No land for hospital

Lack of motion kills land donation… for now 

News Staff Writer

At the Monday, October 22, Atmore City Council meeting, council members didn’t turn down the proposed donation of 10 acres of prime Rivercane real estate for location of a new hospital. Neither did they vote for the measure.
Instead, the four council members present refused to introduce a motion to transfer the land to the Atmore Community Hospital Board or Escambia County Healthcare Authority for the planned $30 million facility, effectively killing the measure. (District 1’s Webb Nall had grand jury duty and was unable to attend the meeting.)
Only silence greeted Mayor Jim Staff’s call for a motion to donate the land, which was the final item on a short agenda.
“The measure has died for lack of a motion,” the mayor said dejectedly after the council’s no-vote.
Susan Smith, who represents District 4, and District 5’s Chris Harrison, both of whom had promised to vocally oppose the measure, kept mum about the proposal both during the council meeting and during the workshop that was held an hour earlier.
Smith said after the meeting that she kept quiet because she “knew it wouldn’t pass,” and Harrison said he and the mayor met earlier Monday and discussed the situation, eliminating the need for further discussion at the workshop or meeting.
The mayor, who said he had talked with several doctors who were in favor of the new hospital and its proposed location near Interstate 65, asked council members Smith, Harrison, Chris Walker and Jerome Webster near the end of the workshop if they wanted to “table” the hospital land issue for another month, or to go ahead and vote on it. All four said they wanted to go ahead and settle the matter.
Staff declined comment on the results of the council’s “action by inaction,” saying only that he “didn’t think this is over yet.”
In other business, council members voted unanimously and without discussion to adopt amendments to two municipal zoning mandates.
The first was to the city ordinance regulating establishments that sell alcoholic beverages. The directive was amended to add the definition of a wine bar as “any establishment having as its principal or predominant use the serving of wine, but no other alcoholic beverages, for consumption on the premises. The amendment also allows for the serving of “light foods not requiring preparation in a kitchen” and “not the principal or predominant use of the establishment.”

That amendment was made to benefit The Publican, which was initially billed as an English pub that will serve finger foods but now falls under the wine bar classification. The Publican will operate along West Ridgeley Street.
The amended ordinance also modifies the definition of a nightclub, changing it from an establishment that provides food or refreshments as well as floor shows or other forms of entertainment, to any “bar, tavern and cocktail lounge when separate from a restaurant which primarily serves alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption and which does not have a full service food menu and kitchen and seated food service.”
The second amended ordinance was the city statute concerning political signs and was reportedly changed due to a complaint made by a newly elected county commissioner during an executive session in September.
The amended ordinance prohibits the placing or erecting of political signs earlier than 30 days prior to an election and the placing of such signs on city property; limits political signs to 32 square feet in size and 10 feet in height; and requires that all political signs be removed within seven days following the conclusion of an election.
Some confusion arose between the vote on the sign ordinance and the hospital land donation. There was a split vote, with Walker and Webster voting “aye,” while Harrison and Smith voted “nay.”
Although the land transfer had not yet been brought up, City Clerk Becca Smith told the mayor that “some of them thought they were voting on the hospital.” The city clerk ascertained from each council member that he or she was in favor of the sign ordinance amendment, and the call for a motion was made on the hospital issue.