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Birmingham continues to study B1 zoning request

By Grace Lovins


The Birmingham Planning Board held its third study session on a zoning amendment request during a special meeting on Monday, April 17, that would add several uses to buildings zoned in the B1 Neighborhood Business District.


Planners created definitions for most of the uses, but the board wants to continue working on the language of the definitions before pushing the amendment forward.


The owner of the former Grapevine Market, located at 100 West 14 Mile at Pierce Street in Birmingham, applied for the ordinance amendment requesting the new uses be added to the zoning district. B1 uses are for the convenience of shopping for persons in adjacent residential areas to permit only such uses as are necessary to satisfy limited basic shopping and/or service needs, which are not related to the shopping pattern of the general business district.


Additional uses proposed under the amendment include health club/studio, specialty food store, boutique, bank, food and beverage, and fast casual/café. Banks are already allowed in B1 zones but do not have a definition and have not been explicitly stated in the ordinance.


Planners developed a permitted use and definition for a café use, eliminating the fast casual use aspect of the proposed amendment according to senior planner Brooks Cowan, which would allow establishments to serve food and drinks for either dine-in or carry-out services. The definition would not allow for full table service and wait staff.


A category for indoor dining was also created as an accessory permitted use, said Cowan, for businesses like bakeries, food stores, grocery stores and cafés. Indoor dining would be subject to specific standards and the space for tables, seats and circulation could not be greater than 750 square feet. The parking requirements would follow the typical one-per-75 concept—one parking space for every 75 square feet — but only the assembly area would count towards the requirement as opposed to the gross square footage.


Stuart Jeffares and Bert Koseck offered that they could potentially expand the parking requirements to be 1-per-100, or one space per every 100 square feet, but three other board members disagreed. Chair Scott Clein said expanding the requirements to 1-per-100 might be too much right now considering the requirement has already been minimized to only the assembly area.


Reviewing the proposed health club/studio use, many board members said they still weren’t confident with what to do about the particular use in the zoning district. At the previous study sessions, the board was concerned that a health club/studio could become a destination for the rest of the city instead of only meeting the needs of the surrounding neighborhood.


Cowan suggested that the city could potentially allow a smaller health club use for a limited number of patrons. For example, they could allow a personal trainer to operate a studio with no more than five individuals or clients in the building at a time. Some of the board said this might be a good fix, but Williams noted it might create an extra regulatory burden for the city.


Williams raised the issue that the city would have to find a way to regulate who shows up and how many people are in the building at all times.


Board members also asked planners to create a definition, or potentially two, for a bank use in the zoning district. The use is currently allowed in B1 zones under ‘office,’ but does not stand alone as a use in the ordinance. Jeffares said they should make sure if there is a bank use, it has to be a bank that services the public, being teller focused and transaction focused, as opposed to being an office space with little functional use for the public.


“If there’s a definition of financial transactions, teller-based, transactional, what have you, it sounds like [the board is] a bit more comfortable with that in the whole of B1 whereas if you’re talking about things like the credit union where there are offices and other things it sounds like there’s concern that perhaps that should be a special land use itself because location is a little more significant,” Clein said.


The board directed planners to work on creating definitions for bank and tightening the language and method of measuring parking for indoor dining compared to the other uses for board members to review at the next study session.

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