The Mobile City Council approved an annexation plan Tuesday that will allow thousands of citizens living west of city limits to vote on being annexed.

The council approved for all areas to be able to vote after PFM Financial Advisors studied four separate plans. Mayor Sandy Stimpson recommended Plan A, which could allow the city population to grow to 213,000, making it the second-largest city in Alabama.

A larger population will mean more federal dollars. However, that hasn't stopped concerned citizens from coming to the council in opposition to growing the city.

Ahead of Tuesday's vote, Mayor Sandy Stimpson once again expressed how important annexation is for the city's future.

"It tees Mobile up to have opportunities that otherwise would not exist," Stimpson said.

The mayor used the success of Airbus as an example.

"They took a risk, but they had no idea the reward that they were about to receive," Stimpson said. "Today, in the minds of some, you look at the city council and think maybe they're taking a risk. But I am of the opinion that there's no way we'll be able to measure the rewards that will be achieved by continuing to grow this city."

District 1 council member Cory Penn thanked the community for offering their support and concerns for months during city council meetings and district town halls.

“I was excited that when the report came back with the annexation, from the third party that said we would be able to get $105 million,” Penn said. “That’s major to me because now we will be able to do more in our inner-city communities.”

District 2 council member William Carroll said more money would mean more infrastructure projects and improvements throughout the city. He said he hoped the people in the areas would come out to vote.

“A voice cannot be heard that doesn’t speak,” said Carroll. “So, if we’re going to be heard, we have to speak some kind of way.”

Carroll said growth is about unification and moving the city forward.

“This is a big day for the citizens of Mobile and the citizens of the region,” District 4 council member Ben Reynolds said. “To give the citizens in west Mobile an opportunity to vote and move this to the next step in the process. I hope that everyone looks past the vote today and gets to work.”

During annexation planning, four primary goals were identified by city leadership. Those goals were preserving a black majority in the city, ensuring the voting age population in four of the seven districts within the city remains majority-minority, bringing the population over 200,000 and ensuring extra revenue.

If the annexation plans pass in an election, sales taxes from annexed areas will increase by two-and-a-half cents. Property taxes would not be collected by the city right away. That will not happen until at least five years after annexation.

In return, new and existing residents in city limits will see capital improvements, city leadership claims. Those improvements include drainage, sidewalks and maintenance.

“Today, as the mayor has said, is a historic day in the city of Mobile,” said District 5 council member Joel Daves. “Very historic day. I think he said maybe once in a four-year period, I think it’s once in a generation.”

Daves reminded people that the council vote is only the first step in getting annexation approved. However, he said the approval from the council is much bigger and much deeper than it may seem.

“It was the triumph of hope over fear,” he added. “It was the triumph of progress over stagnation. It was the triumph of trust over distrust.”

District 7 council member and vice-president of the council Gina Gregory thanked everyone who has worked hard on the annexation proposals. She said the city would see an extra $6 million in the worst-case scenario in the first year alone.

“They will receive the very same benefits that all of our citizens do and that includes representation,” said Gregory. “You know, those who have come to us who have been seeking to become residents have asked for nothing more than that. The same benefits that we all enjoy; nothing more.”

If citizens to the west vote themselves into city limits, they will also get trash pickup and emergency services, including emergency medical services.

District 3 council member and president C.J. Small closed out council comments before the vote. He said COVID alone is an example of how the city has missed out on millions of federal dollars. Small said he could no longer sit back and watch Mobile miss out on those opportunities.

He said existing issues within the city that have been brought up by opposition to annexation would be addressed and are being addressed.

“Rome wasn’t built overnight. These issues did not happen overnight,” Small stated. “These issues were presented before C.J. Small was born. But with the plan that we’ve got before us, with the visions that we’ve got before us, I believe it’s time for our city to move forward.”

The council unanimously voted to approve four resolutions to allow citizens to vote.

After the vote, virtually all citizens in attendance left the council chambers and only a handful stayed in the room to watch the remainder of the meeting.

The city will continue to update the public on information concerning annexation on its website.

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