New Zoning Ordinance: 2 days after Mardi Gras is Deadline for your Input - March 8th

March 3, 2019

A meeting for residents of all of midtown's historic districts with city Planners about the Proposed Zoning Ordinance (Unified Development Code or UDC) was held Feb. 13 at the Main Branch of the Library.  About 40 attendees were able to receive a broad overview and ask questions.THE FEEDBACK PERIOD ENDS MARCH 8!very important.  If we fail to advocate for what we like, others may advocate successfully to get those elements removed!

The main points were:

A.  For historic properties and downtown, the MHDC, ARB procedures remain in place and the DDD standards remain for downtown.  HIstoric district signage standards remain in place.

B.  The new code focuses more on DESIGN and SITE PLAN standards to insure improved street facades, and less on individual USES.

C.  The USE categories are broad, and on the Table of Uses, each allowed Use is marked as Permitted by Right ("P") which means no public input, or Conditional ("C") which means an application process is required with public input allowed.  

D.  Citizens can visit www.mapformobile.org, then select Unified Development Code green bar, and follow the icons and buttons to see an interactive map of the city.  By zooming in to an area with the plus/minus icons on the map, then choosing the Search/magnifying glass icon, you can enter an address and a pop-up will tell you what the current zoning is and what the proposed zoning will be in the new Ordinance.  You can also, on this same screen, elect to enter your input to the new Ordinance on a parcel-by-parcel basis.

E. Citizens can also visit www.mapformobile.org, select the Unified Development Code green bar, then select the Feedback icon, then scroll down to the bottom to enter your feedback on the entire new Ordinance in one place.

E.  THE PUBLIC INPUT PERIOD ENDS ON MARCH 8.  After that, Planning will post a summary of feedback, work on revisions to the UDC, and prepare to take it to the Planning Commission for vote and then to the Council for vote.  There will be public input meetings at each of the last two steps but it will probably become increasingly difficult to motivate changes as the process develops.

 

One of the most important pieces of information from Planning was that we must use this public input period to let Planning know the elements of the new Ordinance which we want to be sure are retained, as well as elements we want to see changed.  This is very important.

 

Pre-development neighborhood meeting:

One of the best things for neighborhoods in the entire ordinance.  Not only does it expose developers to what neighbors will object to and give them the chance to change their plan early on, in cases that may go all the way into the courts on appeal it presents a very strong case FOR citizens that citizens communicated to developers very early what citizens will oppose.  This is a key point in front of judges.  As it is now, developers make the case successfully that they have spent  money and made investmentsj, and later find neighbors don't support the project. That has been a powerful argument on appeals in the past.  The pre-meeting will address that and bring cases to an appeal body on more equivalent footing, resulting in more balanced rulings.  Further, it benefits developers by protecting them from investing, then finding opposition from the neighbors.

 

Thus far, the  BEST things we've heard residents identify for neighborhoods in midtown would include the following, and these are the things we need to say "Keep this!":

A.  That the historic development commission (MHDC), the Architectural Review Board, the Downtown Development District, and the historic district signage rules, all stay in place. We need to insist that continues into the final draft.

B.  That the design standards of all types for residential and commercial development east of I65 are, while not perfect, still better than what we have now (which is none except for historic properties under the ARB.)  These new design standards should result in a more unified, attractive, and better scaled street facade.  Most types of design examples provide rear parking, street trees, etc.  

C.  The PRE-DEVELOPMENT MEETING is a huge benefit, and we want to advocate that it remains in the final version.  This is the type of approach some developers have already taken on their own.  For example, Stokley's Garden Center in Leinkauf and Iron Hand Brewery in DeTonti.  There are other examples, too, and the results have been compromises and mutual support.

Planning has invited our WRITTEN input by email planning staff:  planning@cityofmobile.org  and   hoffmanb@cityofmobile.org        I would say in each such letter that you don't have a grasp yet of using the online input and ask them to accept your letter/email.  Ask for their acceptance in a return email and give your email.   Remember to thank them for their access and transparency in this process.  

 

Watch for suggestions from the Government Street Collaborative at www.govstmobile.org in the news blog section. Residents continue to analyze the ordinance language.

 

We continue to  analyze where the hidden pitfalls may be.  One thing is how major east-west thoroughfares (Dauphin & Govt mainly) are treated and what protections they need.  The Collaborative asked for a Government Street Overlay but there is no indication that will be done.  However, Ms Beaco did mention that they are still looking at how to define these "Traditional Corridors" in midtown and so now is the time for us to advocate for protection to insure that development on Government oe Dauphin Streets accomplish these things:

 

A.  Retain the historic residential character of the part of these corridors through historic districts (west of Broad to approximately Pinehill or Sage)

B.  Insure that development serves the daily commercial needs of area residents in buffer business models or other low impact commerce.  This can be accomplished by making ALL POTENTIALLY HIGH INTENSITY COMMERCE "CONDITIONAL" TO INSURE THAT THE DEVELOPMENT GOES THROUGH A NEIGHBORHOOD MEETING AND APPLICATION PROCESS ALLOWING PUBLIC INPUT.  For example, are you aware that --at this time in the new Ordinance--Night Clubs can be developed BY RIGHT (no public input) at Neighborhood Center areas such as Catherine at Government, Dauphin at Sage, etc.?  Bar Lounges can be offered BY RIGHT (no public input) on Government and Dauphin Streets?  This is not acceptable.  Ask for Conditional Uses for Traditional Corridors like Government and Dauphin and others so that neighbors will have input into what goes into their neighborhood!  This is the only way it will happen.

C.  We need to ask for better attention to site designs that reduce hard surface, paved heat islands and incentivize permeable surfacing.

D.  Extend to properties on Government Street that are currently NOT in historic districts (much of the frontage west of the Oakleigh area on Government) an ARB review to insure aesthetically appropriate development and redevelopment adjacent to historic properties.

E.  Insure language is in the new Ordinance that specifies that for nonconformities or parcels zoned with restrictions (properties that do not meet new standards but are grandfathered) that all of the restrictions applied under the current Ordinance carry forward into the new Ordinance for that parcel, to be applied going forward until such time as the property is rezoned.

F.  It should be noted that the percentage of landscaping required for midtown has generally been REDUCED pretty significantly for commercial development.  The current standard is 12% (often reduced by variance however) and the new minimum is closer to 5%, and existing street trees "count" in the 5%.  This may warrant a closer examination as to how that will impact our streets and especially our corridors like Dauphin and Government.

G.  The Collaborative joins the Loop group and asks others to also join in supporting extending the Government Street signage regulations all the way to Pinehill Drive, where Government "street" becomes a more suburban commercial area as Government "Boulevard."  There is no reason that this final section of Government Street should not  control signage in line with that in the Broad to Memorial Park section.  Please include this in your comments.

 

Input can be sent by email to hoffmanb@cityofmobile.org or at planning@cityofmobile.org….or online at :

Enter your online input by following these steps:

mapformobile.org

choose Unified Development Code green bar,

then select the Provide Feedback icon and

scroll down to the bottom and select #2 to enter your input.

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