The Jefferson County Commission approved on a split vote gifting its share of the Trinity Steel property in North Titusville to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, but not before passionate arguments for and against the measure.
Commissioner Sandra Little Brown voted at Tuesday’s commission committee meeting against moving the matter to the meeting agenda. She said the neighborhood association needed to be more involved and more informed.
“I love animals but I can’t put this over the people,” she said.
North Titusville Neighborhood President John C. Harris cited a prior effort to get a Walmart Supercenter on the location across Sixth Street South from Golden Flake and Memorial Park. He previously gave Brown a petition with more than 300 signatures of people who were said to be against the property going to the Humane Society.
“You tell us the site is not good enough for a Walmart Supercenter but it’s good enough for dogs,” he said. “We do not want that. We’re trying to build our neighborhood. That’s not going to happen with 20,000 dogs up in there.
“We have no problem with this commission transferring your interest to the City of Birmingham,” Harris said before the vote. “What we ask that you not do is designate that property for the Humane Society.”
Harris said Mayor William Bell told him an alternate site for the Humane Society and related animal projects. Commissioner David Carrington said Bell told him there is no alternate site.
Allison Black Cornelius, president and CEO of the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, said she had met with residents of the three neighborhoods in the Titusville Community and received favorable responses. She said she met with the head of Trinity Steel and was able to get covenants and restrictions lifted as long as the site was developed for their express purpose.
Humane Society plans call for it to move from its current location on Snow Drive in Homewood. The K9 division of the Birmingham Police Department would also be at the Trinity site, and there is talk of Jefferson County having a unit there as well.
Further, veterinary students from Tuskegee and Auburn universities would perform surgeries they need to complete their training and to make them more marketable.
The property is jointly owned by Jefferson County and the City of Birmingham. Brown said the matter should have begun with action by the city before the county acted.
“Whether this starts with them or starts with y’all, someone has to lead,” Cornelius said. “We have talked to City Council members. Counselor (Sheila) Tyson has affirmed her support, as has the mayor.”
The property is in Tyson’s council district. During the discussion, Brown exclaimed, “Politics. Politics,” noting that Birmingham will have a municipal election later this year.
“This has always been a hot potato,” Brown said. “This matter belongs over there.”
A vote was called and Commissioners David Carrington, Joe Knight and Jimmie Stephens voted for the measure Thursday. Commissioners Brown and George Bowman voted against it.
Stephens said he trusts that Birmingham will act on the issue in a timely manner. He added that today’s action is a one-time waiver to the city for a specific purpose.
If that purpose is not fulfilled, the property will revert to the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency.
“And it can go for another 10 years with nothing being done there,” Stephens said. “I truly believe that once this is developed that there’s going to be economic development opportunities for that area and it will be something the citizens there will be proud of.
“I can see that property either sitting there for another extended period of time,” the commission president said, “or doing something with it. The only way we could really fail would be to do nothing, and remain status quo.”
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