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Birmingham 2040 Plan to head to commission

By Kevin Elliott

The Birmingham Planning Board on Wednesday, March 9, finished its review of the second draft of the city’s 2040 Master Plan, which will be sent to the city commission for a final review during a joint-study session.

The planning board received the second draft of the plan in October of 2021 from planning consultants DPZ CoDesign, and has held six workshops to review each chapter of the plan. The plan acts as a roadmap for development and the character of the city and its residential neighborhoods, business areas and all other zoning districts in the city. The plan also brings together transportation, parks and recreation, and pedestrian plans.

Planning board members on Wednesday shared their insight and concerns with DPZ consultant Matthew Lambert, who has been working with the city and public to craft the plan.

Lambert said he was hoping to affirm the general direction of the plan and discuss its priorities. He provided the board with a list of 20 points describing the general direction of the plan, as well as eight priorities.

Priorities from the top down were listed as: improving traffic and safety crossing on Woodward Avenue; Market North and the Lower Rail districts; establishing a sustainability board; unbundling downtown parking/studying attainable housing goals; improvements along the Rouge River; implementing the unimproved streets plan; updating zoning codes; and studying Haynes Square.

Planning board member Stuart Jeffares said a key priority of the plan should be to unify the city. “The city is split to the east and west of Woodward, and a goal of the master plan is to unify the two sides. The crossing makes it easier, but it’s also a higher level thing.”

Board members also pushed back on Lambert’s recommendation to pursue 20 mph speed limits in residential neighborhood streets.

“It’s a bad idea,” said board member Daniel Share. “It doesn’t work. We shouldn’t spend time on it in the master plan.

Share also recommended incorporating zoning recommendations with neighborhood preservation, rather than updating codes to remove redundancies or outdated language alone. Board members Bryan Williams and Bert Koseck agreed, adding that the plan should stress actionable items, rather than concepts.

“The city has to take initiative,” Koseck said. “The master plan can’t sit and languish. Priorities must be clear and stress why time is of the essence.”

“We are impressing on the city commission the priority of items on the list, but also to incorporate those that effect development into ordinance language,” Williams said. “Saying ‘maybe one day we will get a park in the Triangle District or Haynes Square isn’t good enough. With some of these items there will have to be consideration of ordinance changes as provisions in the plan. In general, the city hasn’t done a good job with incorporating that into the plan.”

A joint-meeting with the city commission and planning board will be scheduled later this month or in April.


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