Outgoing council members vote Zoning code update down

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Mobile City Council voted down the Unified Development Code (UDC) plan for updating the city’s zoning code on Tuesday by a vote of 2-6.

Mobile City Council was full of emotions and long discussion today over the adoption of the Unified Development Code. A new zoning code that would implement the vision in “Map of Mobile.” — a process that has been on many council agendas and has had almost 300 public hearings over the years.

The current city codes haven’t been touched in over 50 years. The city is looking for a new streamlined, easy-to-understand code. Four of the six council members believed today that goal was reached, which the other two strongly disagreed.

The update of the UDC would have paved the way for the “Map for Mobile” plan. This plan was adopted in 2015 and lays out a long-term vision for Mobile in terms of growth and revitalization.

“This document is not perfect, but it is demonstratively better than what we have now and I support it,” District 5 council member Joel Daves said.

Resident, after resident, after resident came to urge to council to vote one way or another.
While the UDC does not rezone any property, urban and suburban subdistricts are proposed, as well as neighborhood overlays, which is exactly where the issues lied with those who were opposed.

Two outgoing council members, Fred Richardson and Bess Rich, were in opposition, saying this update is severely flawed and needs to be reevaluated before it’s voted on.

“If it harms people in the residential communities then I’m not voting for it,” Richardson said.

“There are changes and things that have got to happen in order to keep residents in our city or people will keep leaving and I blame zoning. and if there are errors why is this council letting this go,” Rich said.

This opposition led to lots of back-and-forth and questions about proceedings after the mayor withdrew his sponsorship to get it taken off the agenda after its first vote down. The council attorney ultimately pushed for a final vote to be made, which again failed.

The mayor frustrated by today’s proceedings, sending the statement below:

“Today, the Unified Development Code (UDC) was supported by a majority of City Council members, three of whom have been elected to remain on the council after November 1. It is a shame that two outgoing council members would use one of their final votes to obstruct progress in our City without a mandate from citizens. It is also concerning that these same councilors would sidestep the council’s own rules in an effort to derail five years of hard work by City staff, community groups and stakeholders from across Mobile.” – Mayor Sandy Stimpson  

Council members who voted yes say this code update is not going to please everyone, but it is a step in the right direction.

“There are changes, important critical changes that were brought up by our citizens, but lets not drop the momentum. Let’s keep the ball with the city council,” District 4 Councilmember John Williams said.

Daves agreed: “It’s a dynamic document, and it can be amended going forward as we find areas that don’t work. This document is not perfect, but it is demonstratively better than what we have now and I support it.”

Now, it will move back to the planning commission for those potential changes. There might be additional public forums and input, then it will once again be handed over to council after the new members take their offices.

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