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Changes to local zoning businesses approved

By Lisa Brody


After a business owner at 14 Mile and Pierce requested an amendment to the zoning ordinance for neighborhood business district to permit further uses, and study and recommendation by the city's planning board, the Birmingham City Commission unanimously approved the expansion of the ordinance to include specialty food store, boutique, bank, cafe and health club/studio, at their meeting on Monday, July 25.


The owner of 100 W. 14 Mile, which previously housed Grapevine Market, had come to the city planning department because he was having difficulty leasing out the property. 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. He requested an amendment to the zoning ordinance for the city's B1 district, known as neighborhood business district, to permit further uses. At a public hearing on July 25, city planner Brooks Cowan explained a neighborhood business district is adjacent to single family homes.


At their meeting on June 14, the planning board recommended amendment changes to the ordinance after studying it for several months and over four meetings. Cowan explained new permitted uses are specialty food, boutique, bank, and a cafe, but not a full service restaurant.


Cowan said planning board members felt that full service food and drink did not mesh well with their concept of a neighborhood establishment. Their idea of a cafe, he said, is one that offers counter service, carryout, small items, perhaps baked goods like bagels or croissants. “It could have tables and chairs, but only up to 500 square feet, for people maybe sitting down to drink their coffee and eat their baked goods,” he said.


Planning board members wrestled with concepts of health clubs or fitness studios, 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 planning study session, city staff added a special land use permit requirement to help regulate the different uses, to allow for classes with five to 10 people or personal training.


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