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Falkville council opens door to Love's Travel

By Ronnie Thomas 340-2438

FALKVILLE — Not everyone in Falkville is pleased with a proposal by Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores to come to town, especially some who live on Douglas Road, which the facility would front.

Only two such residents were present to speak Tuesday against zoning the 14 acres commercial during a called Town Council meeting preceded by a public hearing.

But Michelle Kelso, who lives at 521 Douglas Road, next door to the site, brought a petition she said had 51 signatures opposing the zoning.

"We'll have 24 hours of activity in a residential section," she said. "We'll face traffic going to our homes every day."

Dan Barnett of 25 Douglas Road said his home faces the site.

"There'll be no need for me to ever turn on my lights," he said. "Do I go and rent a motel?"

The site is off Interstate 65, adjacent to Douglas Road and Morgan County 55 East.

Despite their pleas and concerns raised by other residents, the council suspended the rules and voted unanimously for the rezoning recommended by the Planning Commission.

"We're moving forward in a prudent manner," said Bill Gleason, a real estate project manager for Love's, an Oklahoma City-based company. "Personally, I think Falkville will be a great location for a Love's, and I'm proud to work with a small town and be able to assist with their development and growth."

Gleason's next step is to return to the Planning Commission for site plan approval.

Kelso said her family invested in Falkville a little over a year ago for the peace and quiet of a small town. She said a truck stop would upset the tranquility they sought.

"If I'd had more time, I'd have gotten twice the number of signatures," she said. "Not many people want this."

Barnett, like Kelso, said he understood the town's need to produce revenue but that a truck stop would be of no advantage to him because "it's in my front yard and it will devalue my property."

Barnett, who said he is a former truck driver, also cautioned about the dark side of truck stops.

"People don't know what goes on," he said. "I could tell you, but I won't. There are ladies present."

Franklin and Bobbie Johnson of 151 E. Pike Road complained that they don't get good water pressure now and wondered how much worse it would be after Love's arrival.

Mayor Jimmie Walker, who spoke up several times during the public hearing and answered questions, told them the pressure shouldn't be low and that they should have it checked.

Franklin Johnson said he is concerned about road maintenance.

"Hopefully, we'll have the revenue to take care of it, but Morgan County 55 is the county's responsibility," Walker said.

Bobbie Johnson said the town should have had a referendum on the zoning, but Town Attorney Larry Madison said the town followed the state statutes, which do not call for a referendum.

Part of Love's $5 million to $7 million investment will be widening Douglas Road, which will provide entrances and exits.

Ruth Hill of East Pine Road, the only other resident to speak, said she is worried about the safety of children at bus stops
at Morgan County 55 and Douglas.

Councilman Matt Stiles, who works for the Morgan County school system, said that was a good point and that the council would make sure the stops are adequately located and protected.

Walker said Falkville has three ways to improve its economy: raise taxes, increase utility rates or grow the tax base.

He said he is for bringing in outside dollars from the interstate.

After the meeting, Gleason also said he knew that Barnett's comments about the downside of truck stops dealt with alleged prostitution.

"I know of no problems that we've had at Love's," he said.

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