BAY MINETTE, Alabama — Egged on by a large crowd invoking property rights, United Nations Agenda 21, the U.S. Constitution and even the Communist Manifesto, the Baldwin County Commission killed the Horizon 2025 comprehensive plan today.
Following the 3-1 vote, many in the audience sang “God Bless America.”
“This battle is about more than just planning,” said commission Chairman Bob James. “This battle is to protect the Constitution of the United States and, to me, the Ten Commandments.”
The resolution “repealed, rescinded, voided and nullified,” the plan, with that phrase boldfaced and in all capital letters. It also remanded the plan to the Planning and Zoning Commission with “instructions to prepare a revised Master Plan and corresponding Map” for county commission to consider. The new plan “shall not unlawfully infringe on protected private property rights without due process of law.”
Horizon 2025, which laid out guidelines for land use and development, was approved three years ago. Commissioner Charles “Skip” Gruber, who voted for it in 2009, was the only commissioner who voted against the resolution Tuesday.
With a couple of breaks, the freewheeling public hearing on Horizon 2025 lasted about four hours. The commission’s meeting room was filled to capacity early on, and outbreaks of applause were common both during and after speakers’ comments. Some people carried small America flags.
Thirty-eight people spoke on the issue. Of that number, 31 wanted Horizon 2025 killed, while seven favored keeping it in place. Speakers were given no time limit, and James asked only a few to wind up their remarks.
“The people who created this plan have left no stone unturned in their attempt to regulate every square inch of land and every drop of water,” said Richard Hyland of Spanish Fort. “If we don’t rescind it today, I think the next time we meet you’re going to have to rent the Mobile Civic Center.”
Horizon 2025 was recommended by the county planning commission. It cost $280,000, and involved an outside consultant.
Several speakers derided the language in the plan that described it as being advisory only and offering guidelines for development. James agreed, saying that Mao Tse-tung, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini espoused philosophies that were originally guidelines, and millions of people were killed.
Richard Thompson of Fairhope presented commissioners with copies of the 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto from Wikipedia. “We’re getting real close to the communistic plan here. Maybe with a little “c,” not a big “C.”
Speakers also said Horizon 2025 was tied into U.N. Agenda 21, which promotes sustainable development, and a few even tried to connect it with what they said was an attempt by the U.N. to get the United States to repeal the Second Amendment right to possess arms.
“I truly believe in the conspiracy,” said Leonard Smart, who lives on Ala. 104 between Fairhope and Silverhill. “I’m not going to go into it, but I believe in it.”
Also coming in for criticism were the “wildlife corridors” outlines in the plan. Intended to protect wildlife, the network of corridors runs through cities, across water and across the “megasite” being marketed to attract a major industry.
Orange Beach Councilwoman Pattisue Simpson asked an earlier speaker to bring back a map he had brought of the corridors. Once it was posted, she said it showed that if the wildlife corridors were made part of the planning process, it would end up dividing communities.
“It will move us backward. We will almost be de-civilizing ourselves,” she said.
Dick Charles, a longtime member of Fairhope’s Planning Commission, said communities need some kind of plan, but Horizon 2025 went too far.
“I’ve been on the Planning Commission now since 1997. We think this is just a little bit overdone, to say the least. Our comprehensive plan is about one-tenth the size of this,” he said.
The few speakers in favor of the plan made no headway with most of the commissioners.
Commissioner Frank Burt noted that he voted against Horizon 2025 in 2009 and was against it from the beginning. Commissioner Tucker Dorsey said the plan was one of the reasons he ran for his position.
Although Horizon 2025 is said to be advisory, Dorsey said he found language to the contrary. The word “policy” appears 778 times; “shall,” 525 times; and “must,” 51, he said.
Dorsey noted that although several public hearings were held when the plan was being drafted, he could find no minutes. Only 30 “real people” attended the meetings, he said; the rest were officials or other people connected with government.
As for the argument that rescinding the plan would amount to throwing away $280,000, Dorsey said, “That money was wasted by the last commission. They buried that money.”
County Attorney David Conner told commissioners Horizon 2025 contradicts some zoning regulations and could open the county to legal liability on the grounds that it amounted to taking of property.
Most remaining in the audience were more than ready for the plan to be voted out. James praised them for turning out and said commissioners will also be looking at subdivision regulations, agencies that receive county funds such as the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission and the county’s own planning commission, which did not allow any public comment during its recent meeting on Horizon 2025.
“This is just a start,” James said. “You need to stay involved.”