After nearly two hours of debate, the Birmingham City Council approved $48 million to fund Mayor Larry Langford's plans to redevelop Fair Park, even while those plans are incomplete.
The vote passed over strong objections from two councilors who questioned why the council was funding projects when details have not been finalized or made available to the council.
"At this point, I'm not sure what we're paying for," Councilor Valerie Abbott said.
Currently there are differing sets of artistic renderings and the mayor's office has not said what would happen to the Birmingham International Raceway. Typically the city studies feasibility, finalizes plans and determines costs before allocating money to a project, Abbott said.
Langford told the council that some details of the project are still confidential pending negotiations with potential retail businesses.
Councilor Roderick Royal argued that the mayor's office was rushing them into a premature decision.
"I don't' see why everything's a rush down there," Royal said. "Propose it Friday and we've got to vote on it Tuesday."
Mayor Langford told the councilors that if they didn't pass his park plan today, he wouldn't bring it back later.
The vote today allocates $48 million toward the project. The mayor's office has said that the city will put $55 million ultimately toward the park.
The plan will redirect funds currently allocated for a dome stadium. The mayor's office has said the city can reallocate the money since the domed stadium will not need the funds for at least 18 months.
Royal questioned whether the city was earnest about completing existing projects and whether the city could afford to spend more money. During the first four months of Langford's term, the city has pledged nearly $1 billion to new projects while the city has an annual budget of $330 million.
"To me it sounds quirky to pledge out three times your annual budget to new projects, and I think it is incumbent on us to look at that," Royal said.
Councilors Carole Smitherman, Miriam Witherspoon, Joel Montgomery, Carol Duncan and Steven Hoyt voted to fund Langford's project. Royal voted against it, and Abbott abstained. Councilor William Bell was absent.