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Second draft of master plan begins review

By Kevin Elliott


The Birmingham Planning Board on Wednesday, November 10, began the public review process of the second draft plan of the city’s 2040 master plan, which outlines long range planning and land use in the city.


The city commission and planning board accepted the second draft of the plan in October, with review sessions planned for November 10, December 8, January 12 and February 9. The reviews will include input from the planning board and members of the public, which will then be incorporated into a third draft of the plan. The review on November 10 focused on the introduction and first chapter of the plan: Connecting the City.


Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) CoDesign partner Matthew Lambert, which drafted the plan for the city, said a new map was provided to the city that specifically denotes any recommended changes in land use and zoning. Further, he stressed that all low-intensity seams identified in the plan do not recommend any changes to land use.


“Low-intensity seams don’t change land use, they remain single family,” he said. “This change has been following the clear direction we received to reduce seams for this draft.”


Main themes of connecting the city involved actions to address vehicle speeds, crossing conditions and lane reductions for Woodward Avenue, which bisects the city’s downtown and Triangle District. The plan also aims to redefine the downtown districts and better connect them, including Haynes Square, Adams Square and encouraging gathering places.


Lambert also discussed creating a neighborhood loop, which would include a bicycle boulevard that encompasses the city. The plan also included several revisions to the city’s multi-modal plan to encourage pedestrian enhancements, such as benches and improved bus stops.


Among the suggestions were the recommendation for commercial spaces in some local parks, such as Booth Park. Board members discussed the extent of “commercial” space, which could range from a vending machine in some locations to a food truck or cafe.


Planning board member Dan Share questioned whether residents living in adjacent neighborhoods had input in the concept. Share also said there appeared to be too many specific prescriptions put forth in the plan, such as the recommendation for event gathering locations.


“I found that there’s still too much, what I call social engineering, for my tastes,” Share said. “I counted up maybe a dozen tasks and couple dozen committees, and I think it’s too prescriptive and some of those aren’t really land use issues.”


Board member Janelle Boyce said she was confused about the concept of the neighborhood loop, and how it would connect the city if it circles the city, but doesn’t connect it to the center.


The board gave Lambert direction to revise the neighborhood loop concept to focus on ensuring clear sidewalks and walkability that connects throughout the city, rather than a specific loop.


A full version of the 2040 plan is available for review at thebirminghamplan.com online. The site also includes an interactive land use map that allows users to select a specific property and see any specific changes recommended.


The planning board will discuss and review managed growth in the second chapter of the plan at its December 8 board meeting.

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