Take Action on Mobile’s proposed UDC zoning code rewrite!

TAKE ACTION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IN THE NEW ZONING CODE!

Share our concerns? Let the City of Mobile Planning Commission know for their UDC Public Hearing scheduled for Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 2pm! There’s a DEADLINE for public participation!

You should write in your own words as much as you feel comfortable, but please be sure to tell them that you support the MEJAC and the NAACP recommended changes to the UDC including:

• strengthening the Africatown Overlay to do more to combat industrial blight, protect air and water quality, and prohibiting any new Above Ground Oil Storage Tanks in the neighborhood;
• strengthening “Protection Buffer” standards for residents living along industrial fence lines in places like Africatown, Crichton, Down the Bay, and Theodore;
• requiring new and upgraded Above Ground Oil Storage Tanks to be outfitted with vapor capture technology to prevent noxious and toxic vapor releases into Mobile neighborhoods like Africatown;
• either amending the Coal Handling Operations ordinance per MEJAC and NAACP recommendations or removing it entirely in favor of a separate public adoption process altogether; and
• amending Residential Zone design standards to expand access to affordable housing in Mobile, like the Stimpson administration said it would do in 2017.

SPEAKER DEADLINE: Wanna speak up at the public hearing on 2/25? You MUST REGISTER by 12pm on Friday, February 19, 2021 here:
https://mapformobile.org/udc/#feedback

WRITTEN COMMENT DEADLINE: Written comments must be must be received no later than noon on Friday, February 19, 2021 and may submitted online by clicking here:
https://mapformobile.org/udc/#feedback


or mailed to:
City of Mobile Planning and Zoning
PO Box 1827
Mobile, AL 36633

Send your comments to your Mobile City Councilperson (https://www.cityofmobile.org/government/city-council/), too, because if the Planning Commission recommends adoption of the UDC, the City Council will then conduct its own public hearing and vote to codify it into law.

WANNA WATCH? You may watch the UDC public hearing on the City of Mobile’s YouTube channel LIVE on Thursday, February 25 starting at 2pm here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdLrEwf3ewSNmCNm21fVfNg

We publish our concerns for the enlightenment of our neighbors and in pursuit of environmental justice in Africatown and beyond.

As always, thank you for your interest in and support of our work.

-Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition & the Mobile Alabama NAACP

Webinar Series: De-Coding the City of Mobile’s proposed Unified Development Code (UDC)

Join MEJAC, the Mobile Alabama NAACP, and directly affected Mobile residents from across the city in taking a critical look at the City of Mobile’s proposed Unified Development Code (UDC) zoning code rewrite based partly on MEJAC’s UDC report, “Changes are Necessary for the Proposed City of Mobile UDC Zoning Code Rewrite”(https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/19/final_udc_comments/).

We will open our panel discussions every weekday February 15-19 for a lively and revealing conversation about the Mobile zoning code and its proposed UDC rewrite at 11am followed by a brief audience Q&A.

To attend the Live Zoom Webinar, please click on the titles below to register for each event separately. Otherwise, you may catch it on Facebook Live via both the MEJAC (https://facebook.com/MEJACoalition) and Mobile Alabama NAACP (https://facebook.com/MobileALNAACP) Facebook pages.

Note: the Passcode into every Zoom webinar is 251000.

Monday, February 15 @ 11am
Episode 1:
We Can’t Breathe! How zoning “Protection Buffers” fail to protect in Africatown

Register (or watch On Demand after we air!): https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_-mq3lW0DS3SoF3nmk4vtIA

Tuesdayn February 16 @ 11am
Episode 2:
The many Missed Opportunities of the UDC’s “Africatown Overlay”


Register (or watch On Demand after we air!): https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_DuEQpKbaRiqlGDmWOxU4LA

Wednesday, February 17 @ 11am
Episode 3:
Above Ground Oil Storage Tanks shouldn’t poison community air


Register (or watch On Demand after we air!): https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_kuRmW4-BTViJo2IBGpmAKQ

Thursday, February 18 @ 11am
Episode 4:
Zoning and Mobile’s Affordable Housing Crisis


Register (or watch On Demand after we air!): https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4rzHvv68RH-MoV3BqTmGhg

Friday, February 19 @ 11am
Episode 5:
More Dirty Coal Corruption?!


Register (or watch On Demand after we air!): https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_IMNFBfi-R7212ZgWKY0v2Q

Note: the Passcode into every Zoom webinar is 251000.

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TAKE ACTION!

Share our concerns? Let the City of Mobile Planning Commission know for their UDC Public Hearing scheduled for Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 2pm! There’s a DEADLINE for public participation!

You should write in your own words as much as you feel comfortable, but please be sure to tell them that you support the MEJAC and the NAACP recommended changes to the UDC including:

• strengthening the Africatown Overlay to do more to combat industrial blight, protect air and water quality, and prohibiting any new Above Ground Oil Storage Tanks in the neighborhood;
• strengthening “Protection Buffer” standards for residents living along industrial fence lines in places like Africatown, Crichton, Down the Bay, and Theodore;
• requiring new and upgraded Above Ground Oil Storage Tanks to be outfitted with vapor capture technology to prevent noxious and toxic vapor releases into Mobile neighborhoods like Africatown;
• either amending the Coal Handling Operations ordinance per MEJAC and NAACP recommendations or removing it entirely in favor of a separate public adoption process altogether; and
• amending Residential Zone design standards to expand access to affordable housing in Mobile, like the Stimpson administration said it would do in 2017.

SPEAKER DEADLINE: Wanna speak up at the public hearing? You MUST REGISTER by 12pm on Friday, February 19, 2021 here:
https://mapformobile.org/udc/#feedback

COMMENT DEADLINE: Written comments must be must be received no later than noon on Friday, February 19, 2021 and may submitted online by clicking here (https://mapformobile.org/udc/#feedback) or mailed to:

City of Mobile Planning and Zoning
PO Box 1827
Mobile, AL 36633

Send your comments to your Mobile City Councilperson (https://www.cityofmobile.org/government/city-council/), too, because if the Planning Commission recommends adoption of the UDC, the City Council will then conduct its own public hearing and vote to codify it into law.

You may watch the UDC public hearing on the City of Mobile’s YouTube channel LIVE on Thursday, February 25 starting at 2pm here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdLrEwf3ewSNmCNm21fVfNg

We publish our concerns for the enlightenment of our neighbors and in pursuit of environmental justice in Africatown and beyond.

As always, thank you for your interest in and support of our work.

-Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition & the Mobile Alabama NAACP

REPORT: Changes are Necessary for the Proposed City of Mobile UDC Zoning Code Rewrite

A yellow Caution road sign reading "Missed? Opportunities Ahead" in the foreground of a picture of Mobile Government PlazaThe Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition (MEJAC) has submitted copious written commentary to the Map for Mobile Unified Development Code (UDC) process for over three years now about its Africatown Overlay and other elements of the proposed zoning code rewrite.

In the end, the Build Mobile never responded to any concerns from anybody about the proposed Africatown Overlay, which is absolutely intolerable.

Our agency was initially hopeful about the possibilities, and there are many elements of UDC Version 4 (UDCv4) which are positive steps in the right direction. For instance, Neighborhood Meeting standards for Up-Zoning, Conditional Use, and Planned Development creation/modification permit applications should help alleviate any confusion around the authenticity of positions presented as neighborhood opinions should controversy around projects brew. However, we have many outstanding concerns.

MEJAC’s 14 major concerns with and demanded changes to the UDC are described in summary here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Summary). MEJAC’s logic and Build Mobile’s written responses to MEJAC’s concerns can be found at the link after each summary concern and recommendation, providing for more extensive background and context.

Our concerns are not coming from out of the blue and many may have been avoided with a greater emphasis on meaningful dialogue between MEJAC, our partner organizations in Africatown, and Build Mobile. For the curious, an accounting of MEJAC’s involvement in the UDC process over the past three years, including most recently the extremely disappointing roll out of this final UDC Version 4 is at the end of this report (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#MEJAC-UDC-Timeline).

Once our commentary a was submitted, MEJAC was never invited to speak with Build Mobile directly about the nature of any of our persistent concerns.

It sadly must be explained that, while the Africatown Overlay was derived primarily from the Africatown Neighborhood Plan, participants in the development of the Africatown Neighborhood Plan were never encouraged to contribute zoning code to their neighborhood plan. Residents, residential stakeholders, and regional advocates were never told that the Africatown Neighborhood Plan would be exclusively drawn upon to inform a hugely consequential zoning code rewrite process. In fact, they were told by the contractors hired by the City of Mobile to keep their interest general and broad when specific, persistent concerns which have dogged the community for generations could have and should have been addressed in directives to the zoning code.

Depending upon the Africatown Neighborhood Plan as the sole body from which to build the Africatown Overlay was neither an appropriate primary decision nor a satisfactory rationale after-the-fact given the richness of and commitment to UDC engagement by Africatown residents and residential stakeholders in the multi-year UDC public participation process. To have concerns about the Africatown overlay be totally shut out of discussion is absolutely unacceptable.

Our interests, as always, are in demonstrating a commitment to resolving environmental justice challenges in Africatown and beyond.

Sillouettes of people marching holding a banner, which reads "Take Action for Justice!"

Share our concerns? Let the City of Mobile Planning Commission know for their UDC Public Hearing scheduled for Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 2pm! There’s a DEADLINE for public participation!

You should write in your own words as much as you feel comfortable, but please be sure to tell them that you support the MEJAC and the NAACP recommended changes to the UDC including:

• strengthening the Africatown Overlay to do more to combat industrial blight, protect air and water quality, and prohibiting any new Above Ground Oil Storage Tanks in the neighborhood;
• strengthening “Protection Buffer” standards for residents living along industrial fence lines in places like Africatown, Crichton, Down the Bay, and Theodore;
• requiring new and upgraded Above Ground Oil Storage Tanks to be outfitted with vapor capture technology to prevent noxious and toxic vapor releases into Mobile neighborhoods like Africatown;
• either amending the Coal Handling Operations ordinance per MEJAC and NAACP recommendations or removing it entirely in favor of a separate public adoption process altogether; and
• amending Residential Zone design standards to expand access to affordable housing in Mobile, like the Stimpson administration said it would do in 2017.

SPEAKER DEADLINE: Wanna speak up at the public hearing on 2/25? You MUST REGISTER by 12pm on Friday, February 19, 2021 here:
https://mapformobile.org/udc/#feedback

WRITTEN COMMENT DEADLINE: Written comments must be must be received no later than noon on Friday, February 19, 2021 and may submitted online by clicking here:
https://mapformobile.org/udc/#feedback


or mailed to:
City of Mobile Planning and Zoning
PO Box 1827
Mobile, AL 36633

Send your comments to your Mobile City Councilperson (https://www.cityofmobile.org/government/city-council/), too, because if the Planning Commission recommends adoption of the UDC, the City Council will then conduct its own public hearing and vote to codify it into law.

WANNA WATCH? You may watch the UDC public hearing on the City of Mobile’s YouTube channel LIVE on Thursday, February 25 starting at 2pm here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdLrEwf3ewSNmCNm21fVfNg

We publish our concerns for the enlightenment of our neighbors and in pursuit of environmental justice in Africatown and beyond.

As always, thank you for your interest in and support of our work.

-Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition & the Mobile Alabama NAACP

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An satellite image of homes with industrial activities just along their backyard fences.CONCERN 1)
Residential/Industrial District “Protection Buffer” standards in environmental justice communities are too weak.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 1: UDCv4 § Article 3, Development Standards, Sec. 64-3-8 Buffers must be amended “Wall or Fence” height requirements to 10 Feet where Industrial or Maritime Heavy Districts border Residential Districts and to require a Conditional Use permit for chain link Fencing in Protection Buffers where Industrial or Maritime Heavy Districts border Residential Districts.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 1, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-1).

A satellite image of the above ground oil storage tank farm at Magazine Point in Africatown with the Africatown Bridge in the foreground.CONCERN 2)
The Africatown Overlay still allows for Above-Ground Oil Storage Tank expansion, against popular citywide resident concern and support for permanent protection.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 2: UDCv4 § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11 must be amended to remove “Oil & Gas Storage*” and “Hazardous Substance Storage*” from Conditional Uses in the Africatown Overlay for all sites not currently permitted as conforming or Conditional Uses by the UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-8 Above-Ground Oil Storage Tanks (p. 119) & UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-9 Hazardous Substance Storage Tanks (p. 124).

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 2, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-2).

CONCERN 3)
The Africatown Overlay doesn’t do enough to address Industrial Blight.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 3: Like the Village of Spring Hill Overlay, UDCv4 § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11 must be amended to clearly address the Intent and Purpose of the overlay, which must include decreasing Industrial visual and other nuisance encroachment upon residential Africatown.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 3, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-3).

CONCERN 4)
The Africatown Overlay’s CPTED requirements only apply in Africatown.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 4: If Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is an effective crime-prevention strategy, CPTED should be applied equitably across the City of Mobile.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 4, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-4).

CONCERN 5)
The Africatown Overlay’s landscaping requirements are too weak.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 5: Given the unsightliness of large, sparsely landscaped parking lots in the Africatown Overlay, UDC § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11 must be amended to not exempt Maritime and Industrial Districts from Parking Lot Tree Requirements for future developments.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 5, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-5).

CONCERN 6)
Exemptions from Riparian Buffer standards are overly permissive, especially in Africatown.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 6: UDCv4 § Article 3, Development Standards, Section 64-3-10 Natural Resource Protection, C Riparian Buffers, 5 Standards for Riparian Buffer Application, (d) Water Dependent Maritime Uses (p.84) must be amended to require that any “Water Dependent Maritime Use” exemption be tailored as necessary on an applicant-by-applicant basis to apply as much of the Riparian Buffer standards to otherwise impacted but unutilized shoreline as possible.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 6, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-6).

CONCERN 7)
The Africatown Overlay omits waterfront conservation consideration entirely.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 7: UDC § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11 must be amended to include Riparian Buffer application to all Zoning Districts in the Africatown Overlay, including “Water Dependent Maritime Uses”, where exemption must be tailored as necessary on an applicant-by-applicant basis to apply as much of the Riparian Buffer standards to otherwise impacted but unutilized shoreline as possible.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 7, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-7).

CONCERN 8)
The new Coal Handling Operations code retroactively changes Use Permit terms for and rewards one (very bad) Industrial developer.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 8: The newly introduced UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations code must be amended to delete Sec. 64-4-6, A, 2, (a) (p. 116) entirely, because retroactively benefiting one industrial developer isn’t what the Map For Mobile UDC process should be about.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 8, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-8).

CONCERN 9)
The new Coal Handling Operations code’s perpetual permit to expand applies to and rewards one (very bad) Industrial developer and is capriciously permissive.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 9: Retroactive perpetual use permits for singular entities is an extraordinary governmental power and must not reward bad behavior, so UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, A, 2, (b) & (c) (p.116) must be deleted in its entirety.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 9, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-9).

CONCERN 10)
The new Coal Handling Operations code permits development of Coal Handling Operations on legacy parcels without Council oversight.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 10: The UDCv4 must not permit Coal Handling Operations to propagate across the city without Conditional Use permitting processes for each facility, as would be otherwise required by UDCv4, so UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, B, 1 (p.117) must be deleted in its entirety.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 10, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-10).

CONCERN 11)
The new Coal Handling Operations Code does too little to protect neighboring properties from trespass and nuisance.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 11: All new and existing Coal Handling Operations must store their coal indoors and move coal piles on site using only conveyor systems, so UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations (p.116) must be amended to include requirements that both new and existing Coal Handling Operations must be required to store their coal piles indoors to prevent the trespass of their fugitive coal dust by wind, rain, and other water events and that Coal Handling Operations be forbidden to move coal piles in bulk by any mechanism other than a conveyor system.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 11, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-11).

CONCERN 12)
The New Coal Handling Operations Code Is Too Consequential to Include in the UDC

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 12: If it cannot be amended per CONCERNS 8-11, the new UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations (p.116) proposed code should be deleted in its entirety and a separate public hearing on the proposed new code should be held instead.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 12, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-12).

A satellite image of the above ground oil storage tank farm at Magazine Point in Africatown with the Africatown Bridge in the foreground.CONCERN 13)
The Above-Ground Oil Storage Tanks code’s Design Standards don’t include nuisance vapor capture for noxious and toxic vapors on new and re-developed tanks.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 13: Both newly developed and re-developed Above-Ground Oil Storage Tanks must be equipped with vapor recovery systems to mitigate nuisance vapor exposure onto neighboring properties, so UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-8 C. Siting and Design Requirements (p. 122) must be amended to require these design standards.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 13, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-13).

An equation depiction The City of Mobile logo plus the Fair Housing Equal Opportunity logo equating a question mark.CONCERN 14)
UDCv4 fails to meet many of the City of Mobile’s own zoning code revision Metrics for its Fair Housing Goals and Priorities, as declared to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the City’s latest Assessment of Fair Housing 2018-2023 Report.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 14: The City must amend all dimensional standards and the Use Table in UDCv4 § Article 2, Zoning Districts to meet the City’s own Metrics for its Fair Housing Goals and Priorities as declared to HUD in the City’s latest Assessment of Fair Housing report.

For more background information about MEJAC’s Concern 14, our Recommendation, and Build Mobile’s response, please click here (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/final_udc_comments/#Concern-14).

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An satellite image of homes with industrial activities just along their backyard fences.CONCERN 1)
Industrial/Residential District “Protection Buffer” Standards in Environmental Justice Communities Are Too Weak
UDCv4 § Article 3, Development Standards, Sec. 64-3-8 Buffers (p. 69-71)

CONCERN 1 BACKGROUND:
In the proposed UDCv4, the following definitions provide useful context:

• Fences are defined as “a barrier made of wood, metal or other materials.” (UDCv4 § Article 8, Definitions, Sec. 64-8-2 Definitions, p. 268).

• Protection Buffers are defined as “a wall, Fence or screen planting, or any combination thereof intended to physically separate unlike uses and minimize light, debris and visual intrusion onto adjacent lots.” (UDCv4 § Article 8, Definitions, Sec. 64-8-2 Definitions, p. 277).

• Walls are not defined at all in the main body of the UDCv4, but in UDC § Appendix A, Downtown Development District (DDD), Walls are defined as “Wall: A barrier, independent of a building, made of masonry materials. See “Fence.” (UDCv4 § Appendix A, DDD, p. 410).

• Fences are additionally defined in the UDC § Appendix A, DDD as “a barrier, independent of a building, made of wood picket, wood slat, wood lattice, iron or steel or aluminum that appears to be iron. In the DDD, a Fence may be of chain-link only in limited conditions along side and rear yards and never in frontages. See “Wall.” (UDCv4 § Appendix A, DDD, p. 406).

The proposed UDCv4 Protection Buffers standards are being carried over more or less intact from the existing zoning code. Unfortunately, these Protection Buffer standards are not effective for residents living along the fencelines of Industrial facilities in Mobile’s environmental justice communities of concern like Africatown.

It is unacceptable that substantive improvements are not proposed in the UDCv4 in order to prevent future onerous impacts to environmental justice communities of concern in the City of Mobile.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 1:
UDCv4 § Article 3, Development Standards, Sec. 64-3-8 Buffers must be amended “Wall or Fence” height requirements to 10 Feet where Industrial or Maritime Heavy Districts border Residential Districts.

“Protection Buffer” standards should be effective. Unfortunately, the current standard of a six foot “wall or fence” does not provide an adequate level of protection from commercial and industrial trespass into bordering residential districts.

MEJAC has been made repeatedly aware of concerns in the Africatown community about this precise sort of trespass that prevents the conventional use and enjoyment of property due to industrial trespass. Specifically, grandparents cannot enjoy their grandchildren at their homes due to the high levels of asthma-triggering dust in their yards. Outdoor barbecues and birthday celebrations are also almost always out of the question. To prevent damage to paint jobs, resident vehicles must be washed very frequently due to the build up of fugitive dust. Noise complaints are very well documented, as well.

These kinds of impacts would not be tolerated anywhere else in the City of Mobile and its effects must be mitigated in environmental justice communities of concern, particularly.

MEJAC feels that a 10 foot height of an aesthetically appropriate boundary between Residential and very permissive commercial districts like Industrial, Maritime, and Commercial Warehouse would be a positive change for future developers interested in locating into vulnerable communities like Africatown and that the Buffer Standard should apply to all communities across the city where Residential properties meet Industrial, Maritime, and Commercial Warehouse districts.

ANOTHER MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 1:
UDCv4 § Article 3, Development Standards, Sec. 64-3-8 Buffers must be amended to require a Conditional Use permit for chain link Fencing in Protection Buffers where Industrial or Maritime Heavy Districts border Residential Districts.

Chain link fencing should absolutely not be permitted at all as part of a Protection Buffer between Industrial or Maritime Heavy districts and Residential districts. This shouldn’t require a long explanation, because it should be obvious that they contribute nothing to the definitional goal of minimizing “light, debris, and visual intrusion onto adjacent lots.”

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’s CONCERN 1:
Chain link alone is not an acceptable buffer; however, it is a fencing option. A buffer cannot mitigate all impacts of commercial development adjoining residential development. Fence heights in excess of 6-8 feet are difficult to source.” (“UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document, 3-8 Buffers, p. 25).

The proposed UDCv4 standard requires a “Wall or Fence” as part of a Protection Buffer, not a “Fence” alone, as Build Mobile’s response insinuates.

MEJAC’s recommended 10 foot requirement could be met with brick, standard concrete, or precast concrete and therefore should not have been dismissed on the concern about the availability of “fence heights” alone.

In reality, strengthening this Protection Buffer standard as we recommend would only be impacting a very tiny handful of commercial and industrial properties that very clearly have serious impacts upon their residential neighbors.

ANOTHER BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’s CONCERN 1:
“Property owners are required to develop their site to the standards in effect at the time of development; therefore, new standards are generally not retroactive.”
(“UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document, 3-8 Buffers, p. 25).

MEJAC understands that changing the current code won’t immediately change any existing impacts anywhere. Improving the code to prevent unnecessary harm where possible is what’s important – particularly as that harm disproportionately affects our African American and other racial minority neighbors in environmental justice communities of concern. We shouldn’t need to state this obvious fact, but Build Mobile’s response to our previous comments about this section shows those who drafted the response believe that we don’t understand this.

“Property owners are required to develop their site to the standards in effect at the time of development; therefore, new standards are generally not retroactive,” Build Mobile wrote (“UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document, 3-8 Buffers, p. 25).

However, it must be noted that other, brand new ordinances that did not exist prior to the UDC are proposed precisely to grant retroactive permission to land uses that are not currently permitted under the existing code. This sort of inconsistent double standard being used by Build Mobile to justify dismissing some concerns with the UDC while applying a practically opposite logic in other instances, such as with § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations (p.116), is not a satisfactory response.

It is also not true that property owners are required solely “to develop their site to the standards in effect at the time of development”. They are also required to maintain their properties to the standards in effect at the time of development, but effective code enforcement on industrial properties appears to be elusive for residents who face daily intrusion and trespass.

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A satellite image of the above ground oil storage tank farm at Magazine Point in Africatown with the Africatown Bridge in the foreground.CONCERN 2)
The Africatown Overlay Still Allows for Above-Ground Oil Storage Tank Expansion, Against Popular City-Wide Concern and Support for Permanent Protection
UDCv4 § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11

CONCERN 2 BACKGROUND:
Africatown residents and regional advocates were among the stakeholders most heavily involved in overseeing the drafting of the original Above-Ground Storage Tank ordinance passed by Council in March of 2016.

At that same time, Council approved the contracting for what ultimate became the Map for Mobile and Unified Development Code process. Council encouraged resident and regional advocate participation in the process of a zoning code rewrite precisely because, if needed, it could address lingering concerns from the original Above-Ground Storage Tank ordinance process.

Africatown residents and regional advocates have sought an explicit exemption from the expansion of Above-Ground Storage Tanks in the Africatown neighborhood since the fall of 2013. These were among the recommendation of the Citizens Industrial Zoning Advisory Committee, which made the initial, consensus-based recommendations in the original Above-Ground Storage Tank ordinance process.

The Africatown Overlay in the UDC affords no such protection.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 2:
UDCv4 § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11 must be amended to remove “Oil & Gas Storage*” and “Hazardous Substance Storage*” from Conditional Uses in the Africatown Overlay for all sites not currently permitted as conforming or Conditional Uses by the UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-8 Above-Ground Oil Storage Tanks (p. 119) & UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-9 Hazardous Substance Storage Tanks (p. 124).

Given the consensus of the broad stakeholders represented in the Citizens Industrial Zoning Advisory Committee, which included industry representatives and attorneys, it would be unconscionable not to permanently protect the Africatown Overlay using the opportunity the UDC affords today.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’S CONCERN 2:
Build Mobile offered no formal response to the concerns brought by MEJAC or anybody else about the Africatown Overlay in their “UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document published in January 2021.

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Welcome to Africatown sign

Photo: Amy Walker.

 

CONCERN 3)
The Africatown Zoning Overlay Doesn’t Do Enough to Address Industrial Blight
UDCv4 § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11

CONCERN 3 BACKGROUND:
The Africatown Overlay of the UDCv4 is proposed as one of four unique overlay districts in the City of Mobile, the others being the Historic District (4 pages long), The Peninsula (8 pages long), the Village of Spring Hill (31 pages long). Like the Historic District, the Africatown Overlay section is 4 pages long.

The UDVv4 Africatown Overlay has identical boundaries as the Africatown Planning Area as identified in the Africatown Neighborhood Plan.

The Africatown Overlay doesn’t introduce any new or different Permitted Uses, Dimensional Standards, Street Tree, or Landscaping requirements for either residential or non-residential development in the overlay.

It includes guidance standards for Sidewalks and introduces Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles. The three principles of CPTED are:

• “Natural surveillance, which involves the placement and design of physical features, as well as the placement of on-site activities, to maximize visibility. This includes building orientation, windows, entrances and exits, parking lots, walkways, guard gates, landscaping, Fences or walls, signage and other physical obstructions;

• Natural access control, which involves use of sidewalks, pavement, lighting or landscaping to clearly guide the public to and from entrances and exits and the use of Fences, walls or landscaping to prevent or discourage public access to or from dark or unmonitored areas of the Site; and

• Territorial reinforcement, which involves the use of pavement treatments, landscaping, art, signage, screening or Fences to define and outline property ownership.”

All new non-residential structures must “submit a CPTED Plan identifying the manner in which CPTED principles will be utilized in the facility’s design.”

The requirement of a CPTED Plan to address crime prevention is the extent to which industrial blight is even glancingly addressed in the Africatown Overlay.

The Africatown Overlay does not include any statement of the purpose or intent of the overlay, unlike the Village of Spring Hill (UDCv4 § Article 13, Village of Spring Hill, Sec. 64-13-1, p. 319).

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 3:
Like the Village of Spring Hill Overlay, UDCv4 § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11 must be amended to clearly address the Intent and Purpose of the overlay, which must include decreasing Industrial visual and other nuisance encroachment upon residential Africatown.

Without a statement of purpose and intent, it is difficult to discern why the Africatown Overlay exists. If walkability, crime prevention, green space development, revitalization, blight mitigation, etc are the purposes, they should be declared, as is in the Village of Spring Hill Overlay, which is much more comprehensive in both scope and directive to developers.

The purpose and intent should include explicit mention of not only Residential blight mitigation but also of Industrial blight mitigation. Residential blight is an oft-cited public concern of city leadership, but we too rarely hear those tasked with blight elimination speak publicly about the need for non-residential properties near or in residential neighborhoods to mitigate the visual and other aesthetic impacts of their unique contributions to neighborhood blight.

While the Africatown Overlay addresses to the need of non-residential structures to conform to CPTED standards, given the severity of industrial blight that has been allowed to visually encroach upon the character of the residential neighborhoods in the Africatown Planning Area, the Africatown Overlay ought to require stricter standards for new non-residential development. These should include beautification standards along boundaries where Industrial properties face streets with Residential or green space districts across the street.

Simply expecting reference to a non-residential developer’s potential use of “pavement treatments, landscaping, art, signage, screening, or fences” is not a sufficient guarantee that a developer will indeed incorporate any of those aspects into their final design.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’S CONCERN 3:
Build Mobile offered no formal response to the concerns brought by MEJAC or anybody else about the Africatown Overlay in their “UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document published in January 2021.

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Welcome to Africatown sign

Photo: Amy Walker.

CONCERN 4)
The Africatown Overlay’s CPTED Requirements Only Apply in Africatown
UDCv4 § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11

 

CONCERN 4 BACKGROUND:
The Africatown Overlay is the only overlay that includes CPTED, and CPTED is not used in any other part of Mobile. It appears to be introduced exclusively from the City of Mobile Africatown Neighborhood Plan’s page 27 (https://mejac.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/city-of-mobile-africatown-neighborhood-plan-2016.pdf).

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 4:
If Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is an effective crime-prevention strategy, CPTED should be applied equitably across the City of Mobile.

Crime prevention is always a major theme of city resource allocation, but the Africatown Overlay district is proposed as the only place in the entire city where these standards should be guiding new non-residential development. Given the level of concerns expressed by public policymakers about innovative crime prevention tactics and if the CPTED is a good idea to address such concerns, the CPTED guiding principles really ought to be equitably afforded to all other communities throughout the Mobile area.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’S CONCERN 4:
Build Mobile offered no formal response to the concerns brought by MEJAC or anybody else about the Africatown Overlay in their “UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document published in January 2021.

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Welcome to Africatown sign

Photo: Amy Walker.

CONCERN 5)
The Africatown Overlay’s Landscaping Requirements Are Too Weak
UDC § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11

 

 

CONCERN 5 BACKGROUND:
The Africatown Overlay’s only mention of Street Trees is a reiteration of the existing rules that apply for the entire City of Mobile: “Street trees adjacent to the lot frontage shall be provided by the Applicant and shall be spaced as required by the Approved Plant List.” (UDC § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11, p. 310).

Large, sparsely landscaped parking lots dominate significant portions of the landscape of the Africatown Planning Area.

The UDCv4 does not require Parking Lot Trees in Maritime Light, Maritime Heavy, Industrial-1, Industrial-2 districts.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 5:
UDC § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11 must be amended to no exempt Maritime and Industrial Districts from Parking Lot Tree Requirements.

Given the unsightliness of large, sparsely landscaped parking lots in the Africatown Planning Area, the general exemption given to Maritime Light, Maritime Heavy, Industrial-1, Industrial-2 districts for Parking Lot Trees should be reversed in the Africatown Overlay.

If remedying blight in environmental justice communities like Africatown is a concern, remedying the appearance of large and unsightly parking lots must be a requirement, and the Africatown Overlay provides a most appropriate venue for such attempts to curb the negative visual impacts of future Industrial or Maritime developments in Africatown.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’S CONCERN 5:
Build Mobile offered no formal response to the concerns brought by MEJAC or anybody else about the Africatown Overlay in their “UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document published in January 2021.

It does appear that the previously overly restrictive Street Tree guidance was expanded in UDCv4 to encompass all developments in the Africatown Overlay and not just Neighborhood Center Traditional zoned properties, as it was in UDCv3. MEJAC had suggested an expansion of Street Tree requirements, but had suggested exempting Single-Family Residential (R-1) Districts.

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A diagram from the UDC illustrating a Riparian BufferCONCERN 6)
Exemptions from Riparian Buffer Standards are Overly Permissive, Especially in Africatown
UDCv4 § Article 3, Development Standards, Section 64-3-10 Natural Resource Protection, C Riparian Buffers, 5 Standards for Riparian Buffer Application, (d) Water Dependent Maritime Uses (p.84)

CONCERN 6 BACKGROUND:
Riparian Buffers are proven to improve the quality of water for recreational, sporting, and aesthetic purposes.

The UDCv4 Riparian Buffer standards are overall a positive and welcome development, however, the exemption for “Water Dependent Maritime Uses” in this section is extremely broad.

The “Water Dependent Maritime Uses” subsection reads: “The Development or redevelopment of Sites for water dependent, maritime, shipping or port-related activities are not subject to application of the RB standards described herein, but must provide an acceptable stormwater management plan for review and approval by City Engineering.” (UDCv4 § Article 3, Development Standards, Section 64-3-10 Natural Resource Protection, C, 5, (d), p.84).

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 6:
UDCv4 § Article 3, Development Standards, Section 64-3-10 Natural Resource Protection, C Riparian Buffers, 5 Standards for Riparian Buffer Application, (d) Water Dependent Maritime Uses (p.84) must be amended to require that any “Water Dependent Maritime Use” exemption be tailored as necessary on an applicant-by-applicant basis to apply as much of the Riparian Buffer standards to otherwise impacted but unutilized shoreline as possible.

Not every “Water Dependent Maritime Use” is certain to use an entire shoreline of a property for its Water Dependent Maritime business activity. For that reason alone, this blanket perpetual exemption to such a potentially positive standard for improving the quality of the water we recreate and fish in is baffling.

This is of particular concern in communities like Africatown where commercial water access puts a premium on exclusive stretches of navigable and commercially valuable waterfronts that surround the neighborhood on three sides.

Many of these properties in the Africatown Planning Area with Water Dependent Maritime uses have huge shorelines, which are not being used in their entirety for maritime access. It makes no sense to allow such large stretches of land to go without a riparian buffer standard simply because part of a property is utilized for its access to commercial maritime shipping lanes.

To ensure that the potentially positive impacts of the Riparian Buffer standards are applied equitably across developments subject to its provisions, the “Water Dependent Maritime Uses” exemption should be tailored as necessary on an individual applicant basis to apply as much of the Riparian Buffer standards to an otherwise impacted but unutilized shoreline as possible.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’s CONCERN 6:
Build Mobile did not directly respond to MEJAC’s concerns about how Africatown is proposed to be impacted by the “Water Dependent Maritime Uses” exemption to the UDC’s proposed Riparian Buffers standards.

Build Mobile did however respond to others who raised the concern, but did not directly respond to the specific concern related to “Water Dependent Maritime Uses”.

Build Mobile’s response was as follows:

“Homes are not allowed in zones 1 and 2. Furthermore, the environmental standards proposed in the UDC serve as first steps for regulating environmental sensitive design via zoning.” (“UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document, 3-10 Natural Resource Protection, p. 27).

There was no other response to this concern raised by many, including MEJAC.

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Welcome to Africatown sign

Photo: Amy Walker.

CONCERN 7)
The Africatown Overlay Omits Waterfront Conservation Consideration Entirely
UDC § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11

 

 

CONCERN 7 BACKGROUND:
Access to Africatown’s waterfront is important to its future as a residential community.

The Africatown Connections Blueway project for which the City of Mobile has resolved support is an important initiative to express the Africatown community’s recreational interest in the waterfront in the Africatown Overlay.

Visit Mobile is in the process of launching a water-based tour of sites important to Africatown’s heritage tourism attractions.

Water based recreation and tourism depends upon clean water and is greatly enhanced by protected, beautiful shorelines, which could be addressed in Africatown through the recommendation made by MEJAC in CONCERN 6 to tailor “Water Dependent Maritime Use” exemptions for Riparian Barriers as described in UDCv4 § Article 3, Development Standards, Section 64-3-10 Natural Resource Protection, C Riparian Buffers (p. 76) as necessary, on an applicant-by-applicant basis to apply as much of the Riparian Buffer standards to an otherwise impacted but unutilized shoreline as possible. Such a measure would have beneficial impacts in the Africatown Overlay for water-based recreation and tourism.

The Africatown Overlay makes no mention of the community’s immense water resources, and thus it makes no direct attempt to address concerns with water quality that Africatown’s residents and regional advocates clearly have interest.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 7:
UDC § Article 11, Africatown Overlay, Sec. 64-11 must be amended to include Riparian Buffer application to all Zoning Districts in the Africatown Overlay, including “Water Dependent Maritime Uses”, where exemption must be tailored as necessary on an applicant-by-applicant basis to apply as much of the Riparian Buffer standards to otherwise impacted but unutilized shoreline as possible.

Not every “Water Dependent Maritime Use” is certain to use an entire shoreline of a property for its Water Dependent Maritime activity. For that reason alone, this blanket perpetual exemption to such a potentially positive standard for improving the quality of the water we recreate and fish in is baffling.

This is of particular concern in communities like Africatown where commercial water access puts a premium on exclusive stretches of navigable and commercially valuable waterfronts that surround the neighborhood on three sides.

Many of these properties in the Africatown Planning Area with Water Dependent Maritime uses have huge shorelines, which are not being used in their entirety for maritime access. It makes no sense to allow future development of such large stretches of land to go without a riparian buffer standard simply because a fraction of a waterfront is planned to be utilized for its access to commercial maritime shipping lanes.

To ensure that the potentially positive impacts of the Riparian Buffer standards are applied in the Africatown Overlay to protect the community’s rare and immense water resources, the “Water Dependent Maritime Uses” exemption should be tailored as necessary on an individual applicant basis to apply as much of the Riparian Buffer standards to an otherwise impacted but unutilized shoreline as possible in the Africatown Overlay.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’S CONCERN 7:
Build Mobile offered no formal response to the concerns brought by MEJAC or anybody else about the Africatown Overlay in their “UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document published in January 2021.

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CONCERN 8)
The New Coal Handling Operations Code Retroactively Changes Use Permit Terms for and Rewards One (Very Bad) Industrial Developer
UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, A, 2, (a) (p.116)

CONCERN 8 BACKGROUND:
“Coal Handling Operations” is a brand new regulatory framework in the Mobile Code. No reference to it as an either Permitted by Right or Conditional Use in Industrial-2 or other Mobile zoning codes has existed before.

There exists only one facility in the City of Mobile currently handling coal that falls outside of the Alabama State Port Authority’s jurisdiction, in which the City of Mobile Zoning Code does not apply. The parcel of land on which that facility sits is owned by Cooper Marine & Timberlands Corporation (CMT), according to public tax records. This open-air facility operates on the east bank of the Mobile River on Blakeley Island less than 2,500 ft from the Meridian at the Port condominiums.

Coal is considered hazardous when handled in bulk, because it is capable of hazardous conditions such as creating flammable atmospheres, heating spontaneously, depleting oxygen concentration in its surroundings, and corroding metal structures with which it comes into contact.

During Planning deliberations over its seeking a permit for its activities in the winter of 2015, the operators of the CMT facility admitted to having handled coal without any permit for more than five years at its waterfront property. A common assumption among those familiar with its work was that CMT had been handling a different black mineral, rutile, which is marketed as a significant source of crystalline titanium dioxide.

This prolonged apparent deception was carried out during a period when other coal handling facilities were proposed elsewhere in the downtown area, which resulted in significant controversy and ultimately the abandonment of the coal handling operation project.

The proposed language in UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, A, 2, (a) (p.116) would permit “existing coal handling facilities” as “conforming permitted uses”.

Troublingly, this legislative language appears to have been developed exclusively for the benefit of the only existing coal handling facility under the City of Mobile’s direct zoning jurisdiction, the CMT facility. There has been no public hearing on this new ordinance with significant quality of life, environmental, as well as political implications.

In response to the desire of some to have new sections of the UDCv4 that didn’t come from existing code apply retroactively to existing facilities, Build Mobile rebutted, “Property owners are required to develop their site to the standards in effect at the time of development; therefore, new standards are generally not retroactive.” (“UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document, 3-8 Buffers, p. 25).

That expectation doesn’t appear to apply to Cooper Marine & Timberlands Corporation.

CMT was issued a Conditional Use permit for its activities, and that permit should stand until the next time it seeks to update its facility operations in another way that triggers Council oversight.

This section’s provision of “Permitted By Right” use designation for the CMT Coal Handling Operation appears to contradict UDCv4 § Article 2, Zoning Districts, Sec. 64-2-24 Use Table, p. 34, which describes the “Coal Handling Operation*” use as a Conditional Use only in Maritime Heavy and Industrial-2 districts. Conditional Use permits require Council oversight.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 8:
The newly introduced UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations code must be amended to delete Sec. 64-4-6, A, 2, (a) (p. 116) entirely, because retroactively benefiting one industrial developer isn’t what the Map For Mobile UDC process should be about.

In the interest of fighting corruption and improving downtown quality of life, the City of Mobile must reconsider rewarding bad industrial development behavior.

The Map For Mobile zoning code rewrite process must not be turned into a venue for punishing or rewarding any particular business but for creating harmonious code that reflects the existing, clear interests of the City in improving quality of life for all, particularly our most vulnerable residents.

UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, A, 2, (a) (p.116) must be deleted in its entirety, because it capricious and in direct opposition with the type of harmonious planning and development the Map For Mobile UDC process should encourage.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’S CONCERN 8:
Build Mobile did not respond directly to the these concerns raised by MEJAC and others about the nature of retroactively permitting CMT’s rogue coal handling facility as a “conforming permitted use”.

Build Mobile only responded with the following: “Environmental requirements concerning fugitive dust and other matters are the jurisdiction of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.” (“UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document, 4-6 Coal Handling Operations, p. 34).

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CONCERN 9)
The New Coal Handling Operations Code’s Perpetual Permit to Expand Applies to and Rewards One (Very Bad) Industrial Developer and Is Capriciously Permissive
UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, A, 2, (b) & (c) (p.116)

CONCERN 9 BACKGROUND:
The proposed language in UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, A, 2, (b) & (c) (p.116) reads:

• (b) – “A Coal Handling Facility existing on a Site on the effective date of this Section may be repaired, replaced or reconstructed on the same Site without compliance with this Section and without the need for an additional Setback.”

• (c) – “The replacement of a Coal Handling Facility in existence on the effective date of this Chapter need not have the identical footprint or configuration.”

These combined sections appear to give perpetual permit by right to undertake any coal handling expansions under any circumstances at the CMT facility.

This section’s provision of a perpetual permit for expansion or reconstruction for the CMT Coal Handling Operation appears to contradict UDCv4 § Article 2, Zoning Districts, Sec. 64-2-24 Use Table, p. 34, which describes the “Coal Handling Operation*” use as a Conditional Use only in Maritime Heavy and Industrial-2 districts. Conditional Use permits require Council oversight.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 9:
Retroactive perpetual use permits for singular entities is an extraordinary governmental power and must not reward bad behavior, so UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, A, 2, (b) & (c) (p.116) must be deleted in its entirety.

The provision of perpetual, indefinite permit to make any adjustment to CMT’s coal handling facility must be eliminated entirely. This sections appears to be designed as a clear benefit to a single operator that has a less than forthright record when it comes to public health and community engagement considerations.

The Map For Mobile zoning code rewrite process must not be turned into a venue for punishing or rewarding any particular business but for creating harmonious code that reflects the existing, clear interests of the City in improving quality of life for all, particularly our most vulnerable residents.

UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, A, 2, (b) & (c) (p.116) must be deleted in its entirety, because it capricious and in direct opposition with the type of harmonious planning and development the Map For Mobile UDC process should encourage.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’S CONCERN 9:
Build Mobile did not respond directly to the these concerns raised by MEJAC and others about the nature of perpetually permitting any facility expansions or changes at CMT’s rogue coal handling facility.

Build Mobile only responded with the following: “Environmental requirements concerning fugitive dust and other matters are the jurisdiction of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.” (“UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document, 4-6 Coal Handling Operations, p. 34).

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CONCERN 10)
The New Coal Handling Operations Code Permits Development of Coal Handling Operations on Legacy Parcels Without Council Oversight
UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, B, 1 (p.117)

CONCERN 10 BACKGROUND:
The proposed language in UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, A, 2, (b) & (c) (p.116) reads:

• “1. New facilities that are not replacements for existing facilities may be constructed on Sites that already have a Conditional Use Permit (or Planning Approval under previous versions of this Chapter) or that did not require Conditional Use Permit or Planning Approval at the time of construction if a Building Permit was received, if:

(a) the facility complies with all then existing regulatory requirements, and

(b) the Director is provided the information required by this Section and Article 10.”

This section appears to permit a coal handling operation on any sort of zoned property in the City of Mobile regardless of its designation as long as that property has a building permit issued at a time before planning approval was ever required. The exceedingly permissive language of this section also appears to contradict Sec. 64-2-24’s Use Table, which describes “Coal Handling Operation*” use as Conditional only in Maritime Heavy and Industrial-2 districts.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 10:
The UDCv4 must not permit Coal Handling Operations to propagate across the city without Conditional Use permitting processes for each facility, as would be required by UDCv4 otherwise, so UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, B, 1 (p.117) must be deleted in its entirety.

UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations, B, 1 (p.117) must be deleted in its entirety, because it capricious and in direct opposition with the type of harmonious planning and development the Map For Mobile UDC process should encourage.

To reiterate, the entirety of Sec. 64-4-6, A, 2 Existing Coal Handling Facilities, including subsections (a) through (c) (Article 4 Use Regulations, p. 89), ought to be eliminated entirely, because the City of Mobile should not reward industrial developers that have very poor public health and community engagement track records with language that specifically affords them perpetual permission to alter their PUD in ways that could dramatically increase hazardous material capacity without any public comment or Council oversight opportunity whatsoever.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’S CONCERN 10:
Build Mobile did not respond directly to the these concerns raised by MEJAC and others about the nature of allowing Coal Handling Operations to propagate across the city without Conditional Use permits.

Build Mobile only responded with the following: “Environmental requirements concerning fugitive dust and other matters are the jurisdiction of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.” (“UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document, 4-6 Coal Handling Operations, p. 34).

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CONCERN 11)
The New Coal Handling Operations Code Does Too Little to Protect Neighboring Properties from Trespass and Nuisance
UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations (p.116)

CONCERN 11 BACKGROUND:
UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations (p.117) creates a setback for all new Coal Handling Facilities. The setback regulation reads: “A Coal Handling Facility shall be Setback at least one thousand, five hundred (1,500) feet measured from the Building or Structure to the property line of the nearest residentially zoned (R-1, R-2, R-3) or occupied property, religious land use or school.”

The proposed setback is a positive move in the right direction to protect residents and residential-related activities from potential exposure to fugitive coal dust, but if that is the goal, this section hardly regulates enough.

Coal dust is created when coal is jostled, crushed, or otherwise rubbed against itself or other objects. Being very light and often very fine, it can travel on the wind and onto neighboring properties, causing damage and incurring costs for maintenance.

Using archaic means to moving coal to and from barges using clamshell bucket cranes to dump coal into open piles results in the release of large amounts of fugitive coal dust.

Mobile’s shorelines, where the only existing Coal Handling Operation exists and where any potential new facilities are likely to be proposed are very windy places.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 11:
All new and existing Coal Handling Operations must store their coal indoors and move coal piles on site using conveyors systems.

UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations (p.116) must be amended to include requirements that both new and existing Coal Handling Operations must be required to store their coal piles indoors to prevent the trespass of their fugitive coal dust by wind, rain, and other water events.

UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations (p.116) must be amended to include requirements that Coal Handling Operations be forbidden to move coal piles in bulk by any mechanism other than a conveyor system.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’S CONCERN 11:
Build Mobile responded with the following: “Environmental requirements concerning fugitive dust and other matters are the jurisdiction of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.” (“UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document, 4-6 Coal Handling Operations, p. 34).

However, nuisance trespass is precisely what municipal Zoning Codes should address. While many rightfully argue that coal dust is a hazardous and dangerous material, it is also a nuisance materials that forces neighboring property owners and residents to incur costs in order to mitigate its impact upon their properties, which include homes, religious land uses, schools, tourism infrastructure, and entertainment venues.

Build Mobile’s response is totally inadequate.

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CONCERN 12)
The New Coal Handling Operations Code Is Too Consequential to Include in the UDC
UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations (p.116)

CONCERN 12 BACKGROUND:
The final UDC is 410 pages long. Creating a section of code to pertain to one very controversial operator in the City of Mobile’s zoning jurisdiction doesn’t appear to be the most appropriate use of the UDC adoption process.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 12:
If it cannot be amended per CONCERNS 8-11, the new UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations (p.116) proposed code should be deleted in its entirety and a separate public hearing on the proposed new code should be held instead.

The UDC adoption process shouldn’t be contaminated by code written specifically for a singular entity.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’S CONCERN 12:
Build Mobile did not respond directly to the these concerns raised by MEJAC and others about the necessity of retroactively removing UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-6 Coal Handling Operations (p.116) from the UDC adoption process.

Build Mobile only responded with the following: “Environmental requirements concerning fugitive dust and other matters are the jurisdiction of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.” (“UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document, 4-6 Coal Handling Operations, p. 34).

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A satellite image of the above ground oil storage tank farm at Magazine Point in Africatown with the Africatown Bridge in the foreground.CONCERN 13)
The Above-Ground Oil Storage Tanks Code’s Design Standards Don’t Include Nuisance Vapor Capture for Noxious and Toxic Vapors on New and Re-Developed Tanks

UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-8 Above-Ground Oil Storage Tanks, C. Siting and Design Requirements (p. 122)

CONCERN 13 BACKGROUND:
Part of the many concerns with above ground petrochemical storage tanks is that they are designed to off-gas their noxious vapors into the atmosphere and, as a consequence, into nearby neighborhoods. Imagine a bottle of soda. When it’s full of liquid there’s little to no gas inside. When it’s empty it’s filled with gas. When it’s filled back up, the gas that was inside is pushed out. Many tanks on the Mobile River do this exact action. They are called “fixed roof tanks”. This mechanic is why modern regulations and industry norms have shifted to requiring “floating roof tanks”, which lower but do not eliminate the amount of vapors released into the atmosphere.

Petrochemical vapors are a broad class of highly hazardous chemicals. Many are heavier than air, which result in clouds of toxic, volatile vapors drifting into nearby areas. This heavier-than-air sinking action caused a major disaster on the Mobile River in 2013 when vapors from fuel tanks were recklessly released and had accumulated on top of the Mobile River where they were eventually ignited by a passing tug boat. The explosion injured three people.

Many individual constituents of crude oil vapors are so toxic that they have no known safe exposure levels.

Crude oil vapors also in most cases stink to high heaven and form a noxious nuisance to those downwind. These offensive smells are frequent all along Blakeley Island, in Africatown, and in Downtown Mobile.

In the effort to get a good Above Ground Petrochemical Storage Tank ordinance passed, MEJAC along with a group of concerned Mobile residents from many walks of life circulated a 66- page white paper on petrochemical vapor exposure dangers and impacts featuring letters from many downtown business owners and affected residents. It also included expert testimony from geneticists raising concerns on the impacts to unborn children and expectant mothers from exposure to crude oil vapors.

The amount of vapors that Mobile area tanks farms release is publicly available data from the EPA.

The most effective way to prevent exposure to these dangerous and acrid vapors is to require vapor capture on the tanks so the gases released aren’t released into the atmosphere, into neighborhoods and into our downtown community.

Vapor capture is an economical approach, as well, because companies who capture their vapors are often able to sell them as valuable chemical product for other industrial uses. EPA has many documents touting the economic benefits of vapor recovery systems readily available on their websites and in print.

The only mention of crude oil vapors in the UDCv4’s Above-Ground Oil Storage Tanks ordinance is in UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-8 D, 2 p. 124, which reads: “Description of Any Applicable Vapor, Emission or Odor Regulations. If the proposed tank is subject to federal or state best management practices regulations with respect to vapor, emissions, and/or odor control, the Application for Conditional Use Permit shall include a statement as to the relevant regulatory authority or authorities and a summary of any equipment and technology being implemented to comply with such regulatory requirements.”

While it is good to require disclosure of such regulations, the application of vapor capture technology is still mostly voluntary in the State of Alabama.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 13:
Both newly developed and re-developed Above-Ground Oil Storage Tanks must be equipped with vapor recovery systems to mitigate nuisance vapor exposure onto neighboring properties, so UDCv4 § Article 4, Use Regulations, Sec. 64-4-8 C. Siting and Design Requirements (p. 122) must be amended to require these design standards.

The City of Mobile must require Above-Ground Oil Storage Tank developers to take proactive, economical steps to protect their neighbors from frequent exposure to noxious, acrid odors and from hazardous industrial chemicals with no known safe exposure levels.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’S CONCERN 13:
Build Mobile responded to this concern with the following: “The above ground oil storage tank requirements are relatively unchanged from the adoption of the current regulations in 2016.” (“UDC V4 summary of changes and responses to comments” document, 4-8 Above-Ground Oil Storage Tanks, p. 35).

However, nuisance trespass is precisely what municipal Zoning Codes should address. And of course, significant portions of the UDCv4 are new introductions. There’s no defensible reason to not introduce reasonable protections for the neighbors of new and re-developed Above-Ground Oil Storage Tanks.

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An equation depiction The City of Mobile logo plus the Fair Housing Equal Opportunity logo equating a question mark.CONCERN 14)
UDCv4 Fails to Meet many of the City of Mobile’s own Zoning Code Revision Metrics for its Fair Housing Goals and Priorities, as Declared to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the City’s Latest Assessment of Fair Housing Report.
UDCv4 § Article 2, Zoning Districts

CONCERN 14 BACKGROUND:
The City of Mobile has a very serious housing crisis. Thousands of children in the Mobile County Public School System are unhoused. Low-income families are often doubled or tripled up in homes designed for single families. Living in vehicles is a norm for too many families.

Opportunities exist in zoning code to legalize more permissive housing arrangements. For instance, it is currently illegal for an elderly person to offer a room for rent in their otherwise empty house in Single Family Residential districts. But The City of Mobile has, at times, acknowledged its aging population and the opportunities that exist in the zoning code to create more housing opportunity throughout the city.

The City of Mobile accepts federal block grant money afforded by the Fair Housing Act. For accountability’s sake, receiving this taxpayer money requires that recipient governments and other entities to develop and report goals for the use of the money to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The City of Mobile submitted its most recent Assessment of Fair Housing 2018-2023 Report (AFH) to the HUD on September 22, 2017. In that document, the City filled in a table titled “Fair Housing Goals and Priorities” on p. 158-174, which contained a column for a Fair Housing “Goal”, as well as corresponding “Metrics, Milestones and Timeline for Achievement” information related to the attainment of that Goal.

An image from the City of Mobile's Assessment of Fair Housing 2018-2023 report (published in 2017) of its Fair Housing Goals and Priorities Table on page 159 of the report.

An image from the City of Mobile’s Assessment of Fair Housing 2018-2023 report (published in 2017) of its Fair Housing Goals and Priorities Table on page 159 of the report. The full report can be read here: https://mejac.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/17.09.22-city-of-mobile-assessment-of-fair-housing-2018-2023-report-published-in-2017.pdf

One of the Goals/Priorities identified in the table specifically references anticipated revisions made to the City of Mobile zoning code. It reads:
“Include elements in revisions to zoning code to accommodate and encourage access to innovative affordable housing” (p. 159). Under the “Metrics, Milestones and Timeline for Achievement” column the City explained, “. . .the City’s anticipated revision to the updated zoning and development code in effort to increase access to affordable housing and eliminate land use barriers to affordable housing. . .”.

The City then identified 5 separate Metrics for this zoning code revision-related Goal, but UDCv4 fails to a great meet many these Fair Housing Goal Metrics.

• Metric 1 reads:
“Include provision in Low Density Residential (LDR) category to accommodate affordable housing development by removal of current Lot Area minimum requirement of 7,200 sf.”

The removing of Lot Area minimums (LAMs) was not achieved in five of six UDCv4’s LDR zoning districts:
Residential Agriculture (R-A): LAMs are raised from 7,200 sf to 43,560 sf (1 acre)
Single-Family Residential Urban (R-1 Urban): LAMs are lowered from 7,200 sf to 4,000 sf
Single-Family Residential Suburban (R-1 Suburban): LAMs are identical to before
Single-Family Residential Conservation (R-1 Conservation): LAMs are noted as “Not Applicable”
Two-Family Residential Urban (R-2 Urban): LAMs are lowered from 7,200 sf to 4,000 sf
Two-Family Residential Suburban (R-2 Suburban): LAMs are raised from 7,200 sf to 8,000 sf

By not removing LAMs, UDCv4’s R-A, R-1 Urban, R-1 Suburban, R-2 Urban, and R-2 Suburban zoning districts all fail the Goal to “include elements in revisions to zoning code to accommodate and encourage access to innovative affordable housing”, as measured by Metric 1 of the City of Mobile’s declared Fair Housing Goals and Priorities.

• Metric 3 reads:
“Include provision in Low Density Residential (LDR) category to decrease front, side, and rear yard minimums to 5 feet.”

Metric 3 was not met in many of the UDCv4’s eighteen Yard minimum requirements.

In UDCv4, the “Front Yard”, “Side Yard”, and “Rear Yard” minimum size requirements are given a value in a “Dimensional Standard” table in each Article 2 Zoning District Subsection:

R-A Front: 25 feet
R-A Side: 10 feet
R-A Rear: 10 feet

R-1 Urban Front: 5 feet
R-1 Urban Side: 5 feet
R-1 Urban Rear: 5 feet

R-1 Suburban Front: 25 feet
R-1 Suburban Side: 5 feet
R-1 Suburban Rear: 8 feet

R-1 Conservation Front: 5 feet
R-1 Conservation Side: 5 feet
R-1 Conservation Rear: 5 feet

R-2 Urban Front: 5 feet
R-2 Urban Side: 5 feet
R-2 Urban Rear: 5 feet

R-2 Suburban Front: 25 feet
R-2 Suburban Side: 5 feet
R-2 Suburban Rear: 8 feet

By not lowering yard size minimums to 5 feet, UDCv4’s R-A, R-1 Suburban, and R-2 Suburban districts all fail the Goal to “include elements in revisions to zoning code to accommodate and encourage access to innovative affordable housing”, as measured by Metric 1 of the City of Mobile’s declared Fair Housing Goals and Priorities.

• Metric 5 reads:
“Include the following “permitted by right” uses within the RL and/or RM zoning districts: single-family detached dwelling, accessory dwelling, cottage court, duplex dwelling, multi-family dwelling, live/work dwelling, manufactured home, apartment house, town/row house, zero lot line home, room and boarding, community residential facility, retirement/elderly housing, and residential care facilities.”

Metric 5’s completion in the UDCv4 is a very mixed bag. Measurement is complicated by the introduction of new Business zoning districts with blurred relationships to Residential zoning districts. For simplicity’s sake, MEJAC only looked at Residential Agricultural (R-A), Single-Family Residential (R-1), Two-Family Residential (R-2), Multi-Family Residential (R-3), and Residential Business (R-B) districts.

To illustrate the measurement of Metric 5, MEJAC has included the following chart where “YES” means the Metric was met and “NO” means it was not met:

• Single family detached dwelling
R-A: YES
R-1: YES
R-2: YES
R-3: YES
R-B: YES

• Accessory dwelling
R-A: YES
R-1: YES
R-2: YES
R-3: YES
R-B: YES

• Cottage court
R-A: NO
R-1: NO
R-2: NO
R-3: YES
R-B: YES

• Duplex Dwelling
R-A: NO
R-1: NO
R-2: YES
R-3: YES
R-B: YES

• Multi-family dwelling
R-A: NO
R-1: NO
R-2: NO
R-3: YES
R-B: YES

• Live/work dwelling
R-A: NO
R-1: NO
R-2: NO
R-3: NO (special exception only)
R-B: YES

• Manufactured home
R-A: NO (special exception only)
R-1: NO (special exception only)
R-2: NO (special exception only)
R-3: NO (special exception only)
R-B: NO

• Apartment house
R-A: NO
R-1: NO
R-2: NO
R-3: YES
R-B: YES

• Town/row house
R-A: NO
R-1: NO
R-2: NO
R-3: YES
R-B: YES

• Zero lot line home
R-A: NO
R-1: NO (special exception only)
R-2: NO (special exception only)
R-3: YES
R-B: YES

• Room and boarding
Room and boarding is only permitted in B-3, B-4 with special exception in B-2.
R-A: NO
R-1: NO
R-2: NO
R-3: NO
R-B: NO

• Community residential facility “Family*”
R-A: YES
R-1: YES
R-2: YES
R-3: YES
R-B: YES

• Community residential facility “Transitional*”
R-A: NO
R-1: NO
R-2: NO
R-3: YES
R-B: YES

• Retirement/elderly housing
R-A: NO
R-1: NO
R-2: NO
R-3: YES
R-B: YES

• Residential care facilities (as “Life care or continuing care services”)
R-A: NO
R-1: NO
R-2: NO
R-3: NO (special exception only)
R-B: NO (special exception only)

By not including cottage court, duplex dwelling, multi-family dwelling, live/work dwelling, manufactured home, apartment house, town/row house, zero lot line home, room and boarding, community residential facility “Transitional*”, retirement/elderly housing, and residential care facilities as Permitted By Right uses in R-A, R-1, R-2, R-3, and R-B zoning districts, UDCv4 fails the Goal to “include elements in revisions to zoning code to accommodate and encourage access to innovative affordable housing”, as measured by Metric 5 of the City of Mobile’s declared Fair Housing Goals and Priorities.

MEJAC RECOMMENDATION for CONCERN 14:
The City must amend all dimensional standards and the Use Table in UDCv4 § Article 2, Zoning Districts to meet the City’s own Metrics for its Fair Housing Goals and Priorities as declared to HUD in the City’s latest Assessment of Fair Housing report.

If the City of Mobile is serious about tackling our city’s serious housing crisis, it could begin by adhering to the plans it has developed to address the crisis.

BUILD MOBILE REBUTTAL to MEJAC’s CONCERN 14:
Build Mobile did not respond to MEJAC or any other entity with respect to concerns about the lack of inclusion of the City’s zoning code-related Fair Housing Goals and Priorities in the UDC.

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MEJAC’s Involvement in the Map For Mobile UDC Process Over the Past Three years

Cover Page of the Build Mobile proposed UDCUDC Versions 1 & 2
UDC Version 1 published in fall 2017 was interesting but lacked huge and important sections that were never published until the second draft was made available over a year later. Anticipating its arrival, Build Mobile sent an email detailing the UDC Version 2 (UDCv2) process on January 20, 2019, two days before it was published on the Map for Mobile website on January 22, 2019 at a volume of 279 pages. In addition to the hundreds of pages of text, also published were completely new, potentially binding Future Land Use Map zoning designations for every parcel of land in the City of Mobile.

MEJAC assisted Build Mobile with outreach for an Africatown focus group on February 26, 2019 to discuss the UDC process generally and the Africatown Overlay in particular.

MEJAC’s full review of the 279 page UDCv2 took a considerable amount of time and effort and ultimately proved extremely alarming to our agency and to many Africatown residents. UDCv2 would have enacted a citywide re-zoning that would have enacted the Future Land Use Map zoning designations. In the Africatown Planning Area, these Future Land Use Map designations were developed without stakeholder input by consultants paid by the City of Mobile to develop the Africatown Neighborhood Plan. Many participant stakeholders contend that they never signed off on any of the final maps included in the Plan and that no meetings were convened at any point in 2015 among stakeholders to discuss or analyze the final Africatown Neighborhood Plan in its entirety before it was presented to the Planning Commission and City Council.

That is not to say the Africatown Neighborhood Plan is a cursed document. Just to say that the plan’s Future Land Use Map is not what those involved wanted to see, and that many involved would have rejected the form that was published and adopted the City in early 2016, because it was too permissive and didn’t account for concerns with existing and exasperating code nonconformities in Africatown.

In response to UDCv2, MEJAC published exhaustive commentary regarding many of the properties of Re-Zoning concern, as well as commentary about proposed Design Standards, Zoning District Use Chart designations, the Africatown Overlay, the tree ordinance, and more (https://mejac.wordpress.com/2019/03/08/mobileudccommentary/).

MEJAC was invited by the National Park Service to participate in a meeting intended introduce the Africatown Connections Blueway project to Build Mobile, which was held on June 14, 2019, but after submitting over 18,000 words in constructive and encouraging commentary about UDCv2, MEJAC was never directly engaged about our agency’s concerns with the UDC and its impacts in Africatown or elsewhere in our city.

UDC Version 3
UDC Version 3 (UDCv3) was published on March 16, 2020 at a volume of 281 pages. Build Mobile sent an email detailing the UDCv3 process the same day it was published.

MEJAC reviewed its concerns from the UDCv2 and found many lingering.

MEJAC submitted another roughly 6,000 constructive and thoughtful words about its concerns at that time. We chose not to publish them on MEJAC’s blog in the hopes that Build Mobile would see fit to meet with us given the progress we saw on some of our concerns with UDCv2, particularly about the implications of citywide rezoning to conformity with the City’s Future Land Use Map. However, we received no direct response.

UDC Version 4
UDC Version 4 (UDCv4) was published on December 31, 2020, New Year’s Eve, at a volume of 410 pages, but this time Build Mobile sent no email announcing its publication. A note accompanying its publication suggested the Build Mobile would be adding its formal responses to UDCv3 commentary on the Map For Mobile website, too, but at a later date.

The fact of its having been published would’ve gone unnoticed by MEJAC if not for a routine Planning Commission meeting notification email sent in the late afternoon of Monday, January 4, 2021. The Planning Commission agenda originally published to the Build Mobile website included a confusing paragraph that suggested a motion to accept UDCv4 would be heard, in addition to motions regarding how the UDCv4 would affect the Tree Ordinance.

MEJAC members were told that our agency was confused about that Planning Commission meeting agenda item and that it was to deal exclusively with the Tree Ordinance.

Instead at the January 7, 2021 Planning Commission meeting, an additional Planning Commission meeting agenda item was published that included a motion to set the public hearing date on the UDCv4 for February 25, 2021, something that was not explicitly named in the previous agenda.

Build Mobile’s Shayla Beaco and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson presented in support of the motion to set the hearing date. But without that being on the agenda and having signed up ahead of time to speak, no one in the public nor any agency which may have wanted was able to offer public comment about the motion.

After the motion had passed on January 7, 2021, Build Mobile finally sent an email announcing the publication of UDCv4 and what its adoption processes will look like. Build Mobile had also waited until after the Planning Commission vote to publish its responses to UDCv3 commentary, rendering any potential informed dissent to the motion practically impossible.

As always, MEJAC’s board of Africatown residents and regional advocates has once again thoroughly reviewed our agency’s outstanding concerns with UDCv4.

Conclusion

Share our concerns? Let the City of Mobile Planning Commission know for their UDC Public Hearing scheduled for Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 2pm! There’s a DEADLINE for public participation!

You should write in your own words as much as you feel comfortable, but please be sure to tell them that you support the MEJAC and the NAACP recommended changes to the UDC including:

• strengthening the Africatown Overlay to do more to combat industrial blight, protect air and water quality, and prohibiting any new Above Ground Oil Storage Tanks in the neighborhood;
• strengthening “Protection Buffer” standards for residents living along industrial fence lines in places like Africatown, Crichton, Down the Bay, and Theodore;
• requiring new and upgraded Above Ground Oil Storage Tanks to be outfitted with vapor capture technology to prevent noxious and toxic vapor releases into Mobile neighborhoods like Africatown;
• either amending the Coal Handling Operations ordinance per MEJAC and NAACP recommendations or removing it entirely in favor of a separate public adoption process altogether; and
• amending Residential Zone design standards to expand access to affordable housing in Mobile, like the Stimpson administration said it would do in 2017.

SPEAKER DEADLINE: Wanna speak up at the public hearing on 2/25? You MUST REGISTER by 12pm on Friday, February 19, 2021 here:
https://mapformobile.org/udc/#feedback

WRITTEN COMMENT DEADLINE: Written comments must be must be received no later than noon on Friday, February 19, 2021 and may submitted online by clicking here:
https://mapformobile.org/udc/#feedback


or mailed to:
City of Mobile Planning and Zoning
PO Box 1827
Mobile, AL 36633

Send your comments to your Mobile City Councilperson (https://www.cityofmobile.org/government/city-council/), too, because if the Planning Commission recommends adoption of the UDC, the City Council will then conduct its own public hearing and vote to codify it into law.

WANNA WATCH? You may watch the UDC public hearing on the City of Mobile’s YouTube channel LIVE on Thursday, February 25 starting at 2pm here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdLrEwf3ewSNmCNm21fVfNg

We publish our concerns for the enlightenment of our neighbors and in pursuit of environmental justice in Africatown and beyond.

As always, thank you for your interest in and support of our work.

Environmental justice is for all!

-Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition & the Mobile Alabama NAACP

 

MEJAC logo: a family in silouette flanked by two people marching with a banner that reads "Environmental Justice For All". MEJAC's full name and website and social media handle are below.###

 

On Proposed Tolling on the I-10 Bridge, Tunnel, and Bayway

Proposed I-10 Toll Bridge, Tunnel, and Bayway Diagram

Proposed I-10 Toll Bridge, Wallace Tunnel, and Bayway in relation to the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge and the Bankhead Tunnel from MobileRiverBridge.com

The proposed I-10 Toll Bridge, Tunnel, and Bayway are controversial for their toll, but Africatown residents have concerns with the toll, toll aversion traffic, as well as many environmental concerns and concerns with the existing infrastructure along Africatown Blvd that results in dangerous conditions for residents.

On Tuesday, July 19, 2018, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) hosted a community meeting at the Robert Hope Community Center in Africatown about its plans to include a tolling component in the proposed I-10 Bridge and associated Bayway reconstruction.

Participants in that meeting raised numerous concerns not only about the possibility of traffic that would avoid the proposed toll on the I-10 Bridge and the Wallace Tunnel but also about existing conditions of traffic in the community that regularly results in difficulties and dangers for residents. Participants also requested that ALDOT commit to another community meeting to expand participation. Continue reading

The New City of Mobile Zoning Code: Kudos and Concerns

The Africatown community faces huge changes through proposed revisions to the City of Mobile Zoning Code. Advocates have released the following responses to the Planning Department. There is much to potentially be excited for, but unfortunately, there also appears to be many unnecessary and inappropriate zoning designations proposed, as well. As complex as this issue is, Africatown advocates agree that the City must wrestle with the contradictions in the current land use designations, how properties are being used, and the interests of the Africatown community to protect both its residential integrity and respect its many environmental concerns.

Build Mobile’s proposed Unified Development Code (UDC) Background

Africatown residents and regional advocates, as well as many environmental justice community leaders from around Mobile provided significant participation during the Map for Mobile project. This resulted in the creation of a Future Land Use Map (FLUM) of the entire city that provided a non-binding sketch of what a comprehensive zoning map could look like.

The next step taken in the process to modernize the City of Mobile’s long-range planning processes was to examine all of the rules around getting “planning approval” for real estate developers, businesses, and residents in the city.

This culminated as the City of Mobile’s Build Mobile program. Its mission is ostensibly to consolidate and, in some places, “streamline” the planing approval process to make the land use rules that bind developers, business owners, and residents more transparent, modern, and less cumbersome. The Build Mobile process basically exists today as a sub-organization within the city’s Planning Department.

Cover Page of the Build Mobile proposed UDCIn January 2019, Build Mobile submitted a draft of what they are calling the Unified Development Code (UDC) for public consideration, and it’s time to PROVIDE FEEDBACK. The original deadline for this general public comment period ended Friday, March 8, but the deadline has been extended another 30 days to April 8, 2019.

The entire 386 pages of the Build Mobile UDC code is available for review here. Continue reading