By Scott Buttram, publisher
TRUSSVILLE — The erosion is terrible. In fact, it’s as bad as anything I’ve ever seen and it is weighing heavily on residents of Windsong. They have watched their lake, their neighborhood centerpiece, turn into a giant mud puddle as erosion spills down from the Stockton construction site. This has gone on for months.
City leaders, for their part, have tried to allow the process between the developer and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management take it’s course. They’ve received reports and updates from the state agency that seem to indicate progress. Engineers have been brought in to address the problem.
More reports. Band-Aids applied to stop the hemorrhaging. Solutions that solve nothing. These guys are good. They know how to play the game. You get the feeling that the developer, Signature Homes, the ADEM and the engineering Spectrum Group have danced together before. They seem to know all the steps and all the songs by heart.
Last night at the Trussville City Council meeting, you could see from the looks on the faces of the mayor and city council that they were beginning to get the picture that Windsong residents already see. This is all smoke and mirrors.
Trussville means no more to Signature Homes than any other city where they’re building the latest subdivision. And like any mass developer, they’ve dealt with complaining neighbors and mud runoff before. It’s just another day at the office. Mayors and city councilors don’t come from their world, don’t know how the game is played, and mass home developers know it.
This is the Trussville Youth Football League versus the Green Bay Packers and the Packers have the TYFL playbook.
A complaint from the city and residents? That’s easy. Show concern. Keep building. Promise to fix the problem. Keep building. Hire an engineer. Keep building. Write a report. Keep building. Execute minimum solutions. Keep building. Issue more reports. Keep building. Wait out the three-month ADEM process. Keep building. Pay the ADEM fine. Keep building. Feign surprise when solutions don’t work. Keep building. Rinse. Repeat. Keep building. Keep building. Keep building.
Had city leaders issued a stop-work order in November of 2020, when the erosion started, the developer would have built a berm to stop the mud that would make the Army Corp of Engineers blush. Windsong lake would have been cleaned up faster than spilled milk on grandma’s kitchen floor. Because if you stop the cash flow you stop the problem.
Any day now, the U.S. Census Bureau is going to release the 2020 city population numbers. My best guess is, for the second decade in a row, Trussville will have the highest percentage of growth among all cities in Jefferson County. This will not be the last mass home builder in Trussville. This will happen again.
City leaders know by now what Windsong residents have known for a while. They’ve been played. The question is: are they ready to send the message to this developer and future developers that the game is over?
Scott Buttram is the publisher of The Trussville Tribune. Email him at Scott.Buttram@trussvilletribune.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottButtram.