March 6,2018 – The Greater Birmingham Humane Society is looking for another place for its new home after Jefferson County commissioners acknowledged that another entity is interested in developing the old Trinity Steel property in North Titusville.
Commissioner David Carrington said during the commission’s committee meeting Tuesday that the Trinity Advisory Committee met and approved the property being used for economic development. Subsequently, the Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority met and rescinded the zoning authorization to the city of Birmingham.
“Commissioner (Joe) Knight and I met with the company on Thursday and saw conceptual plans of their vision,” Carrington said. “The investment level over 10 years is multiples of hundreds of millions of dollars. We’re not free to announce it but it’s an exciting plan.”
The announcement is a shift for the commission regarding the property, which is jointly owned by Jefferson County and the city of Birmingham. The county last year approved turning the property over to the humane society contingent on Birmingham addressing some issues.
“The county commission approved this parcel for the humane society,” President Jimmie Stephens said. “It is a parcel that had laid dormant for 3½, four years with no prospects. The humane society approached us and we as a commission voted to transfer our interest in it contingent on Birmingham working through some zoning issues and covenant issues on the property.
“To my knowledge, those were never fully resolved,” Stephens said. “In the meantime, another competing economic development project came to a commissioner and made a proposition. This commission has not voted yes or no on that. It’s in the city of Birmingham’s court right now and in the JCIDA.”
Humane society plans had called for it to move from its current location on Snow Drive in Homewood. The K9 division of the Birmingham Police Department also would have been at the Trinity site, and there was talk of Jefferson County having a unit there, as well.
Contacted later, GBHS President and CEO Allison Black Cornelius expressed disappointment in the turn of events.
“Obviously we as a staff, volunteers and donors, we’ve put more than two years of our heart and soul into this,” she said. “To have this happen the way it happened is devastating. It isn’t just devastating to us as an organization because we worked so hard, it’s bigger than that. We met a lot of people we had not met before. We got to know people.
“There’s a part of us that’s sad for GBHS but I think there’s equally a concern for the people that this is going to impact,” Cornelius continued. “Many of our employees live in Titusville and they are very concerned that what is going on that property is not what it’s being made out to be.”
Carrington said it’s time to find an alternate site.
“There are 720,000 acres in Jefferson County,” he said. “I’m confident we can find an alternate location that they’ll be excited about.”
Commissioners echoed one another in their support for the humane society and the job it has done in addressing concerns about stray dogs and cats. Repeatedly they noted how much less the euthanasia rate is for animals now than before the humane society stepped in.
“To the public and everyone, I’m not against the humane society,” said commissioner Sandra Little Brown, whose district includes the Trinity Steel property. “I love the humane society. I’ve got a little dog named Nubian. I love puppies. I love cows. I love animals. But economic development will be much more friendly for that neighborhood. I support the humane society but I still have to support the people.”
North Titusville Neighborhood President John C. Harris was pleased with the announcement.
“We have always wanted something to happen that would bring some economic development there,” he said. “The city and the county purchased that property for economic development, that’s what it should be used for. We knew all along the humane society was not the best use of that property.”
Cornelius said she wants what’s best for that community.
“We want the community to experience the health and vitality that other neighborhoods in Birmingham have experienced,” she said.
As for the humane society’s need for a new home, Cornelius expressed confidence in Knight.
“I am hoping that (Birmingham) Mayor (Randall) Woodfin immediately assigns someone to work with Commissioner Knight and us,” she said. “Immediately, no more delays, so we can get this situation back on track.”
She said the society lost its insurance coverage Monday because of a laundry list of problems at the animal control facility in Woodlawn, including the electrical system being deemed a fire hazard.
“We were notified that our insurance carrier will no longer cover us at all,” she said. “Everybody understands this is an immediate issue that needs to be addressed.”