DAPHNE – With growth expected to continue in the future, Daphne officials and residents are working on a comprehensive plan to guide the community through the next two decades.
The city held its first public meeting on the plan Wednesday, Nov. 17. Daphne officials said the project should take about one year to complete.
“We want to envision the future, the next of Daphne, which is that next 20 years of Daphne, which is very exciting with everything that’s gone on,” Mayor Robin LeJeune told audience members at the meeting at Daphne City Hall. “This has been going on, trying to get this done, for at least the last couple of years. We put money to the side. The previous council has really wanted to do this, and this council said we’re going to start. It’s exciting to go ahead and get started.”
In the last 20 years, Daphne’s population grew from 16,581 to 27,462, according to U.S. Census Bureau reports.
Bob Barber, a partner with Orion Planning and Design, the company hired by Daphne to develop the plan, said residents have said that growth is one of their main worries when asked about the future of the community.
Other concerns include access, infrastructure, water quality and land use.
Residents said that some of the things they liked best about the community were the parks and Mobile Bay, Barber said.
Barber said all the aspects of the city are connected. The plan should deal with all aspects of life in Daphne as a whole.
“We know and understand that a community is an interconnected system,” Barber said. “There are various components of the community at work, and they all interact together. Everything is connected. When we think about cities and we think about streets, it’s connected to the way land and real estate is used, the way the economy functions. It’s all connected.”
Daphne has many advantages, consultants said at the meeting.
The city has an average income that is more than most areas of Baldwin County and the state. The median income in Daphne is $72,248. More than the county average of $61,548. But less than neighboring Spanish Fort at $90,783, Aaron Arnett of Arnett Muldrow, a planning company working with Orion on the project, said.
Home values are in the upper tier as well at an average of $225,000. Arnett said 71% of homes are occupied by the owner.
While housing is affordable for most homeowners, many renters are paying a higher percentage of their income on rent and utilities, Arnett said.
Residents are considered cost burdened if they pay more than 30% of their income on housing. In Daphne about 19% of residents who own their homes are considered cost burdened. That total is about average, he said. For renters, however, 45% are cost burdened.
“That can carry over into things like workforce development and growth,” Arnett said.
Daphne has a good system of parks for both sports and recreation on Mobile Bay, Ron Slade of Orion said. He said, however, that routes connecting amenities in the city could be improved.
“To me, you’ve got all these great recreational opportunities and great parks, but what you can’t do is connect, you can’t get to them from the other,” Slade said. “So, the trail connection and the bike connection to all those facilities, I think is really, really important.”
Allison Mouch of Orion said city streets need to connect all areas of Daphne for the use of everyone using the routes, including pedestrians and bicyclists.
“When we talk about connectivity, something that came up just today is the concept of connecting neighborhoods, connecting people, but particularly the north-south and the east-west connections between existing development and what we can expect in the future,” she said.
Carol Rhea of Orion said Daphne also has advantages in its natural environment. Most of the city’s bayfront is along a bluff that protects it from hurricane storm surges and the future threat of rising sea levels, she said.
City officials said more public meetings will be scheduled to discuss the plan. Barber said the final plan will be something developed by residents and officials for the next 20 years.
“To ultimately end up with a really strong vision that is generated by Daphne and it’s very applicable with your future going forward,” Barber said.