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Public hearing for Birmingham master plan set

By Grace Lovins

The Birmingham Planning Board moved to set a date for a public hearing on the city’s 2040 Master Plan for Wednesday, March 8, in a unanimous decision at their meeting on Wednesday, February 8, to bring the city one step closer to finalizing the draft after a four-year process.

At the board’s previous meeting on Wednesday, January 25, board members came to the consensus they would hold off on scheduling the public hearing so they could review some areas of concern relating to the draft’s language. Members were to create a list of concerns that could be quickly addressed at the February 8 meeting before setting the date for the public hearing.

The board ran through a list of concerns raised by Daniel Share, Janelle Boyce, Stuart Jeffares, Bryan Williams and chairperson Scott Clein, all relative to clarifications in the plan’s language. For instance, Share suggested clarifying the section on metered parking to specify where it should be added, and Boyce suggested adding a definition of a circulator on page 40 of the draft.

The bulk of the discussion focused on clarifying or correcting the categorization of parcels on the land use maps. Board members discussed the northeast and southeast corners of Lincoln and Eton streets – the northeast corner is set to be categorized as a commercial destination and the southeast for activity. At the board’s previous meeting, multiple neighbors expressed their concern over categorizing the northeast corner as a commercial destination, most saying they do not want to lose that green space in their neighborhood.

Clein, reflecting on the comments previously made by neighbors regarding the southeast corner, said that he tends to agree with the neighbors in this case. Williams also agreed, saying they’d eliminate the proposed change to commercial destination and leave the space as it is now, and the rest of the board concurred.

The northeast corner, which is currently an open space, is the entry to the rail district, argued Robin Boyle, and “a green field with a few people playing Pilates in the summer is not the way to enter the rail district,” he said. Share disagreed, saying they could have a nice entry way with the green space and the fact that it’s underused now doesn’t mean it will be underused in the future.

“As a fully built-out city, once you give up green space, generally speaking, you’re not getting it back, so my bias would be toward leaving it as parkland,” Share said. Jeffares, along with five residents of the area who gave comments, concurred. The neighbors argued that the area already has too much traffic for a commercial use, and with a commercial use, parking will need to be provided, which, some said, would create another issue.

Nick Dupuis, planning director, said that he feels if the property were to have a commercial use it potentially wouldn’t take up the entire space and could leave enough of an area for the neighbors to still use the parcel as an outdoor activity space. Clein, in disagreement, said that by designating the parcel as a commercial destination, they’re trying to complete the fabric of the rail district, so the commercial use would be commensurate with whatever requirements are set for the district.

Eventually, the board decided to leave the southeast corner designated as a commercial destination, with Williams noting residents will have another opportunity to share their concerns at the public hearing. Board members voted 7-0 to set the date for the public hearing, with alternate member Jason Emerine voting in place of board member Bert Koseck.


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