Expansion of Druid Hills Urban Renewal Plan approved; Council discusses legislation to address littering

Members of the Birmingham City Council expressed a need for the city to come up with better ways to enforce littering violations and code infractions, during Tuesday’s meeting.

The discussion took place during Mayor Randall Woodfin’s remarks, after several Councilors voiced a need for additional resources, along with new legislation, to hold people accountable for littering in their respective districts.

“My district is not getting the attention it needs,” said Councilor Steven Hoyt, chair of the Planning and Zoning Committee. “That’s not a dispersion on our city workers. Our city is filthy. People are dumping construction waste. I’ve reported all this and it’s still an issue. I’m talking from experience. I think we need to address and it not make excuses.”

Councilor Darrell O’Quinn said that he has been looking into how other municipalities have addressed littering issues. “This is not something a few hundred city employees can address,” O’Quinn said, referring to the Department of Public Works. “I’d like the city attorney to look into regulating packaging from stores and see what we can do legislatively. A lot of the litter is plastic bags and other cities have banned them.”

Birmingham Presiding Judge Andra Sparks explained that the municipal court meets two days a week to hear cases involving code infractions and littering.

He said there are a multitude of citations that are handed out by city inspectors, but too often that’s not enough to bring people into compliance. “There’s probably not enough in the law to make people hop on an issue right away. It’s a legislative issue to make sure our enforcement has bite. In the past public services campaigns on anti-littering have been successful in encouraging people to keep the city clean. We would be happy to sit down and discuss the enforcement aspect of the law.”

Councilor Hunter Williams, chair of the Public Safety Committee, said he believes a hefty citation would help curb people from littering. “When we’re talking about littering, you can’t fix stupid,” Williams said. “If someone is throwing trash out the window I don’t know what a billboard will do. But I think a heavy citation can do the trick. I think all nine of us are united in putting in teeth to the code to make people think twice about littering.” Both the Mayor and members of the Council agreed to continue these discussions to find a legislative solution.

Druid Hills Urban Renewal Plan

During a public hearing regarding an amendment to the Druid Hills Urban Renewal Plan (DHURP), the discussion about cleaning up the neighborhoods continued. The DHURP is one of 44 urban renewal districts in the city and was originally put in place in 1998. The item, which passed unanimously following a lengthy discussion, pertained to expanding the current boundaries to include the derelict Carraway Hospital complex that has drawn interest from developers.

So what exactly does a Urban Renewal Plan do?

Michael Ward, senior planner with the City, said that most importantly, having a project fall within the boundary of an Urban Renewal District makes properties more appealing for potential investors and developers.

“One of the things the city is authorized to do is work with developers to clear land, reconstruct streets and assist with property acquisition,” Ward explained. “The city would be able to be able to sell property for below market value to spark development…Birmingham adopted community renewal plan in 1979. Over time the city adopted 44 neighborhood-centric plans throughout the city. Some are associated with commercial revitalization districts. In 1998 the Druid Hills renewal plan was aimed at housing. There wasn’t a need at the time to include the Carraway site because it was in operation. It’s been vacant for 10 years now. The goal is to expand the current boundary to cover the 52 acres of the Carraway development. The other 52 acres covers areas of blight and McArthur School.”

Here are a few details about the Druid Hills Urban Renewal Plan:

Corporate Realty has been in discussion with the City about possible redevelopment plans for Carraway Hospital. Mayor Randall Woodfin said on Tuesday that no incentives have been placed on the table yet and the discussions are still in the preliminary stages. He expressed the need for maintaining a number of affordable housing option, ideally on the McArthur School property.

Below is a conceptual rendering of the Carraway redevelopment:

“We are going to make sure the homes in Druid Hills stay affordable if and when property values go up after the redevelopment, homeowners need to be protected. We want to participate in the land bank process and not allow someone to swoop in and buy all the properties and turn them into homes or businesses that residents can’t afford,” Woodfin said. “It is our 100 percent intent to retain McArthur School property. We believe affordable housing has to be a component of the development in Druid Hills. Having this school be transformed into affordable housing is a prime example of how we want to maintain the character of the community.”

Hoyt agreed with Woodfin’s sentiment about affordable housing being a key component moving forward.

“Druid Hills still remains a residential district but it needs to coexist with its proximity to downtown,” Hoyt said. “I’m hoping we don’t create a silo, where we take care of Uptown but not the neighborhood. I think this development has to have balance. We want continuity. We have a responsibility to make sure the city looks the same on all sides…But hear me clearly, I’m for the project.”

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Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council

Tweets from The Birmingham City Council in Birmingham, Alabama