Foley's Growth Plan

By Steve McConnell
Staff Writer
Posted 5/1/07

FOLEY – With residential spawning, traffic snarling and infrastructure straining, city officials are attempting to cope with the much heralded “boom” in Foley.

The city hired the services of Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon (BWSC), an …

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Foley's Growth Plan


FOLEY – With residential spawning, traffic snarling and infrastructure straining, city officials are attempting to cope with the much heralded “boom” in Foley.

The city hired the services of Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon (BWSC), an engineering and planning firm with offices across the eastern U.S., to form a comprehensive plan that will determine where, essentially, the city should grow, should not grow, and also to determine the best way to grow.

Growth, in this case, is future development whether that entail residential including apartment complexes, commercial such as light industrial, parks connected by biking and hiking trails, a new civic hall and perhaps a recreational center while protecting the rural frontier outside the city’s limits.

That and much more, according to Doug Tennant, a planning consultant formerly with BWSC, who has committed to Foley’s comprehensive plan, should be the city’s growth objectives as it deals with a rising population and a demand for amenities that residents expect from a community.

“Putting your head in the sand and thinking it’s going to go away is not an effective strategy,” he said.

Tennant presented his solution - a comprehensive city plan – April 25 at the civic center.

The plan is currently at the midpoint, he said, with two versions, nearly similar, to consider.

The two plans primary distinctions are the location of a new light industrial employment center and development standards along the Foley Beach Express.

One plan calls for the employment center to be located on the northern boundary of the express, near Summerdale, while the alternative plan places the center directly north of Highway 98 and west of the express.

The second distinction is the long-term development strategy of the express, according to Tennant, who said that it is important for the city to maximize tax revenue with effective land-use policy.

“It’s okay for a city in the middle of a growth pattern to tell (developers) what you want to look like,” he said, noting that infrastructure and development standards should meet a required aesthetic set by a progressive zoning code.

For the express, which he sees as a plausible development corridor, Tennant recommended two land-use policies, one that focuses on a mixed-use approach, residential and commercial commingled, throughout the entire corridor or developing central “nodes” or spots along the express that also follow a mixed-use pattern.

Overall, the plans call for high-density residential and commercial development, allowing the possibility of town centers off the express, that contain its own traffic circulation, since traffic would be contained within the respective developments rather than consistently flowing onto the main throughway, in contrast to Highway 59.

This design, he said, would decrease traffic lights and traffic in general, emphasize parking within the development rather than “asphalt” lots fronting the express, and create a community feel with bike trials and pedestrian friendly crosswalks among the residences and commercial offerings.

He revealed, however, that the city’s current zoning regulations will not allow a town center layout.

He suggested that the planning commission and city council completely revamp the zoning codes in order to allow development which coincides with the comprehensive plan.

“You can regulate yourself into being a great community,” he said.  “Now you just need the political will and regulatory infrastructure."

The plan also recommends:

-creating an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) which defines the outer-limits of development.  Beyond the UGB, Tennant recommends that the city preserve its rural resources.

-developing a greenway network throughout the city with new walking and biking trials, connected city-wide.

-developing a comprehensive policy for affordable housing.

-annexing land around the express in order to impose a city design criteria that protects its long-term economic viability.

-communicate with county officials regarding development design criteria and infrastructure considerations, such as roadway use, since county residents can impact city resources.

-protect and promote downtown as the express will eventually draw customers away.