City master plan review of neighborhood quality
By Kevin Elliott
Birmingham Planning Board members on Wednesday, January 12, reviewed the second draft of the city’s Master Plan 2040 long-range planning document and how it relates to retaining neighborhood quality throughout the city.
Board members met with Matthew Lambert with DPZ Co-Design, which is heading up the project on behalf of the city. On January 12, Lambert and board members discussed the third chapter of the citywide master plan, which focuses on retaining neighborhood quality through parks; pedestrian-friendly streets; retaining the city’s tree canopy; revising parking restrictions; and retaining housing character in neighborhoods.
Lambert noted that the third chapter identifies the Torry neighborhood as the area of the city that is most notably lacking park space, recommending future open space or the development of Worth Park to assist in meeting park needs in the area.
Planning board member Bert Koseck said it’s unlikely Worth Park, at just a half acre, would offer much of a draw to the Torry neighborhood, which is already split up. Further, Koseck said, there were some areas of the chapter that needed revision, in which statements don’t always ring true.
“There’s a blanket statement that ‘Birmingham’s streets are beautiful,’ and I would say generally that’s true, but some are in bad shape,” Koseck said. “The same with the tree canopy. In some areas it’s retained, in some areas, no.”
Koseck said he liked many suggestions, including the formation of a committee to establish tree policies, if that’s not being done already. Additionally, he agreed with a recommendation to lower speed limits in residential neighborhoods from 25 mph to 20 mph.
“I would love it if you can do it,” Koseck said about the speed limits.
Board member Daniel Share said the plan oversteps the bounds of a master plan in some areas, and treads on the parks and recreation board where it recommends park. He also disagreed with the idea of lowering speed limits.
“I grew up in a town where the speed limit was 20 mph, and it didn’t work,” Share said. “If you read the state statute, it says the opposite of what you say in here.”
Board member Robin Boyle said he appreciated expanded information on parks. However, he said the plan may need to be more directive in its recommendations.
“Everyone agrees that we have wonderful neighborhoods, but not everyone would agree that all the neighborhoods are good. I live in a neighborhood with great tree coverage and architecture, but the streets are terrible,” Boyle said. “We should have a plan that pushes people to take action, like those that sit here Monday nights (city commission)… we need to be more directive in where we put our time and money.”
Birmingham received the second draft of the 2040 Master Plan in October of 2021, after nearly two years of review and input. The planning board will conduct a full review before further direction is given by the city commission, with a third and final draft to follow.
A full version of the plan is available for review online at thebirminghamplan.com. The planning board will meet on Wednesday, February 9, to discuss the fourth and fifth chapters of the plan: Support Mixed-Use Districts, and Advance Sustainability Practices. The public is invited to each session and encouraged to provide comments in person and online at thebirminghamplan.com.