In the latest, citizen-led push for new planning districts in unincorporated Baldwin County, a group of residents outside Foley are circulating a petition to gauge interest in having their properties subjected to the planning and zoning authority of the Baldwin County Commission.
Baldwin County currently has 18 zoned planning districts where land uses are regulated, but the majority of the county remains unzoned. According to a local legislative act, new planning districts must be requested by citizens through a petition and include the signatures of 10 percent of the qualified electors within the district. If the petitions are affirmed by the judge of probate, the County Commission shall instruct the judge to place the question on a ballot for those residing in the districts.
The last referendum for a new planning district was rejected by voters in the Marlow area in 2010 and for nearly 10 years afterward, there was no effort to pursue others. But proposed Baldwin County Planning District 34 is the third new district petitioned for this year.
In July, the commission accepted letters of intent from residents in Point Clear and north of Magnolia Springs to form Planning Districts 19 and 11, respectively. In response to questions about the latest proposal, Planning Director Vince Jackson said unlike the other two, the boundaries of District 34 are not contiguous.
“The district boundaries are not contiguous, but aren’t required to be,” he wrote. “In areas around municipalities, through annexations, the boundaries do become split between unincorporated county and incorporated municipality limits. This is not uncommon throughout the county. The planning district boundaries are initiated and proposed by residents with the County Commission providing the approval.”
The proposed new district includes portions of existing, unzoned Planning Districts 18 and 27. Jackson described it as “areas outside of the city of Foley on both the east and west sides. The east side is a smaller area bounded on the west side by the city, east by zoned Planning District 22, south by zoned planning districts and the city of Foley. The west side of Planning District 34 is similarly situated as the east side. Both sides are also in the city’s extraterritorial planning jurisdiction.”
Registered voters living in the approved new planning district may petition and vote in the zoning referendum. Non-registered voters and those living outside the district may not participate in the petition or referendum. Anyone can oppose the district through the typical public process including written communication, public comments at meetings or calls to commissioners, Jackson said.
In Point Clear, Jackson told Lagniappe this week, petition forms were submitted Aug. 17 for Planning District 19 and in accordance with legislation, have been submitted to probate for verification. Jackson said the county expects to certify or deny the petition by Sept. 30, at which point the County Commission will ask the judge of probate to schedule an election within 90 days. If the petition cannot be certified at that time, the organizers will have 60 days to obtain additional signatures.
In Magnolia Springs, Planning District 11 is currently in the process of obtaining signatures for the petition, which will be due no later than Dec. 2 and signatures will be verified at that time.
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