In the planners’ most recent attempt at compromise between developers and residents, the third draft of the city’s new zoning code won’t actually amend zoning on any currently occupied parcels, but will better mandate neighborhood plans that were previously voluntary.
The Map for Mobile will include “neighborhood overlay districts,” which would make mandatory individualized plans from a number of neighborhoods, including the Village of Spring Hill, Africatown and the Peninsula, Deputy Director of Planning and Zoning Margaret Pappas said.
“The Village of Spring Hill standards are optional right now,” Pappas said. “Yes, they’re on the books right now, but compliance is not mandatory. It’s the same for Africatown and the Peninsula.”
The latest draft of the plan would also incorporate a number of subdistricts, two of which — urban and suburban zones — would effectively split the city in half in terms of what sorts of developments are allowed. Crudely, the plan splits the city east of Interstate 65 into a so-called urban zone and west of the interstate into a suburban zone, Pappas said.
“Areas built prior to 1950 and anything in a historic district would be considered urban,” she said.
The two different zones impact the setbacks for development as well as how many buildings can be placed on a lot. For example, suburban zones would include the large strip malls along Airport Boulevard in West Mobile, while shopping centers where buildings are closer to the street and parking is more hidden would be more appropriate in the urban zones.
“Midtown retail may not be appropriate for more of a suburban setting,” Build Mobile Director Shayla Beaco said.
Instead of changing the names of the zoning districts, the more recognizable residential and commercial labels of RI, R2, B1 and B2 were added back in the third version, Pappas said. The plan also focuses more on commercial and multifamily property than it does on single-family residential property, she said.
While the zoning will not impact currently occupied commercial buildings, the future land use map does dictate what can happen with vacant properties. The plan also includes new optional designations within the industrial landscape for both maritime and commercial warehouse use, Pappas said.
The maritime designation includes maritime heavy for shipbuilding activities and maritime light for marinas and other businesses, Pappas said.
The commercial warehouse use is an option for industrial developments that aren’t as heavy as I-1 or I-2, she said. Areas where this use would be most common would be along Halls Mill Road, Lakeside Drive and parts of Rangeline Road.
The city fully expects to work on a fourth and final draft of the plan after the 30-day comment period on the third version expires at the end of the month, Beaco said. Once a fourth draft is finalized it will be sent to the Planning Commission for review, where the public will have more opportunities to comment, she said. Once the commission offers a recommendation, the plan will head to the City Council for final approval.
While it has been a year between the second and third drafts of the plan, Beaco believes it will take less time between this draft and the final one.
“I feel like we’re getting closer,” Beaco said. “I don’t think it’ll take as long. It could possibly go to the Planning Commission in the fall.”
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