900 jobs could result from council rezoning decision

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Consider it progress versus personal concerns at the Montgomery city council meeting. The members listened to the passionate pleas of residents opposed to rezoning land near their homes - which could become a new manufacturing facility.

In the end...it wasn't close. The city council voted overwhelmingly to approve rezoning more than 800 acres near the intersection of Old Selma Road and Cantelou Road as a possible site for a manufacturing plant - which could employ 900 people.

Residents opposed to the plan worry if a plant comes, it could bring environmental hazards and disrupt their quiet lifestyle.

"No one in our community is saying not to bring manufacturing to Alabama," says resident Thelma Elizabeth Long.

Residents opposed to the city council's decision to rezone the property say they're not against new jobs, but they do have serious reservations.

"The normal industrial emissions and the noise, the river contamination and the disruption of the native wildlife out there...it is a concern to all of us out there," adds another resident.

But Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and others say they'd never let any business come to the area that would harm residents or the environment.

"If it's not a plant that we want, if it's a pollutant plant, if it's a plant that's going to demand incentives and we can't get our paybacks..., then we won't pursue that," he says.

The council voted 8-1 to rezone the land. Councilman John Dow was the only no vote.

"Let's make sure that we're trying to find other places that have existing allocations or designations already," says Dow when asked why he voted against the measure.

Leaders in favor of the rezoning say Montgomery needs to do whatever it can to attract business and create jobs.

"It is about sending the clear message that Montgomery is open to economic opportunity. Failure to change the zoning of this item will have a major effect on our economic development efforts," said one supporter close to the project.

But some residents believe the council's decision sets their community up for failure.

"Once it's rezoned, it's like a black hole. Anything can come in. We have been opened up like an open wound that anybody can stick a knife in," adds Long.

The manufacturing plant is not a "done deal" yet. The re-zoning simply keeps Montgomery in the running. One of the men who spoke in favor of the rezoning says Montgomery is on the company's "short list."

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