Environmental cleanup studied at Fairhope clock site


FAIRHOPE – A cleanup program to remove underground fuel tanks will be studied before the city completes the purchase of the land near the Fairhope Clock, City Council members said.

In a special meeting held Thursday, July 2, council members approved a study by Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood of the site at the northeast corner of Fairhope Avenue and Section Street. The engineering and architectural firm will examine the site and recommend what needs to be done with the tanks that are left over from when a car dealership was on the site decades ago.

The city will pay up to $15,258 for the study.

Council President Jack Burrell said the study is needed before the Alabama Department of Environmental Management can consider permits for the project.

“What this is, is to do additional removal work at the clock corner,” Burrell said. “We still will not be bound to the purchase until this work is performed, until we can get an all clear. This will entail Goodwyn Mills and Cawood getting all the necessary permits from ADEM performing all the necessary inspections and basically managing what’s needed to be done to get the tanks out of the ground and clean up that soil and do the additional testing once that soil has been removed and replaced.”

Council members said the study has to be done before the city completes the purchase. After Fairhope buys the land, the city will be responsible for any hazards discovered later.

“It’s to make sure we have it on the record that if a problem is found, it’s not our problem, it’s the owner’s, the original owner’s,” Councilman Kevin Boone said.

The council voted in January to buy the property, which is about 20 feet by 60 feet, after the owner, developer Matt Bowers, announced plans to build a boutique hotel near the site.

The purchase price was $525,000 with the city paying half the cost and the Fairhope Single Tax Colony paying the remaining $262,500. Once the purchase is complete, the city will have full ownership, according to earlier reports.

Burrell said Thursday that the city needs to move forward with the purchase.

“It’s going to be quick,” Burrell said. “That’s the reason we’re having this special meeting. We basically have so much time to close. We keep extending it and this will just allow this to move forward.”

During earlier discussions of the site, most residents who commented supported making the land public property saying that the corner had been a gathering site for people in Fairhope for at least 100 years. Some residents did question the price of the purchase saying that more than $500,000 was too much for a parcel that size.

Early in the 20th century, the property was the site of Gaston Livery, which became Gaston Auto Livery and then Gaston Ford. The fuel tanks on the site are believed to date to that time, according to comments at the meeting.