the cities storm-water program had this to say about Jamestown Villas yesterday…

“John, I personally walked the entire site and perimeter this afternoon. I did see the uncompacted slope over the debris that you refer to below, and this will not be accepted. This area is backed up with a woody debris barrier and a run of silt fence, so erosion should be contained in the near term. Earlier this week I asked the engineer to revisit the BMP plan and to make any recommendations to Mr. Burns needed to ensure and enhance his compliance with ADEM and City regulations. He responded and will be providing me with the deficient areas that were pointed out as well as the improvements needed. While I was on site today, Burns’ crew was mulching with hay a large area that had been seeded. As you have observed, many of the slopes are properly compacted and stabilized with grass. The site work has been phased and roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the site is still in original pasture grass cover.
In general I think Mr. Burns is trying to do a good job and most of the site is complaint with our regulations, although I cannot speak to compliance with ADEM or County regulations. I will be revisiting the site on Monday to reinspect. I did inspect the offsite lake earlier this week with Bob Tolbert and documented the silt-stained water. This indicated that more should be done to prevent offsite transport of soil (especially silt) and prompted my original call to the engineer."

I did walk the site today in the rain and got some pretty contradictory evidence from what Mr. Christian reported. The silt fence he mentioned is a joke half way planted below some 30 to 40 feet of back-filled red clay laced with tree debris.

Mr. Christian claimed that 1/3 to 1/2 of the site is in the original “pasture grass” Look at the photo taken 08/26/09. There were over 2/3 disturbances then. Since that flight many more acres have been disturbed. In my estimation there is less than 1/4 of the original pasture grassed land left. Everything else is in excavation. A vast portion of the site does not enter the sediment basin Messer’s Robinson and Christian spoke so highly of in the beginning of the project.

Mr. Christian believes this to be phased construction.

“The main difference at Jamestown is phased construction. He is not going to grade the entire site at once which should help tremendously.” (Chad Christian in an e-mail to Hurricane Creekkeeper on 06/11/08.)

I ask you to view the video posted here and tell me what you think about Mr. Christians inspection and “phased construction.”

Tuscaloosa Planned to Fail at Jamestown Villas.

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