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City of Orange Beach Council meetingBy John Mullen

October 5, 2017 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA) – Federal officials are serious about protecting the beach mouse in coastal Alabama, even in the newly constructed island medians on beach road.
 
So that means every project must follow certain rules and regulations not only to protect the habitat of the sensitive critters but enhance it in some cases by planting the right grasses and trees that will be beneficial to the mice.
 
Orange Beach Public Works Director Tim Tucker has experience in this area.
 
“About a year ago we were asked to remove grass on the east side of the pass bridge so the beach mouse would know when it got to the road,” Tucker said. “Now I’ve got to put certain grass in the middle of the road so the beach mouse will know to go to the middle of the road.
 
“I’m not the smartest person in the room, but that doesn’t make sense.”
 
Tucker’s comments came in the middle of a 40-minute discussion during an Oct. 3 work session about landscaping in the new median islands on Perdido Beach Boulevard. At one point, Mayor Tony Kennon said, they had come to a good consensus on what would go in the medians.
 
Then federal officials weighed in with beach mouse recommendations.
 
“Tim was on the same page with me and Fish and Wildlife jumped in at the last minute,” Kennon said. “I don’t know how many beach mice can negotiate the traffic for any length of time.”
 
While the grass must be beach mouse friendly, the main discussion centered on placing trees in the center areas of the roadway.
 
Councilman Jerry Johnson opened the discussion by suggesting palm trees for those areas. But that move would require reducing the speed limit on the road.
 
“ALDOT steps in and says in order to put palm trees in the median, you need a speed limit of 35 and not 45,” Johnson said. “That is not a huge request. To give up 10 mph is a small token for what we get in return with a beautifully landscaped median.”
 
Councilwoman Annette Mitchell said she didn’t want trees if it meant a lower speed limit.
 
“Respectfully, I have the totally opposite view,” she said. “I am very against reducing the speed and I also think it was foolish of us to think we could put palm trees in there because we tried to line 161 with palm trees.
 
“It does not mean we can’t have trees. It means we can’t have trees with the trunk larger than three inches in diameter.”
 
Kennon said he supported sprucing up the medians but was willing to work to get a consensus on moving forward.
 
“We’ve got three choices, Kennon said. “We’ve got 35 mph with palm trees. We’ve got 40 mph with no trees and lush vegetation and we’ve got 45 with lush vegetation.
 
“Why don’t we landscape it without trees, see what we get and how it looks so that we can move on as quickly as we can? Then we can come back and ask them to reduce the speed limit if we decide to add palm trees.”
 
Councilman Jeff Boyd said he planned to do a personal road study before voting. “I’m going to drive down the road at 35 mph and then I’m going to drive it a 45 mph and see which one is the most fun,” Boyd said.
 
The council will vote on a final plan for landscaping the medians in the Oct. 17 regular session. 
 
In other business in the regular session, the council:
 
  • Gave final planned unit development approval for Gulf Stream subdivision, a 64-unit townhouse complex which is planned for Canal Road east of Blalock’s Seafood. This approval will allow construction to start on the infrastructure for the project.
  • Approved an outdoor music venue for Live Bait on beach road;
  • Passed a resolution authorizing the transfer of city property at the old wastewater plant on Canal Road to Baldwin County Board of Education. The board is planning on building a 7-12 school on the site opening in August of 2019.
  • Passed a resolution declaring “Severe Weather Preparedness Week” for Feb. 23-25. Certain items will be exempt from sales tax that weekend.
  • Renewed an agreement with the Alabama Fire College and Personnel Standards Commission and Columbia Southern University to host a regional training center.
  • Gave $4,000 to the Islands of Perdido Foundation to support the group’s Seagrass Education Campaign.
  • Gave a resident of Windward Lakes subdivision a setback variance to build a screened in porch on the back of his residence.