The Mobile Planning Commission unanimously approved the city’s new comprehensive plan named Map for Mobile Thursday afternoon, following a lengthy public hearing. Map for Mobile is a framework that will outline methods and approaches the city will follow to implement zoning, land use, code and ordinance changes and capital improvement priorities, starting in 2016, according to a statement from Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office.
“I want to thank the Mobile Planning Commission for adopting Map for Mobile as a framework that can be used to guide decisions in the years to come,” Stimpson said. “We will be working together to implement this plan and use it as a ‘living document’ with action plans developed and reviewed on an annual basis.”
All 13 speakers at the hearing showed support for the plan, with only a few residents cautioning the commission about its role in implementing the ordinances needed for it. The proceeding only got a bit contentious once, when downtown resident and attorney Pete Burns began to lecture the commission on vapor recovery related to the petroleum storage tanks along the Mobile River.
Burns was alluding to a public hearing scheduled for Nov. 19 regarding a revised ordinance regulating the tanks, but commission Chairman Jay Watkins directed him to stay on the topic at hand. Burns argued that the tank issue was consistent with the way the new planning framework lays out protection of natural resources.
Other residents reminded commissioners that with the framework in place, they’d have to make tough decisions. For example, Herb Wagner warned commissioners to “stand firm” even when new codes might infringe an owner’s property rights.
Wanda Cochran, a downtown resident and attorney, told commissioners to focus on changing their procedures relating to decisions. Given the new plan, she said, there would have to be more collaboration when it comes to future decisions and less adjudicating a winner and a loser.
Asked by Watkins for an example, Cochran suggested looking to the city’s Architectural Review Board or the Orange Beach Planning Commission.
Other residents, many of whom served on the plan’s outreach committee, applauded the commitment to inclusion.
“This plan was built on inclusion, which is something you rarely see,” Nikki Lewis said. “Residents were suspicious at first, but later they were encouraged to see that stuff they said was in the plan.”
Guy Miller, who was not a committee member but participated in the city’s first community meeting on the plan, said he left it with a good impression.
“This map believes in having a town with character,” he said.
Several residents also praised the plan for its focus on creating and sustaining walkable communities. Debbie Foster, director of the Peninsula of Mobile organization, said the map and the commission could help create walkability for the Dauphin Island Parkway area’s 11,000 residents.
Representatives with Midtown Mobile Movement were also impressed with the plans focus on walkability.
“Not focusing on walkability is like leaving the future to chance, Ashley Dukes said.
In addition to passing the resolution to adopt the plan, commission members will also recommend the plan be adopted by the City Council, which will make the final decision.
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