Birmingham City Council

Birmingham Council Nixes Car Wash in Red Mountain, Hears Calls for Israel-Gaza Ceasefire Proclamation

Birmingham City Councilor Valerie Abbott makes a comment before introducing a measure to deny a local business’s appeal to be excluded from a recent moratorium on automated car washes. (Source: Birmingham City stream)

The Birmingham City Council tackled issues local and global Tuesday, hearing an appeal for a car wash planned for the Red Mountain neighborhood along with a plea from residents urging a proclamation to condemn hostilities in Gaza.

A group had planned an automated car wash on a plot of land along Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard South between 20th Avenue South and 21st Avenue South near Vulcan Park. The current owners of the property, Vulcan Storage LLC, wanted to sell the property to Tidal Wave Auto Spa, which would develop the car wash.

That group on Tuesday appealed to the council to have the car wash excluded from a recent moratorium on such businesses.

After hearing from the group and from residents who opposed the car wash because of traffic and proximity to homes, the council denied the appeal.

Walter Scott, one of the current landowners, said the group had an application into the city on March 4 and had met all zoning requirements before the council placed a moratorium on automated car wash businesses on March 25. A representative from Tidal Wave added that the company has hundreds of thousands of dollars already invested in the project, including commissioning a traffic study. However, according to Scott, the group recently received a letter stating that the application for the development had been denied.

Scott said his group feels that the Red Mountain Neighborhood Association lobbied Councilor Valerie Abbott to introduce the moratorium to directly target their business.

“There’s been several opportunities for this property and the neighborhood has been against every one of them,” Scott said. “There’s been nothing that’s been presented that they’ve been in favor of except potentially donating it to them for a park.”

Several members from the association addressed the council Tuesday expressing concerns that included traffic from the planned business as well as it being located directly adjacent to homes.

Mike Douglas, an attorney representing Vulcan and Tidal Wave, said he appreciates that many in the neighborhood don’t want the car wash, but that is not a legal basis for denying the application.

“If this is allowed to go forward, if the development is stopped, it is essentially a taking,” Douglas said, “because what we’re telling the Red Mountain Neighborhood Association is that if they don’t like something all they have to do is get council member Abbott and come before you guys and block it.”

Several councilors stressed that Abbott was simply representing her constituents.

Councilor Hunter Williams told Douglas, “It’s a very interesting tactic to come to a City Council meeting and attack one of our colleagues trying to represent your client … . I don’t appreciate the way you have come representing your clients today. I think it’s inappropriate and I think there is a level of decorum we like to have in these chambers that has not been followed.”

Before introducing a measure to deny the application for the car wash, Abbott joked, “I don’t think I’ve heard my name called this many times in the 22 years I’ve been on the council. Let’s hear it for Valerie Abbott.”

The measure passed unanimously.

Palestinian Advocates

The council also heard from several people urging council members to join other cities across the county that have called for a ceasefire to hostilities in Gaza. Israeli military action has killed more than 32,000 people, according to the local health ministry.

“Israel is slaughtering an indigenous population in the masses and Birmingham, the city with a rich history in civil rights, is asking how that’s relevant. Do I need to remind anyone that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere? Birmingham should be the first in standing against collective punishment,” one speaker said.

After the comments, Councilor Darrell O’Quinn said, “We need a ceasefire right here in Birmingham, Alabama, and that’s something we’re trying to balance. I will say also by no stretch of the imagination does the city of Bimingham support genocide anywhere, whether it’s in Gaza, Israel, Ethiopia, China or South Sudan or any place where that is happening across the world. Please know we hear you and these are compassionate people and we are with you in spirit. And we’re trying to achieve how we can articulate that, balanced between local concerns but also recognizing your concerns as well.”

According to Reuters, more than 48 American cities have passed resolutions or proclamations calling for an Israel-Gaza ceasefire.

Other Business

In other business, the council:

  • Approved an amendment to an agreement with Aletheia House to update the scope of services and the funding. The measure increased funding to Aletheia House by $150,000, to a total of $1,637,244. The organization provides substance abuse treatment, substance abuse/HIV prevention, employment services, health care and affordable housing services. As part of the agreement, Aletheia House Inc. will provide additional application intake, screening and case management services to support the program administration and management.
  • Approved an agreement with Neighborhood Housing Services of Birmingham to award it $600,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding to administer the citywide Ready to Own Birmingham Program, which will provide down payment assistance and closing costs for eligible homebuyers.