Northport Councilman Proposes Repealing Protections for Community Center
A city councilman and local restaurateur is proposing to repeal decades-old city law that places special protections on some recreational property in the city, including the hotly debated Northport Community Center.
As the Thread reported earlier this month, the Northport City Council is weighing whether to sell the community center, which sits off Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard as you enter the city from Tuscaloosa, to a private developer looking to bring a mixed use development to the property.
That idea drew fierce opposition when it was first publicly introduced two weeks ago which was only exacerbated when the city council did not allow anyone to speak against the idea before they voted in favor of tentatively awarding the bid to sell the property after six months of due diligence.
Supporters of saving the community center have found some comfort in clearly worded city law, adopted three decades ago in June 1993, called Resolution 93-029.
It specifically requires a unanimous vote of the five-member council and the mayor, who normally does not vote on anything, in order to sell city-owned property with a recreational use, which includes the community center in question.
More on that later.
The council met again Monday night, and although there was no action taken regarding the community center, two citizens did speak and ask the council to vote against selling the property when the time comes.
Near the end of the meeting, District 2 Councilman Woodrow Washington addressed the matter at length. He said only a vocal minority of Northport residents oppose selling the property, and within that group a very small number of people have taken matters too far.
Washington said he, his four fellow council members and mayor John Hinton have been "bullied" for the last two weeks over the matter, with some residents reportedly making personal attacks, accusations and calling for boycotts of businesses associated with the city council.
Washington, a co-owner of Archibald & Woodrow's BBQ, said it was unacceptable to "attack" the council about the potential sale of that property.
"How do you call out the oldest Black business in the city of Northport about boycotting? Calling on thousands of folks not to go to my business? That bothers the world out of me," Washington said. "Once again 97 percent are not part of this, it's 3 percent."
Washington is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and also retired as a captain in the Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue Service.
"My whole life has been serving and I can honestly tell you, 3 percent [won't] bully me," Washington said.
Washington said he feels opponents to the sale are hoping they can "bully" one council member or the mayor enough that they "break" and vote to preserve the community center as-is.
Thanks to the 1993 resolution, the sale would not be allowed.
"I'm just being honest as ever, the plan that you guys tried, is attacking us and it's not right," he said. "I was attacked personally, to intimidate me and coerce me, it's not right. You only have to break one person on this council or the mayor - the mayor received a letter I believe, an email, calling him ungodly - it's not right."
Washington then called to repeal Resolution 93-029.
"We're going to go in a different direction and everybody in here might be mad at me after tonight, it's fine, because I feel like 30 years ago when they said five [council members] and one mayor have to approve this they didn't think about Facebook, that you can bash somebody and belittle somebody and kill somebody's name," he said. "I hereby make a motion, for first reading, to repeal, in its entirety, Resolution 93-029 passed on June 21, 1993 by the Northport City Council."
Now the council will consider that motion at their next meeting in two weeks. If they vote to repeal 93-029, the community center could then be sold on a simple majority vote of the council and without mayoral input.
For updates on the future of the community center as they develop, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.