The Mobile Planning Commission voted to approve the city’s new Future Land Use Map (FLUM) and major streets plan, despite the vast majority of speakers at a long public hearing asking the board to delay its decision.
The city promotes the new map as a way to move forward with the vision set forth in the Map for Mobile comprehensive plan, which the Planning Commission has already approved. While it will work in conjunction with the comprehensive plan, the FLUM will not replace the city’s zoning ordinance, Shayla Beaco, Build Mobile director, told the board.
“It’s the first step in rewriting the zoning ordinance,” Beaco said. “The goal is to come back to you on a very regular basis. It’s a living document.”
The FLUM breaks the city into areas where planners and citizens believe certain uses are appropriate. There is a mix of both traditional uses — such as heavy industrial, residential and commercial corridors — and more specific, contemporary uses, including mixed use, mixed density and others.
Additionally, the plan includes water-specific uses in areas like Dog River, the delta and Mobile Bay, as well as areas with more public water access, like the downtown waterfront. Water access was the biggest reason for opposition to the plan, uniting industry and community group leaders at the public hearing.
Steve Gordon, president of the industry advocacy group Keep Mobile Growing, submitted a statement to the board opposing some of the new categories in the FLUM.
“The FLUM considered today creates a new Downtown Waterfront District immediately adjacent to … Mobile’s deep-water port,” he wrote. “We do not understand why a new district is necessary. We are concerned if the intent is to promote changing the use from industrial shipbuilding to recreational and commercial use.”
In the statement, Gordon said the port is the “foundation of our city’s existence” and changing allowable uses could impact its ability to compete.
“It is premature to adopt a new zoning district for this area when the zoning regulations relevant to it have not been developed or adopted,” he wrote.
Jarrod White, an attorney for Keep Mobile Growing, asked the Planning Commission to table the FLUM until a new zoning ordinance had been completed. Debi Foster, president of the Peninsula Group, said she supported parts of the map, but was also concerned there wasn’t enough water access provided along areas close to Dog River and other local creeks. Like Gordon and Keep Mobile Growing, Foster asked the Planning Commission to delay a vote on the plan.
Casey Pipes, an attorney for the Mobile Area Association of Realtors, said his client also had concerns the plan might be premature.
“The map presumes the zoning code will be rewritten,” Pipes said. “We feel this can jeopardize development in Mobile. We ask that you wait and adopt it later.”
While the Planning Commission approved both the Future Land Use Map and the Major Streets Plan at its regular meeting, the decision was not unanimous. Commissioner Taylor Atchison said he would be in favor of a holdover, while others, including Chairman Carlos Gant and Don Hembry, wanted to “keep the ball rolling” and approve the FLUM.