Pelham’s Community Visioning Survey reveals strengths, weaknesses

PELHAM – During a City Council meeting on Monday, April 1, a representative from the Regional Planning Commission presented the findings from city’s Community Visioning Survey.

The Community Visioning Survey garnered 681 responses from residents between Oct. 2, 2018, and Dec. 14, 2018. The city’s 15 department heads were also interviewed. The survey is a part of the city’s effort to update its comprehensive plan, which is used as a guide to decision-making about the natural and built environment.

The city’s last comprehensive plan was adopted in 2003. The city has partnered with the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham to complete this process, and it is being funded through the Building Communities Program, which is administered through the RPCGB. The city is responsible for 20 percent of the cost.

The survey found that residents believe the city’s strengths lie in housing affordability, access to parks and recreation, strong business presence and development opportunities, demographic diversity, workforce availability and community services provided by city government. The city’s school system, public safety and public facilities, such as the library and rec center, were also mentioned.

Residents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the public services and facilities offered by the city.

Residents said some of the city’s challenges include a lack of shopping/boutique and restaurant options, lack of pedestrian and bicycle connections, safety and security, general cleanliness and no clear image/identity. The unattractiveness of U.S. 31, aging neighborhoods and trains blocking roadways were also mentioned.

The Regional Planning Commission found that the public’s complaints about U.S. 31 are more about architectural aesthetics than dilapidated areas. An inventory of U.S 31’s 318 parcels of land found that 85 percent are in sound condition. Five percent of the parcels are deteriorated/dilapidated, 6.8 percent have building structures that are unoccupied and 10 percent is vacant land.

It was suggested that a U.S. 31 Overlay District be created to address issues specific to U.S. 31. The city’s moratorium regulating certain businesses is set to expire on July 16. The RPC gave suggestions as to how the city could continue regulating those businesses, such as pay day loan, car title loan, check cashing, gold and silver brokers, tattoo parlor, pawn shop, massage parlor businesses, after the moratorium is lifted.

Currently, 54 businesses, all of which are concentrated along U.S. 31, are impacted by the moratorium. Creating a U.S. 31 Overlay District would allow the city to regulate how many and where these businesses can locate, require special exemption permits or conditional use permits, restrict hours of operation and much more.

When it comes to new housing in the city, residents said they wanted to see new homes in the range of $150,000 to $200,000, while city leadership has a desire for new homes in the $200,000 to $250,000 range.

The survey found that there is a higher demand for mid-priced homes over high-priced housing options. The city has an average list price of $303,019, but the average sold price is $222,565 – $219,469 after negotiations. The average home stays on the market for 73 days.

The city is home to 9,165 housing units, 661 of which were built since 2010. The city’s median home property valuation in 2017 was $178,331. According to the Regional Planning Commission, 74 percent of residences are single family homes, 18 percent are town homes/duplexes, 6 percent are mobile homes and 2 percent are apartments. Eighteen percent of homes are rental properties.

The survey showed that residents would like it if the city required developers to build sidewalks in new subdivisions. Residents also want to see more sidewalks and bike lanes on Shelby County 52, Shelby County 11, Shelby County 33 and Shelby County 35. Residents also noted a need for more senior citizen housing.

Traffic congestion continues to be a concern for a lot of residents. The installation of traffic calming methods was suggested in high speed areas.

The presentation mapped out land that could be used to construct mixed-use developments. Mixed-use refers to developing structures that have a mixture of residential, business and retail uses. The survey results listed the intersection of U.S. 31 and Amphitheater Road, Green Park South, Southgate Estates, the old Valley Elementary building, Pelham City Park and 286-acres of property on the southwest corner of exit 242 as potential areas for mixed-use developments.

During an open house at the Pelham Civic Complex on April 16, a draft of the city’s goals and action plans will be presented to the public. Residents are encouraged to attend the open house to provide feedback on the plans. The open house will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5:30-7 p.m.