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Hartselle commission extends planning jurisdiction

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Developers must change the way they design subdivisions within 11/2 miles of Hartselle city limits.

Following a lengthy public hearing where Morgan County Commission Chairman John Glasscock opposed the change, a unanimous Planning Commission voted to extend the city's planning jurisdiction.

"I'm just curious as to where this may be going and what is coming next," Glasscock told the commission Tuesday.

"There's nothing beyond this," Commission Chairman Jerry Putman said. "We're doing what is in the law and we have to protect the city."

Alabama law permits municipalities to enforce their building codes up to five miles outside their city limits. Hartselle's neighboring municipalities have planning jurisdictions that extend between 11/2 miles and 3 miles.

The commission pointed this out to Hank Quattlebaum, who is maintenance supervisor for Hartselle city schools. Still, Quattlebaum, who resides on Thompson Road east of Interstate 65 just outside the city limits, opposed the change.

"Nobody can represent us," he said, referring to homeowners in the planning jurisdiction. "If we're going to be involved, we should be able to be represented."

City Planner Jeremy Griffith said state law does not permit people outside the city limits to serve on the Planning Commission.

"It's been proposed to change this law several times, but it has never passed," Griffith said.

"What this boils down to is you are governing people outside the city, but we have no say," Quattlebaum said.

"I understand, but there is nothing we can do about that," Putman said.

The amendment the commission approved requires the jurisdiction to move as Hartselle annexes. Griffith said the city is only enforcing subdivision regulations in the jurisdiction, which is something the County Commission already does.

But, there are differences in county rules and Hartselle's subdivision regulations.

People in the jurisdiction, for example, can use ditches for drainage in new subdivisions. Hartselle requires curb and gutter.

This one item, engineer Lee Y. Greene said last month, would increase development cost between 30 and 40 percent.

Quattlebaum said the commission's decision would be easier to swallow if Hartselle had a police and fire jurisdiction that mirrored the planning jurisdiction.

"It would be easier to accept this change, if we got something in return," he said.

"All we're trying to do is stop people from building a sub-standard subdivision, then requesting to be annexed into the city," commission member Jim Martin said.

As to the police and fire jurisdiction, the City Council discussed reinstating both, but opted against it in February because of opposition from residents and neighboring municipalities.

Alabama law also requires those jurisdictions to be at least three miles, making it impossible to mirror the planning jurisdiction.

"We just don't have the staff to cover a 3-mile planning jurisdiction," said Jeff Johnson of the Department of Development, who also serves on the planning commission.

Hartselle's planning jurisdiction will grow mostly east and west of the city. Falkville, which has a 11/2 mile jurisdiction, will have to pull back to the south.

Griffith said Hartselle also has to resolve issues with Decatur to the north.

"The mayors are working on those," he said.

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