DAPHNE — Managing growth that is expected to add more than 17,000 new residents to the area in the next 20 years and dealing with issues such as affordable housing for people living in the …
DAPHNE — Managing growth that is expected to add more than 17,000 new residents to the area in the next 20 years and dealing with issues such as affordable housing for people living in the community now are among the issues being considered in the plan intended to guide Daphne development.
At a series of public meetings, planners, city officials and residents discussed the proposed plan, known as Envision Daphne 2042.
"This is the first time we've had such a thing as this since I've been here and that's been about 16 years, so we are very excited to have your interest and your participation," Adrienne Jones, Daphne community development director, told audience members at a meeting Thursday, March 24.
Bob Barber, a partner with Orion Planning and Design, the company hired by Daphne to develop the plan, said the city needs to update its plan. The last plan was completed in 2000.
"Daphne has dramatically changed over the last two decades and I certainly don't need to inform you of that," he told residents. "You're very aware of the rapid growth."
In the last decade, Daphne's population increased 27 percent, to 27,462, according to Census reports.
In the next 20 years, the population of the area in and around Daphne is projected to increase by 17,490, Barber said. About 75% of the land in the city limits is developed, so much of the expected growth will take place in the unincorporated area to the east.
He said city officials will need to consider annexing some of that area if Daphne is going to have control over development.
"A lot of these matters are in the extraterritorial jurisdiction or outside the city limits, yet we know the growth area is going to impact Daphne tremendously," Barber said. "So, it's very important that the city think about how this implementation occurs and with a strategic expansion."
He said city officials should also consider zoning changes in order to prepare for growth. Barber said much of the city's current zoning code is out of date. City officials should also work with Baldwin County officials to coordinate efforts to regulate growth in the unincorporated areas outside Daphne.
Housing costs will be a key factor in Daphne growth, Aaron Arnett of Arnett Muldrow, a planning company working with Orion on the project, said.
In the last six months, the average value of a house in Daphne jumped $30,000 to $291,500. "That's a big jump," Arnette said. "We're seeing that nationally, but that's something we have to be aware of as we're thinking about the future here."
Many residents are being affected by the increase in housing costs, particularly renters.
Arnette said 45% of Daphne renters are cost burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on housing.
He said people in jobs such as law enforcement and teaching are finding it harder to afford to live in Daphne.
"If you're thinking about a police officer or a teacher, we're looking at rents that need to be between $800 and $1,000 a month for them," Arnette said. "The median rent is $1,200, so we're already above that."
Service employees, such as people in retail, accommodations and restaurant jobs are also affected by high housing costs, Arnette said. About half the jobs in Daphne fall into those categories, he said.
Some ways to make more affordable housing available would be to expand mixed use developments, mixing residential and commercial development. Planners said unused commercial space could be renovated as residential housing.
The plan also includes recommendations for improving the quality of life in Daphne, such as more walking and bicycling paths and improved connections along city streets.
Ron Slade of Orion said greenways, or walkways in wooded and other natural areas, could provide better access to Daphne's natural amenities.
One area would be along the shoreline near Bayfront Park, he said.
"Not only does it provide connectivity, but what it does is provide access to the water," Slade said. "The water is one of the best assets the city has. It's a beautiful place, but there are very few places where you can access the water."
Planners will develop the draft of the Envision Daphne 2042 proposal and present it to the Daphne Planning Commission and City Council later this year, Barber said.