A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FORT MORGAN CIVIC ASSOCIATION

 

Over 25 years ago a handful of permanent residents of the Fort Morgan peninsula got together with the

primary purpose of supporting a volunteer fire department. We met at the Shell Bank Baptist Church and later

at the station of the Fort Morgan Volunteer Fire Department. The monthly meetings were a forum for matters

of interest and for planning fund raising events for the VFD.

 

When it became possible for the Baldwin County Fire, Water and Sewer districts to propose their own zoning

regulations, District 25, the Fort Morgan Peninsula, with a committee from the Civic Association, became the

first district in the county to have a zoning ordinance written, advertised, approved by the registered voters of

the district, and presented to the County Commission for acceptance. At that meeting of the Baldwin County

Commission, the group of investors who had purchased (or had a contract to purchase) the parcel where The

Beach Club is located protested that they knew nothing of the proposed zoning ordinance and had action on it

tabled. That was in June. Nothing happened until November when it was approved; however, in the meantime

permits for construction of The Beach Club had been issued by the County. It was then three years before

construction began.

 

The zoning regulation for District 25 was an effort to control development and limit density and, as approved by

the County Commission, there was a maximum density of three (3) units per acre. It was not long before the

Commission increased the density to six (6) units per acre, and a focus of the Civic Association became trips to

Bay Minette to speak at hearings on exceptions to the zoning regulations.

 

In 2000 the County Commission approved a permit for a new development, Beach Club West, which

consolidated the density of two separated parcels to allow the building of high-rise condominiums on beach

front parcels with the resulting total density. These two parcels were considered by the County Commission to

be “contiguous,” even though they had no common point of contact. They were connected only by an

undeveloped road right-of-way. To make a long story short, the Civic Association sued the Baldwin County

Commission for violation of the County zoning regulations for District 25.

 

We had to find donors to finance this endeavor and wrote to all property owners listed in the tax records. This was a successful venture and increased our membership from about 90 to around 300. While we were ruled against at the county level (Judge J. Langford Floyd), that decision was reversed on appeal. These court actions took four years and $45,572.

 

Meanwhile, we had a committee working on incorporation, with the main purpose of gaining control of zoning

for District 25. The main difficulty was that with so many of the homes being second homes or rental

properties, there was a limited number of registered voters. On April 14, 2003, the City of Gulf Shores, with the

cooperation of the Governor and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, annexed into the city the

right-of-way of the entire Fort Morgan Road with no prior public knowledge of the intended action. The

annexation had been advertised as “certain properties,” so that no one from the area who might be opposed

knew of it until the city council meeting had been convened. This meant that any property contiguous to the

road also could annex into the city and fall under their much higher density regulations. Out of more than 3,000

parcels on the peninsula, about 80 parcels eventually requested annexation, the majority of which were owned

by realtors or developers.

 

Annexation also split the peninsula into two non-contiguous parts and stymied the Association’s ongoing incorporation effort.

 

In 2003 the Civic Association voted to file suit against the City of Gulf Shores on the basis that the annexation

was illegal. Judge J. Langford Floyd was again designated to judge the suit. A committee from the Association

met with City representatives to negotiate a compromise. That failed. The court ordered mediation efforts on

two separate occasions which also failed. A bench trial was held in April of 2011, and Judge Floyd ruled in

favor of the City on July 22, 2011. The Civic Association filed an appeal and the suit went to the Alabama Supreme Court.  In April 2012 the Alabama Supreme Court issued a 9 – 0 opinion that the annexation was void, which meant all the contiguous parcel annexations were null and void. Gulf Shores asked for a re-hearing, which the Supreme Court rejected 9 – 0.

 

On October 23, 2012, Judge Floyd, as directed by the Alabama Supreme Court, issued a judgment confirming

the Supreme Court’s decision. The City then filed a series of appeals which delayed the voidance of the

annexation while the City continued to collect Lodging Tax and Business License fees on all property and

business owners on the Peninsula. The City's major complaint was based on their desire for the court to make the decision effective in 2013 rather than 2003 when the annexation occurred.  Had the City won this final appeal, they woud have been relieved of responsibility for all the license fees and lodging taxes collected from Peninsula residents and businesses during that ten-year period.  Finally on February 28, 2014, the Supreme Court granted the request of

the Civic Association to dismiss the City’s appeal and the annexation was voided.

 

For information on how this affects life on the Fort Morgan Peninsula west of the city limit at Mile 14.7 of Highway 180, go to Property Owners tab above.

 

At this time the Fort Morgan Civic Association is studying ways to control development of the Fort Morgan

peninsula and protect our environment. A key goal for 2019 is the creation of a Master Plan for the Ft Morgan area.

Go to the Links tab above, then click on the draft master plan to review what has been done to date.

        NEW E-MAIL ADDRESS 
    FOR THE CIVIC ASSOCIATION
FORTMORGANCIVIC@GMAIL.COM

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