LINCOLN -- Robbie Angles, a farmer and owner/operator of Cross Poultry and Dogwood Farms, waged a near two-month battle with the city of Lincoln and its officials over the construction of two chicken houses from the beginning of January 2014 to the end of February 2014.
”We were a week-and-a-half from completion of construction. (A Lincoln official) showed up on the farm that first week of January and stopped construction,” Angles said. “When I confronted him, I asked him what was going on. He said we had not obtained permits to construct the facilities.”
Angles said construction officially began on the chicken houses in June 2013, but Lincoln officials didn’t approach him about the issue until the first week of January 2014.
“They ran my contractors off that week,” Angles said. “They were putting the finishing touches on things, and they stopped them. (A Lincoln official) said, ‘If you do anything else, there’s going to be consequences.’”
After multiple delays to the construction process, Angles reimbursed his contractors almost $5,000 for permits, but that wasn’t his most significant financial loss.
The skewed timeline caused Angles to miss a full five-week cycle of chickens to come through the two chicken houses because Koch Foods, a company that relies on Angles to house its chickens, had to re-shift its delivery of chickens to other farms due to the delay in construction.
“On average, those two houses produce $35,000 every five weeks, so I had a loss of income of $35,000 in addition to the permits,” Angles said.
Root of the controversy
Angles said the turmoil was caused by the city’s enforcement of a state code of law involving police jurisdiction and a building permit ordinance enacted by the city council in 2011.
According to Alabama Code 11-40-10, the police jurisdiction in cities with a population of 6,000 or more “shall cover all adjoining territory within three miles of the corporate limits.”
The city of Lincoln achieved the required threshold following the 2010 census.
“The city has always exercised the police jurisdiction,” Lincoln Mayor Bud Kitchin said. “Cities can make a decision on whether they enforce the police jurisdiction. We can’t just pick and choose — it’s all or none.”
But Angles disagreed with Kitchin’s assertion the city enforces its jurisdiction, citing a 3-week old example of a situation involving a break-in on his property on Patton Chapel Road, where Lincoln police responded.
“They’ll respond to calls, but they don’t patrol my street,” Angles said. “Alabama State Troopers do.”
Angles, whose farm is 1.7 miles outside of Lincoln city limits, questioned the implementation of the city’s building permit ordinance, which at the time monitored, controlled and regulated construction within the city itself.
“The whole time it was just a run-around,” Angles said. “The city of Lincoln was not sure of what they were supposed to impose upon us pertaining to permits.”
Kitchin said the council later amended the language of the ordinance during a council meeting held June 24, 2014. The amended version makes it clear Lincoln can enforce its building codes within its police jurisdiction.
“The building permit ordinance had conflicting places in it,” Kitchin said. “We corrected the wording.”
Bad for business?
A former corporate employee of Tyson Foods, Inc., Angles said he departed that side of the business five years ago when he started up his farm in Lincoln, which now has eight chicken houses.
While Angles said he was blessed to have the other houses in place to help cushion the blow from the financial loss caused by the delays, he expressed concern if a similar situation happened to a farmer who relied solely upon the two chicken houses for revenue.
“A smaller farmer, this could have been very detrimental, because they’re starting in the hole,” Angles said.
Angles added the situation also angered his contractors.
“Our contractor also said, and he told this to the city of Lincoln, because of this, there were other potential residents and growers that wanted to build in the outskirts of Lincoln in the various parts, and he refused,” Angles said. “He said, ‘I will not build another chicken house in Lincoln.’ It cost him a lot of money as well.”
He questioned whether it is worth it financially for the city of Lincoln to impose its police jurisdictions and ordinances on people outside city limits at the risk of driving away potential revenue from businesses.
“That’s exactly what we confronted city officials with,” Angles said. “We said, ‘You have the potential to lose a lot more businesses coming to the area.’ In just chicken houses alone, there were about three people who were going to build, but the potential builders said, ‘No, this is ridiculous.’”
Angles is not the only citizen living with Talladega County who has expressed dissatisfaction with Lincoln’s legal stance.
A groundswell of public discourse permeated the halls of the Talladega County Courthouse when several citizens affiliated with Citizens Against Lincoln Expansion (CALE) voiced their complaints regarding the matter during Monday’s county commission meeting.
Steve Patterson, a representative from CALE, spoke to commissioners and stressed the way of life within the county has been completely taken away from the citizens because of Lincoln’s ordinance.
“The ordinance was passed without any of the citizens of this community or this county having any idea that this was passed,” Patterson said. “The ordinance is completely out of the norm of what you’ll ever see passed in a county, because they’ve got everything covered from cutting trees and landscaping to a simple electrician job.
“Everything we’ve got that we normally do in the county now has got to be permitted through the city of Lincoln.”
Patterson presented a map to the commission showing Lincoln’s police jurisdiction coverage area.
“We’ve had some people look at this map, and I’m going to quote you some startling numbers right now,” Patterson said. “The land mass of the incorporated city limits of Lincoln, Alabama, is 24.4 miles. This tax farm they have in place now is 117 square miles of Talladega County. This county needs to know this, because we’ve lost our county as we know it today.”
The area covers the county as far east as Oxford due to an 80-acre property on Brickstore Road annexed to Lincoln, and the southernmost portion extends down to Hepzibah Baptist Church due to the annexation of the Lincoln Harbor area in 2004.
Other areas included in the police jurisdiction include Renfroe, Stemley, Eastaboga, Turner’s Mill and areas north of Lincoln to the county line.
Patterson said he was angry because under the police jurisdiction, county residents were no longer allowed to hunt dove and squirrel.
“The reason we live in the county is because we want to enjoy that,” Patterson said. “If we wanted to live under a police jurisdiction and city laws, then we would all just load up and move there.”
Leland Fuller, who works with Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative, said the permit ordinance significantly impacts CVEC’s ability to work and serve the citizens for which it provides utilities. He criticized Kitchin and the council for their actions.
“It’s a land grab for all the money,” Fuller said. “I’ve had several discussions with him, and I’ve had several discussions with the council members at Lincoln. I told them, ‘You’re the ones who passed this ordinance. You put the ordinance back the way it was.’ It’s not right, and the amount of money, if I understand, is $600,000-$700,000 they’re taking out of the county and putting it into their coffers.”
Patterson stated a meeting will be held Monday at 9 a.m. at Lincoln City Hall, where he said he believes the mayor and council with either make a proposal or just listen to the complaints, but he made it clear the county citizens affected by the ordinance will not back down.
“The way the citizens are (leaning) is, there’s no settling here,” Patterson said. “We want to go right back to where we’re at before this ordinance was put in place, or nothing. There’s something that needs to be looked at here. The tax dollars that are being taken away from Talladega County here is major.”
A town hall meeting will also be held Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Stemley Volunteer Fire Department, and Patterson guaranteed action if the city of Lincoln doesn’t hear the voices of those upset.
“You heard what I said we’re going to do at that meeting,” Patterson said. “They can either give us what we want, or we’re not going to listen. We want to go right back to the way we were before this guy put these things in place.”
Commissioners chime in
District 5 Commissioner Greg Atkinson said if every city enforced a police jurisdiction outside of its own city limits, it would result in “total chaos” and severely impact farmers, industries and community members who struggle to get by.
“We definitely need to get some clarification from Montgomery on this,” Atkinson said. “I think this is unfair to the citizens of the county.”
Kelvin Cunningham, District 3 Commissioner, said the commission will continue to monitor the situation closely and prepare to take appropriate actions depending on the result of the two scheduled meetings.
District 2 Commissioner Jackie Swinford, whose district is one of the more heavily impacted areas in the county by Lincoln’s encroachment, vehemently vocalized his discontent with Kitchin and the city council, standing firmly in the corner of the county residents.
“The citizens of the county want to be in the county, and they don’t want to abide by the rules the city of Lincoln wants to impose upon them,” Swinford said. “If he’ll just leave our people alone in the county, he can do whatever he wants to in the city of Lincoln. He’s got to deal with them.
“Our people have no say so as to what goes on out there, and he’s imposing their will on them. That’s why they live in the county, so they can do what they want to with their property, maintain the property the way they want to and rebuild it in the way they want to in the manner they want to do it. If he’ll just them alone, we’ll be happy.”
Contact Shane Dunaway at email@example.com.