Chelsea mayor says there’s no path forward in city annexing Dunnavant Valley

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SHELBY COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Despite some neighbors’ concerns, Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer insists he will not try to annex parts of Dunnavant Valley, such as Highland Lakes and Mt. Laurel, into the city.

“To have your own school is a lot of money,” said Jack Little, a resident of Highland Lakes and member of the Self Determination for Dunnavant Valley group.

With annexations of nearby land happening over the summer and plans for a new high school in Chelsea, Little said he’s not convinced the annexation battle is over in his community.

“So I think that that leaves open for an opportunity to change later on if the situation changes,” he said.

After going through Chelsea City Council agendas, CBS 42 found that the city has approved 77 ordinances to annex properties so far this year, including some pieces of land off Highways 41 and 43.

During an informational meeting at Double Oak Community Church last month, Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer said “I no longer see a path” regarding annexation in Dunnavant Valley.

“They don’t want to become a part of the City of Chelsea, they don’t want the additional property tax and that’s okay,” Picklesimer said in an interview with CBS 42.

Picklesimer went on to say he never saw a path forward for annexation in that area because of the fire dues residents would owe, as well as opposition from many neighbors. He said that if annexed, residents served by the Cahaba Valley Fire Department would owe six years of fire dues to get out of their contract with the department.

Little said his property taxes are very reasonable in unincorporated Shelby County, adding that being annexed into Chelsea would likely mean increased taxes down the line, especially with a new high school on the way.

“We moved here for one reason and that’s property taxes,” Little explained.

However, some neighbors in Shelby County aren’t against annexation.

“Me and my family are looking forward to being annexed and being a part of the Chelsea School System,” Roy Berryman said.

Berryman and his family live in Forest Parks, located off of Hwy. 280 between Dunnavant Valley Road and Hwy. 43. Part of his neighborhood has already been annexed by Chelsea.

“I think what the mayor is doing is showing some forethought to help Chelsea prepare to have the education facilities necessary for the growth that Chelsea is experiencing,” he said.

Berryman said higher taxes would be worth it to them for an investment in education.

Picklesimer said he plans to break free from the Shelby County School system and create a city school system. He explained it would allow for more school improvements because they could ensure funding goes directly to Chelsea Schools. Currently, being a part of a county school system, funding is divided across all the schools.

Picklesimer explained the city was never relying on annexing Dunnavant Valley communities like Highland Lakes and Mt. Laurel to pay for a new school. He said the plan is to use a long-term loan in the form of a bond, and a one-cent sales tax increase is already in effect.

If Chelsea creates its own city school system, that would mean the children currently attending Chelsea schools would have to go to a different Shelby County school if their household isn’t in the city of Chelsea and they do not annex.

It’s why parents like Berryman want to be annexed into the city, to keep their children in the same education system they are in.

While Picklesimer has vowed not to move forward with annexing communities like Highland Lakes and Mt. Laurel in Dunnavant Valley, he said they’re still expanding in other areas.

“We’re annexing contiguous properties with every opportunity we get,” he said. “We want to grow our city.”

Picklesimer said there are plans for a possible merger with Westover, but right now, they are focusing on annexing in places that want to be a part of Chelsea.

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