Saturday, June 1, 2013

Demolition delayed by lack of permit

Demolition delayed by lack of permit

State transportation department failed to obtain stormwater management permit

Houses destroyed by the April 27, 2011, tornado are cleared along Crescent Ridge Road and Iris Drive in Holt on May 24. Demolition was stopped Tuesday because the Alabama Department of Transportation failed to obtain a necessary permit.
Michelle Lepianka Carter | The Tuscaloosa News
By Jason Morton
Staff Writer
Published: Friday, May 31, 2013 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 10:36 p.m.
TUSCALOOSA | Less than a week after it began, the Alabama Department of Transportation has halted demolition of a series of homes damaged in the April 27, 2011, tornado.
The work stoppage was blamed on ALDOT's failure to obtain a stormwater management permit through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
“Previously, we believed no permit was necessary,” said ALDOT spokesman Tony Harris in a news release announcing the stoppage. “However, after examination by ALDOT personnel in Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, a permit is needed and work was placed on hold until that permit is issued.”
The work began May 22 and was stopped on Tuesday. In that span, 11 of about 30 homes had been cleared.
Harris said the permitting process through ADEM is expected to take about three weeks.
Once the proper environmental permits are in hand, Cahaba Disaster Recovery of Mobile will resume the $193,000 job.
The demolition and cleanup are expected to be complete by the end of September.
Tuscaloosa environmental activist and Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen alerted ALDOT to the permitting infraction.
Wathen has been critical of ALDOT's delay in clearing the homes that the agency purchased soon after the storm, saying last week that he was “disappointed” by the two-year delay. Wathen said Thursday that ALDOT should follow the same rules as other developers.
“The permit is a way for citizens to monitor the work plan and insure that proper environmental restraints are in place,” he said. “Every other developer is required to do so. ALDOT is not and should never be held above the laws everyone else has to obey.”

ALDOT spent almost $4 million to buy the properties in order to make way for the proposed Eastern Bypass highway that, if constructed, would connect Interstate 20/59 to U.S. Highway 82 in Northport.
The proposed four-lane divided highway, first suggested in 1988, now carries an estimated $250 million price tag. There is no set date for construction to begin on the bypass because of uncertain funding, according to ALDOT.
Meanwhile, the damaged homes — some still with trees across them and others since inhabited by animals and
vagrants — sat seemingly untouched for more than two years and became what nearby residents called eyesores and safety hazards.
Some of the about 37 properties contained only foundations, mobile home pads or underground septic tanks and grease traps that also will be demolished once the work resumes.
Kevin Skelton, who lives with his wife and son near several of the damaged properties, said last week that he and his wife, Judy, were glad to see some action being taken, but that they were concerned about the future upkeep of the sites.
“Yes, this takes care of the current issues, but what about the long haul?” Judy Skelton said. “They're our neighbors now, and as a community, we want them to maintain their land the same way that we do.
“We've seen what they've done, or not done, in the past.”
Reach Jason Morton at or 205-722-0200.

John L. Wathen,
Hurricane Creekkeeper
Friends of Hurricane Creek

Creekkeeper is a member of
Waterkeeper Alliance

Who has the authority to say someone else
 is not being a good steward of the environment?

Anyone who notices

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