Public helps shape city 2040 Master Plan
By Kevin Elliott
More than 300 online comments and input from nearly a dozen public meetings over the course of the past two years will be used to shape the second draft of Birmingham’s 2040 Master Plan.
The long-range planning document serves as a citywide plan coordinating area-specific plans, such as the Triangle or Rail districts, and topic-based plans, including parking or multi-modal, and provide an opportunity to re-evaluate recommendations. The first draft of the plan includes proposed future policies and actions to be undertaken by the city.
Birmingham city commissioners affirmed the remaining steps of the plan in a resolution at their meeting on Monday, March 8, and set forth the direction for the second draft. Specifically, the resolution set out the key themes and objectives of the 2040 Plan: to connect the city; embrace managed growth; retain neighborhood quality; invest in civic spaces and programs; support mixed-used areas; and advance sustainability practices. The resolution further affirms the remaining process, from the first draft through the final draft of the plan.
The city commission unanimously approved the resolution.
Under the direction of the commission’s resolution, the city’s planning board will continue to review and solicit input on the first draft of the 2040 Plan, which began on Wednesday, March 10, with planning consultants with DPZ CoDesign who summarized years of public comment received during the planning process in a report to be forwarded to city commissioners. The commission will then recommend changes to the first draft. Using that input, as well as subsequent public comment, DPZ will then prepare a second draft of the 2040 Plan in May.
The process requires up to four public meetings to review the second draft of the 2040 Plan, as well as a joint meeting with commissioners and planning board members. A final draft will then be prepared, which will be distributed to adjoining communities, as required by state law. The planning board and city commission will then hold public hearings on the final draft of the plan, with commissioners making the final decision on adoption.
Matthew Lambert, planning consultant with DPZ, said the planning team received about 320 individual public comments through the project website and via email. Public input was also collected during 11 public meetings. Additional feedback was collected in a survey following the release of the first draft, with 210 responses and 142 comments in the open-ended questions.
“Some public comment has clearly expressed concern that changes have not yet been made,” Lambert said. “We are now completing the initial review to collect input. It has been quite lengthy, bur that has also allowed greater detail in review. Once the initial review is complete, the second draft will be written, reflecting the input received.”
In his report, Lambert summarized general direction provided by the board, as well as specific direction to mixed-use districts and neighborhoods.
The report reflected the community’s overwhelming opposition to the “neighborhood seams” approach, which they felt took too many bold changes in regard to housing density on the edge of single family neighborhoods. “Seams should be significantly reduced in location, intensity and building types allowed, and be thoughtfully located in the limited areas where they may be appropriate.”
The planning board at its workshop approved forwarding the summary to the city commission, along with comments from the meeting for review and input into the second draft.
Planning board chair Scott Clein reminded participants that the city anticipates 2,000 new residents occupying as many as 1,000 new homes by 2040.
“I’ve heard a number of comments and again here tonight about this needs to be a plan for the people who are here and paid now,” Clein said. “The only comment I’ll make is one to get you to think.
“This is a plan for 2040. In 2040 – without being too dark – there are a number of members on this (Zoom) call who will not be here. In fact, there are a number of people who do not live in this community that will not only be members of this community, but they may be members of this board or the city commission. As we sit here and talk about a master plan, we are talking about 22 years from now, so we need to balance what is best for those here now with what is best for this community in the future, knowing that our population is going to change. And, quite frankly, that’s a good thing.”