Plans for a concrete batch plant in the Five Points West community have been placed on hold, but some Birmingham city councilors warned residents that the fight to keep Sherman Industries out of their neighborhood is not over.
Sherman Industries had initially proposed moving its concrete batch plant from downtown Birmingham to a new location near the Birmingham CrossPlex. That plan was quickly met with opposition from residents and city councilors, with District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt citing “the adverse impact that the company’s pollutants will have on the general health and safety of the citizens.”
The council voted to formally oppose the plan last month; Woodfin later called for the council to rezone the property in question to prevent future industrial use.
Separately last week, the council voted to rezone the plant’s current location, which has been sold and is slated to be turned into a mixed-use development.
The Jefferson County Department of Health denied that pollution was a serious concern for the proposed plant but agreed that public education was important and set a public hearing for June 6. That hearing was cancelled last week when the JCDH announced that Sherman Industries had put its air permit request on hold.
“The Department has placed on hold the pending permit application until a formal request from Sherman Industries, LLC is received,” read a JCDH press release. “Upon receiving this request, JCDH will notify the public before any further permitting actions are taken.”
Since that announcement, Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office has consistently referred to the air permit application as “suspended,” a term that Cedric Sparks, Woodfin’s chief of staff, repeated to the council during his remarks Tuesday morning.
But District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt took issue with the term, saying that it implied finality when, he said, the issue is far from resolved.
“I don’t want people to think this is really over,” Hoyt said. “Suspension means, ‘We’re done.’ But ‘hold,’ means, ‘I’m holding out.’” Sherman’s application has not been withdrawn, he warned, and further activism might be warranted. “I don’t want folk to stop their activism. I think you still need to do that until they say, ‘We’re withdrawing, or we’ve found another place, or whatever.’ Until such time, we need to continue the awareness.”
But Hoyt’s warning didn’t stifle the enthusiasm of a handful of Five Points West community leaders, who brought flowers and thank-you balloons to the mayor and council for working to stop the proposed plant.
“We want to stand here today and say thanks,” said Dora Sims, the president of the Five Points West community. “We know it’s not over … We are ready to stand and fight.”
Sparks repeated Woodfin’s pledge to work jointly with the company “to find an appropriate location for the Sherman Industries plant whether it be in Birmingham or the region.”