Fairhope preparing comprehensive city plan

Public meetings planned through February

FAIRHOPE – Maintaining the city’s character and managing growth are among the priorities preferred by residents at Fairhope’s first public meeting held to develop a comprehensive land-use plan. Residents and officials met Wednesday, Sept. 22, at the James P. Nix Center in Fairhope. Mayor Sherry Sullivan said the city will hold several meetings in upcoming months to hear opinions about land use and growth. “This is just the first public engagement of our comprehensive plan,” Sullivan said. “We’re really excited to be able to revisit our comprehensive plan and create a new vision for Fairhope.” She said city officials need to know what residents want for Fairhope in the future. “It’s really important to have as much public engagement as we possibly can,” Sullivan told audience members. “So please, when you leave here tonight, go out and tell your friends, neighbors, church, Sunday School class, anybody who will listen to you that we are doing this process and this, again, is your vision. We need your input to make this the best plan that we could possibly have.” Baldwin County was the fastest growing county in Alabama in the last 10 years, with the population increasing by more than 27 percent between the 2010 census and the 2020 count, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the same period, Fairhope grew 46.67 percent, from 15,326 to 22,477, Becky Rogers, lead consultant with Neel Schaffer, a company working on the plan, said at the meeting. “That is pretty substantial,” Rogers said. “That’s another reason why planning is so important because that is significant growth for a city of this size. So, we want to make sure that, as it continues to grow, that it grows in a managed way – that you can keep up with the infrastructure, the roads, the utilities, all that kind of thing.” She said outside consultants working with the city can bring in new ideas, but the opinions of residents are needed. “At the end of the day, this is your city, and it needs to be what you want it to be,” she said. “That is our primary goal.” Phillip Walker, senior planner with The Walker Collaborative, which is also working on the project, said a comprehensive plan will help Fairhope residents and officials identify what they want and do not want for the city in the future. “It addresses a broad range of issues, everything from land use to mobility, and not just motorized vehicles, but things like greenways and bike lanes,” Walker said. “It addresses natural and cultural resources, economic development, housing, community facilities, all those sorts of things.” In an audience survey conducted at the meeting, residents were asked to rank five priorities for planning. The top answer in the survey was maintaining city character followed by managing growth. Other priorities were protecting the environment, growing economically, improving mobility choices and diversifying housing options. In a survey of the type of housing most needed in Fairhope, 33 percent said affordable housing is most needed. Housing geared to seniors received 24 percent of the response, followed by homes for first-time buyers at 23 percent. Luxury housing was last on the list with 20 percent. Asked what type of development on which Fairhope should focus growth, recreational received the top response. Other answers in order of priority were residential, mixed use --residential and commercial, followed by commercial, institutional, office and industrial. The next public meeting on the land use plan will be Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at Quail Creek and Oct. 22 at 10 a.m. at the Fairhope Civic Center. Another meeting will be Nov. 4 at a time and place to be determined and Nov. 5 at 10 a.m. at the Nix Center. Anyone wanting more information can email CompPlan@FairhopeAL.gov.