Birmingham city commissioners postponed approving a contract for the city's master plan update after hearing from DPZ, the recommended firm, at their meeting on Monday, September 17, and not being completely satisfied, requested to hear from the other firm meeting the city's qualifications during the request for proposal (RFP).
Planning director Jana Ecker said the city received three responses to the RFP, with two, from DPZ of Miami, and MKSK of Columbus, meeting the requirements. The ad hoc master plan selection committee interviewed both firms on August 29, did formal evaluations, and after tallying both, said that DPZ came up in the lead, for an amount of $298,000, to provide professional services to prepare an update of the city's comprehensive master plan of the entire city.
Commissioners were concerned reading the materials provided that DPZ, formerly known as Duany Plater-Zybeck, who created the city's 2016 Plan, was overly focused on the city's retail area, and was not looking to incorporate the neighborhoods and other subplans. They extensively questioned DPZ partner Matthew Lambert and Bob Gibbs, of Gibbs Planning Group in Birmingham.
A split among the commissioners developed, with mayor Andy Harris and commissioners Stuart Sherman and Pierre Boutros supporting approving the contract with DPZ, and mayor pro tem Patty Bordman, commissioners Rackeline Hoff and Carroll DeWeese against without hearing from MKSK, and Mark Nickita absent.
“I'm uncomfortable making a decision without hearing from both because I'm only hearing from one side of the story,” DeWeese said.
“I don't see any reason to not go with the recommendation of the committee,” Harris said.
“We don't appoint a committee to do what you're asking the commission to do all over again,” Sherman noted.
“I am not a rubber stamp,” Bordman challenged.
Harris said he objected to the characterization of the meeting as a rubber stamp. “We have received reams of documentation and asked dozens of questions.”
Sherman suggested asking the teams to come back for full presentations, but Hoff and Bordman felt they had heard from DPZ, and it was determined that just MKSK needed to come before the commission in the future to answer questions.