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Birmingham commission okays 2040 master plan

By Grace Lovins

Birmingham’s 2040 Master Plan, known as The Birmingham Plan, was approved by the city commission after a public hearing during the meeting on Monday, May 22, concluding the planning process that began in 2017.

A city's master plan serves as a guide that helps communities envision what they want to be and look like in the future. Some of the major considerations included in Birmingham’s master plan, according to planning director Nick Dupuis, include zoning and future land use, housing, sustainability, parks, multi-modal infrastructure, Woodward Avenue and commercial destinations.

During the public hearing, several residents who commented took issue with the plan’s recommendation for accessory dwelling units and neighborhood seams. Some said the accessory dwelling units are not a good advancement for quality of life, while others were concerned that the units would plummet the value of their homes when they look to sell.

An accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, is an independent dwelling unit on the same lot as a single-family residential unit, which Dupuis said is a major consideration for aging-in-place and affordability. According to Dupuis, the plan recommends that staff study it in the future and enable ADUs in currently compatible zones where multiple units are allowed on the same lot already.

There are three neighborhood seams proposed in the plan including access, activity and buffer seams. Access seams focus on multi-modal and street improvements, and activity and buffer seams propose housing changes to promote smaller multi-family type units, said Dupuis.

Commissioners Brad Host and Andrew Haig agreed they felt the plan wasn’t ready for approval. Host stated he wanted three items changed in the plan: eliminate the neighborhood seams, strengthen the language to make is clear the city doesn’t want commercial destinations in parks and prohibit accessory dwelling units.

Haig said the commission hasn’t had the chance to ask questions about the draft to the planning board like they had with the outdoor dining ordinance, and he didn't think they should rubber stamp it.

The rest of the commission disagreed, noting they have been working on the plan since 2017, have had multiple opportunities for the public to engage in the drafting and planning process and, if any rezoning or other implementations were to occur, there would still be a lengthy process that involves the opportunity for public input.

“Every [public] comment that has been made has been taken very seriously. That’s why we got where we are today. … It’s not a perfect plan – there’s no such perfect thing. Any change or any implementation of this will still involve a public hearing, will still involve us as residents,” said commissioner Pierre Boutros.

The commission voted 5-2 to approve and adopt the Birmingham Plan 2040. Commissioners Haig and Host voted against the motion.


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