By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Escambia County voters approved by a more than 3-1 margin the November 3 referendum making Canoe a landmark district, protecting the heritage and history of the community and making annexation by another community more difficult.
According to the Alabama Secretary of State Office website, the measure gained the approval of 8,820 voters (just over 79 percent), with 2,475 voting in opposition.
“We were very happy the referendum passed,” said Kevin McKinley, president of Canoe Civic Club, which spearheaded the successful campaign. “It was a victory for small community preservation everywhere. It’s great that voters chose to entrust Canoe with her own preservation and legacy.”
Despite the referendum’s passage, there are still two ways the new landmark district could fall victim to annexation, although neither is a strong possibility.
State Rep. Alan Baker, who introduced the bill into the State House in 2019, pointed out during a recent interview with a Birmingham television station that “annexation by the Legislature, usually done on noncontiguous property, does not require the support of local landowners.”
Baker added that, “municipalities could still expand into the districts through annexation referendums approved by local voters and petitions approved by 100 percent of the property owners.”
The state legislator pointed out that, “[Landmark districts] don’t mean they couldn’t incorporate later or become annexed, but they could do it on their own terms.”
The idea to try and gain landmark district status actually began nearly 50 years ago, McKinley said.
“People in Canoe were concerned as far back as the 1970s over the loss of their post office, public school and many of the stores having closed along [U.S. 31],” he explained.
McKinley said the citizens of Baldwin County’s Stockton community, who pushed a similar referendum through several years ago, were instrumental in helping the Canoe group get all its ducks in a row.
That movement continued on November 3, as two more Baldwin County communities — Rosinton and the Barwell area of Fairhope — gained voter approval and became landmark districts.
In national and state races, Escambia County went Republican by about a 2-1 margin in an election that brought out 15,907 voters (58.5 percent of the 27,180 registered electorate).
President Donald Trump was named on 10,844 local ballots (68.17 percent); Tommy Tuberville got 10,401 county votes (65.4 percent) in the race for Alabama’s junior senator seat; Jerry Carl picked up 10,674 votes (67.1 percent), and Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh got 10,452 votes here (57.57 percent) in her bid to hold onto the Alabama Public Service presidency.
Five of six proposed amendments to the Alabama Constitution gained approval from voters across the state, while all six earned a majority of “yes” votes within Escambia County.