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B1 zoning amendment gets green light

By Grace Lovins

A zoning ordinance amendment request to permit additional uses for properties in the B1 zone, for small business usage, was recommended for approval by the Birmingham Planning Board on Wednesday, June 14.

Back in February, the owner of the former Grapevine Market, located at 100 W. 14 Mile at Pierce Street, proposed the ordinance amendment to add new uses to properties in the B1 zone. Trying to expand available tenant options for the vacant space, the owner petitioned the amendment to add health club or studio, bank, food and beverage, specialty food store, boutique and fast-causal café.

Planning board members agreed that they didn’t feel comfortable including a food and beverage use early on, saying it could potentially lead to popular chain establishments and could become a destination for the rest of the city rather than a business that fits the B1 zone, and lead to parking issues. Instead, city staff suggested creating a ‘café’ category for lighter intensity.

A ‘café’ use would include a mix of carry-out and dine-in, specifically excluding full table service. The use requires one parking space for every 75 square feet of indoor dining area. Staff also added indoor dining as an accessory permitted use for the zone limited to either 500 square foot assembly area or 50 percent of the tenant space.

At past meetings, the board was hesitant to keep the health club or studio use, primarily due to parking. The current parking requirement in the ordinance for health club is one parking space per 500 square feet, mostly catered to larger, “big box” gyms like LA Fitness or Lifetime.

After the second study session, city staff added a special land use permit requirement to help regulate the different uses. Some of the board members still didn’t approve of the health club or studio use.

“I’m still uncomfortable with the health club being included even though it is a [special land use permit.] I don’t think we have the proper definitions on that yet. I don’t think we’re prepared for the varied types of uses…I would ask that we eliminate that and then move forward with anything else,” said chairperson Scott Clein.

Agreeing, board member Janelle Boyce said she’s more at ease with having the special land use permit but still uncomfortable and worried about potential parking issues. Board members Daniel Share and Bryan Williams both said they were inclined to leave it in since the special land use permit will give them the ability to regulate the use.

“I think that there is a place in these neighborhood center for small fitness, health club type uses, and I think that the special land use permit gives us the ability to regulate that and distinguish between them. It may be that there is an occasional difficult case that comes up, but I would error on the side of having a use that fits rather than having to say ‘no’ to somebody who we all agree as ‘Oh yeah, that use makes sense for here,’” Share said.

The board voted 6-1 to recommend approval of the B1 zoning amendment to the city commission. Clein voted against the recommendation noting his discomfort with the health club or studio use.

The amendment, proposing four additional uses and one accessory use, will now head to the city commission for approval.

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