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Planning board studies B1 zoning potential uses

By Grace Lovins


The owner of the former Grapevine Market, located at 100 West 14 Mile at Pierce Street in Birmingham, has applied for an ordinance amendment to expand the possible uses for buildings zoned in the B1 Business Neighborhood District, leading Birmingham’s planning board to hold a second study session on Wednesday, March 8, examining the proposed added uses and providing planning staff with next steps.


B1 uses, per the meeting’s packet, 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 have not been explicitly stated in the ordinance.


Planning board members spent the session reviewing the definitions of food and beverage, specialty food store, and health club/studio. Board members were apprehensive about the possibility of including health club/studio as a B1 use given the potential for the club to become a destination, not a business meant for the convenience of the neighborhood in the area, and the demand for parking in studios offering things like yoga or pilates classes.


“I’m more concerned with classes like that because in 1,500 square feet you can fit well more than 20 people doing yoga, and like Bert [Koseck] described, on the hour when it changes there’s 20 people waiting to come into that space. I think it’s a slippery slope for health studios. We have a lot of other locations throughout the city where health studios are,” said board member Janelle Boyce.


Senior planner Brooks Cowan explained that the specialty food store definition was created in 2015 along with the TZ3 zones – locations such as Prima Piatti Market and Simply Good are considered specialty food stores. These uses don’t allow for indoor dining but carry-out service, Cowan said. The board was unclear on how they would distinguish between a grocery store, specialty food store and a full-service restaurant, and agreed that they would need to consider what uses they would be okay with given they don’t want to open the door for national chains to operate in these areas.


Multiple board members also had problems with the inclusion of food and beverage as an added use. Food and beverage, said Cowan, would be a full-service restaurant with wait staff and a one-per-75 parking requirement. Board member Daniel Share suggested that staff could find a way to limit the size or the number of tables related to size to keep the use limited for the neighbors, giving Holiday Market as an example.


The rest of the board agreed that Holiday Market is a restaurant use and they’re concerned about it being in the B1 district. Share offered that the amendment could include an ancillary or accessory use which, chairperson Scott Clein then suggested, could be subject to a special land use permit.


Michael Vogt, attorney representing the applicant, offered his opinion on the board’s discussion. According to Vogt, potentially adding a special land use permit condition could become a big hurdle for the mom-and-pop type businesses that the applicant intends to have in the building. He agreed with the board’s idea that a café or specialty food store definition would serve well to keep out national chains, and he thinks the idea of dividing the spaces up per the building code to regulate the space could help resolve potential parking issues.


Board members gave direction to planning staff to look at a dining component as an accessory use – potentially subject to a special land use permit – creating a definition for cafés, and dive into how the amendment could regulate the spaces.

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