Unified Development (Zoning) Code In Final Stage, Aug.21 Update

UPDATE From District 6 Council Newsletter:

"The Council laid over The Ordinance to amend our Zoning Codes until Tuesday, September 14th. There will be a "Committee of the Whole" on September 7th at 2:00 p.m. in the Government Plaza Auditorium. Present at this Committee Meeting will be Shayla Beaco, Executive Director of the Build Mobile Department, and the Council's Attorney Wanda Cochran who has reviewed the proposed Ordinance and has recommended changes. In a nutshell, her suggestions include not having land use zoning changes heard by the Board of Adjustment. This process, if left in place, would only permit challenges by citizens to be heard by the Court instead of the City Council. This would make it difficult for residents to be heard when they oppose any changes unless they hired Attorneys to maneuver through the Court system. Fortunately, I believe my colleagues don't want that to be the process in the future. As I have said numerous times, the changes to our land use planning codes, if history is any lesson, will be affecting our quality of life for decades to come. It's essential that the codes and processes reflect not only those who are part of the development community but for everyone affected by any proposed changes. "


From the Government Street Collaborative, citizen opinion and information verified by online sources:

The UDC has been recommended by the Planning Commission to the City Council for final approval. Council President Manzie referred the UDC to a "committee of the whole" for final study and review, to be followed by a public hearing for input prior to adoption, date TBA. The Committee met and received public comment on June 8 at 2pm. The meeting was live-streamed. A number of citizens from a wide range of influence groups spoke:

  1. Business was well represented, including the Port Authority, Mobile Realtors, Chamber of Commerce, Baykeeper, all of whom voiced unified support for the UDC in its current version without change.

  2. Citizen groups were represented by private citizens, including: Government Street Collaborative, Village of Springhill, Africatown, Regency, The Peninsula, Coalition for Intelligent Decisionmaking action group.

  3. We were struck by the degree of alignment in citizen comments on a few issues: a. Many objected to the appeal procedures that will send many more cases to the Board of Adjustment with all appeals requiring legal representation in Circuit Court. b. Citizen commentary focused on neighborhood livability and resident property values. c. A number of VOS speakers, including the Sand Hill community that adjoins VOS, presented opposing views of whether or not the current VOS Code should be mandatory or remain voluntary as it is now.

The approximately five year process has seen the new code morph from a paid consultant-based Form Based Code to a

consultant-based hybrid code, part modern Form Based and part traditional zoning which for 60 years has brought us to where we are now. The final current code appears to be a very business friendly version of Mobile's traditional zoning code, which was already pretty business friendly.


There are several areas that raise huge red flags for Leinkauf neighbors:


1. Improve Green standards in UDC

a. Improve Green Space requirements and incentives: Required landscaping percentage has been reduced into oblivion (from 12% to %5 with waivers beyond that) east of I65 and to increase green spaces west of I-65 does not “balance the books” (as presented in Planning responses)

b. Better incentivize use of permeable surfacing – avoid a concrete jungle

c. Better address heat island mitigation and street/drainage/waterway litter by implementing better parking lot green spaces, tree cover, and trash collector installation requirements (see Clearwater Revival similar goals to protect marine

Resources)

d. Establish a clearly defined cross reference link between Chapter 65 and Chapter 64 with clear development standards as related to tree protections

2. Set Improved Density and Occupancy Standards: mitigate infrastructure pressures ranging from health considerations to traffic/parking, historical or neighborhood appropriateness, and quality of life and property value impact

3. Adaptive Reuse is presented as a development incentive to address blight and underused properties—worthy goals—BUT as written, becomes a way to simply waive standards indiscriminately to no good purpose, under the guise of incentivizing development. This section should be removed at this time, studied by experts via Performance Contract, and like Chapter 65, redeveloped as a separate Chapter. If this is justifiable for the Tree Ordinance, it is equally justifiable for a new Adaptive ReUse section.

4. Role of Board of Adjustments and BOA Appeals – The Special Exceptions code and new appeal procedures result in too many applications and appeals going to the Board of Adjustments, which is not prepared to effectively deal with the increased burden. More importantly, appeal procedures leave all opponents without recourse other than going to an already burdened Circuit Court system and the expense that entails. This is not an improvement. citizens who have taken cases to Circuit Court in the last 3 years have incurred costs of over $5,000. Clearly, that is tantamount to a DENIAL of a citizen's right to appeal and cannot stand. The procedures should be changed to avoid this roadblock to both development and citizen opposition, by appeals being routed to City Council for final resolution.






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