By Guy Busby
FAIRHOPE – Following two recent applications for mixed commercial and residential developments in the downtown CBD, Fairhope City Council is moving ahead with plans to introduce some restrictions on housing in the commercial area.
City council voted Monday July 26th to approve the first reading of an ordinance requiring at least 50 percent of the first floor of any development in the CBD to be commercial. The regulation will be submitted for final approval at the end of this month.
Hunter Simmons, city planning director, said the Fairhope planning commission also voted unanimously to recommend that the city council approve the ordinance.
“Our goal is mixed-use buildings in the CBD, not single-family homes,” he said.
Alderman Jimmy Conyers said the CBD zoning was meant to boost downtown businesses but also allow limited residential use. He said more developers are trying to build residences in the area.
“The main intent of this was to keep the CBD downtown,” Conyers said. “Housing construction is very lucrative and very popular at the moment, but if we allow the CBD to be completely built on with residential units, it would ultimately crowd out the shops, which is why people, ironically, want to go to the city center.” So this is just an attempt to preserve the integrity of the CBD. “
Councilor Kevin Boone said the traditional use of downtown buildings was to have commercial properties on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors. He asked why the ordinance could no longer require commercial space on the ground floor.
Simmons said residential units on a property must also have ground floor parking, so some areas need to be designated to prevent residents from taking up parking spaces on downtown streets.
He said city officials are still working to find ways to meet the business and housing needs in downtown Fairhope.
“So we recognize that this is a quick step. I hope we can come up with a better plan and incorporate that into the comp plan, but at least we want to make sure that part of the ground floor is commercial and that we keep the street frontage that makes Fairhope what it is, ”Simmons said.
At the city council meeting on July 12, two developers applied for approval for projects on Magnolia Avenue in the CBD that had more than 50 percent of the ground floor area designated as living space.
A proposal for a 20-unit development with 16 residential units was rejected by the council. Councilors said the development does not have adequate parking for the proposed sites.
A second application was approved. Officials said three of the four ground floor entrances on Magnolia Avenue would be for commercial units, even though commercial space throughout the building would only take up 13 percent of the property.