Africatown was supposed to attract tourists this summer with the opening of the Heritage House museum and land and water tours planned on the horizon.
But the opening of the museum has been delayed until the end of the year, with much of the tourism activity associated with the 2019 opening of the Clotilde slave ship suspended until then.
For now, the biggest issue emerging in Africatown has to do with zoning and the creation of a “Safe Zone” amendment, which Mobile City officials should discuss and possibly vote on next week.
The amendment is seen as a step towards protecting the predominantly black community, which some say is a model of environmental injustice. Activists say the community is where generations of residents have struggled with the health effects of heavy industry pollution that continues to wash its waterfront.
“Security and Africatown go hand in hand,” said Ramsey Sprague, president of the Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition (MEJAC), a 9-year-old organization that introduced an amendment restricting industrial encroachment in the area founded by Clotilde survivors. after the Civil War.
Sprague added: “It is impossible to move forward in tourism development if (housing and tourism security) is not a fundamental principle of moving forward.”
Information about the safe area
We are talking about an amendment to the Unified City Development Code (UDC) called “Safety Zone”. The zone only applies to the community of Africatown, which is located approximately three miles north of downtown Mobile.
The amendment is also seen as the only unfinished business left after the approval of the UDC, the biggest change to Mobile’s zoning law in at least 50 years. It was first deployed by Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration about a year ago.
The amendment, which council member William Carroll plans to introduce next Tuesday, does the following:
- Provides a list of industrial uses considered “non-compliant”, meaning that if an existing industrial use is abandoned or terminated, similar use will not be allowed within the area’s boundaries. Examples include oil and gas storage, storage of hazardous substances, auto repair, coal handling, landfill, fuel distribution, etc.
- Establishes undeveloped property as residential or commercial. The zone will no longer have industrial zones.
- Marks the boundary of a safe zone that includes most of the existing residential areas in Africatown, as well as areas bordering Paper Mill Road and extending into the Lewis neighborhoods. But the map does not extend east of the paper mill to the waterfront, where most of the existing heavy industry has long been located.
Carroll said there are last-minute agreements for the two properties owned by Chippewa Lakes LLC that are being finalized before the amendment is put forward. Both properties include developments that may be prohibited if the amendment…