Ralph Hellmich talks Foley’s future at Foley Woman’s Club meeting

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 10/14/20

FOLEY - Foley mayor-elect Ralph Hellmich spoke at the Foley Woman’s Club kickoff meeting held in October, where he discussed new businesses, ongoing projects, and the future of Foley.

“The …

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Ralph Hellmich talks Foley’s future at Foley Woman’s Club meeting

Posted

FOLEY - Foley mayor-elect Ralph Hellmich spoke at the Foley Woman’s Club kickoff meeting held in October, where he discussed new businesses, ongoing projects, and the future of Foley.

“The council will be changing in November, but in Foley we’ve worked together for a long time and we prefer to keep it that way,” said Hellmich. “John [Koniar] has had a leadership style that was not confrontational, and we’d like to continue that because you get a lot more done by working together than you can by fighting. There’s disagreements going on within the council, yes, but we generally work them out. We think that it’s the best way to do business, and I don’t anticipate that changing.”

Foley has seen a lot of growth in the last few years. One business already located in the city that will be switching locations is Taco Bell. Hellmich said the Rite Aid building will be torn down to make way for the new Taco Bell building with an improved drive-thru and modern look. As for the currently vacant IHOP building, it won’t remain that way forever. The location has been purchased by the owners of the Cactus Cantina who will be bringing the restaurant to Foley.

In front of Publix, many have seen the new building being constructed that will soon house Buffalo Wild Wings. The owner of Fish River Grill has purchased property in downtown Foley and is in the process of bringing new business to that area. A Jersey Mike’s Subs will be coming near Papa Murphy’s, and a new burger restaurant is coming near Buffalo Wild Wings.

“The question everybody always asks is what’s going to happen to the old Cactus Café building,” said Hellmich. “That was bought by a group called The Catalyst Group, they were starting to clean it out and had accomplished most of that before COVID hit. They had a restaurant lined up and were in the final stage of signing all the leases, and then COVID hit and that stopped. They’re going to open something there; they’re just trying to get through COVID like many other businesses.”

Another business affected by COVID is the new Aldi that will be coming on the corner of Pride Drive, near the location where Ryan’s once stood. Passersby can currently see a small oil change business being built there and can expect to see an Aldi’s appear behind the location in the future.

“We also have Rouse’s interested, they’ve been interested in Foley a long time because their trucks drive right through here to go to Gulf Shores,” Hellmich said. No firm plans are in place for a future Rouse’s in Foley.

It’s not just the businesses that are booming in Foley.

“Foley is the third fastest growing city in Alabama,” said Hellmich. “We were way too good after Ivan and Katrina communicating how great we were down here in Baldwin County, and now everybody knows about our little secret so they want to come down here and live with us. That’s great, we get a lot of nice people and growth is good, because if you’re not growing, you’re going backwards.”

During the coming years, Hellmich says the city hopes to accomplish multiple projects. Those include looking into bringing a performing arts center into the city, creating a new location for the post office that remains in the downtown area, purchasing new, modern playground equipment for the Foley Kids Park, and updating city pools or looking into an aquatic center.

“The big thing that we’re going to concentrate on these coming years is our road plan,” Hellmich said. “We went out and worked for about two years on defining a workable road expansion plan for infrastructure to expand what we have, putting in some new roads, mainly connectivity for our local population east and west. We all know what Highway 59 is like, but if you can travel east and west then lots of times you don’t have to get on Highway 59. We have a ten-year plan for that.”

While the plan is not fully funded, Hellmich said the city is going after grants that will help get projects completed. The full detailed plan can be found on the City of Foley’s website.

A member of the Planning Commission, Hellmich said the city sees new plans and proposed developments constantly. The commission has worked to change regulations that will help grow the city in the right direction, says Hellmich, including increasing the spacing between lots, water handling capabilities, and low-impact developments.

“All of that combines to do things to try to slow the growth and make it manageable,” said Hellmich. “You cannot stop growth. Here in Alabama you have a right to develop your property, you just don’t have a right to stomp on your neighbors. So what we try to do is manage that the best we can.”

For information on Foley, check out cityoffoley.org.