1980s Birmingham annexations

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The 1980s Birmingham annexations were a series of additions of previously unincorporated Jefferson and Shelby Counties which greatly increased the geographical size of the City of Birmingham in the 1980s. The initiative was first laid out by Mayor David Vann as a means of acquiring property with potential for future economic development to offset the inner city's declining population and tax base and its "concentration of urban problems."

The real implementation of the annexation policy began during Mayor Richard Arrington's second term., and under the direct guidance of city planner H. W. Carson and mayoral aide Ed Lamonte. The first major acquisition was a 7,000-acre parcel, part of which was used for the city-backed development of the Birmingham Turf Club. The other large tract to be annexed was in the Oxmoor Valley, south of Red Mountain. Other areas annexed included Birmingport on the Black Warrior River and a water tower in Mount Olive.

To reach some of these areas, the city used a legal doctrine popularly dubbed "long lasso" in which public rights-of-way that connected the city to distant parcels could be employed as a form of contiguity. Criticism of Birmingham's ambitious annexation project led some to lobby the Alabama State Legislature to close what was seen as a loophole and, if possible, to reverse some of the city's annexations. Shelby County representative John Tanner was among the fiercest opponents. He said of the first Birmingham Fire Station No. 32 on Highway 280, "This fire station has as much to do with the City of Birmingham as the Philippines do to the United States."

A relatively modest number new residents were added to Birmingham's population as a direct result of annexation in the 1980s, mostly in predominantly African-American communities such as Brownville, which voted to merge with Birmingham in 1981, and Roosevelt City in 1988.


  • Schmidt, William E. (October 10, 1986) "Growing Birmingham irks neighbors." The New York Times