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  • By Lisa Brody

Commissioners weigh in on master plan work

As part of the Birmingham Master Plan 2040 charrette summary and update, city commissioners reviewed the process so far and provided input to plan developers at their meeting on Monday, July 8.

A series of charrettes were held in mid-May to gather input from residents, followed by another set of open houses this past week. The new master plan is primarily focused on the city's neighborhoods and their integration within the city.

In December 2018, the city commission chose DPZ Partners, LLC, to provide professional services to prepare an update to the city's comprehensive master plan. The group led by DPZ was recommended to the commission by the ad hoc master plan selection committee after interviewing and hearing formal presentations from DPZ of Miami, formerly known as Duany Plater-Zybeck, and MKSK of Columbus.

DPZ, known then as Duany Plater-Zybeck, helmed by master urban planner and designer Andres Duany, created the city's 2016 Plan in 1996, focused on the city's core downtown. This citywide master plan will focus on the neighborhoods, residents, and how they work with one another, parks, downtown, transportation and other issues, as the 2016 Plan focused on the downtown area. This is the first citywide master plan since 1980.

Matt Lambert, partner at DPZ and project manager for the master plan process, informed commissioners that “at this point we haven't begun drafting the master plan. The goal we're setting for the first plan is you to review it the end of September.”

He said a second resident survey has opened on the website, and they are asking the public for input on each specific proposal presented at a preliminary presentation of the master plan in May. “The tab 'participate' has the link to the survey,” he said. He noted this survey is longer than the prior one.

“It's taking people about 25 minutes to complete because we're asking for comments on each aspect,” he said.

As he and his team were meeting with the public this week in July, he said a lot of people were talking about cut-through traffic in neighborhoods, “which wasn't addressed with the charrette process, and we need to add that.”

Commissioner Carroll DeWeese pointed out a note about having a meeting place built at Barnum Park, “but we have a meeting place – The Community House. You may want to talk to with The Community House, the library. It's more important to have a place that's is central to everyone.”

Commissioner Rackeline Hoff commented about neighborhood parking, and a recommendation to simplify the parking zone code. “One of your suggestions is to just have three conditions – but how would that be enforced?” she asked. “It's no good to come up with ideas that can't be enforced.”

Commissioner Mark Nickita had a laundry list of recommendations to have incorporated, from refining lot combinations, to refining sides of streets in areas of the retail zone, and defining and strengthening the linkages between the assets that are already there. He also recommended the master plan incorporate long-term and short-term goals, as the 2016 Plan had.

“These are things that helped up implement gains, and some were low-hanging fruits – they were easy to get implemented,” he said.

“One of the concerns I have, and that many, many people mention to me, is the character of the neighborhoods,” said mayor Patty Bordman. “I was hoping to see some mention in the master plan on how the neighborhoods are developing, either by ordinance or planning.”

Lambert said it had been a “bit of a was 50-50. Some people worried about changes in neighborhoods, and others not. In the charrettes, people only wanted to talk about affordability.”

Lambert said the current time line to produce the drafts of the master plan has them presenting the first draft to the city commission on Monday, September 23; the second draft on Monday, January 13; and the final plan by mid-February.

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