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Bessemer planners pave way for more city progress


February 5, 2020


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Bessemer — Members of the Bessemer Planning Commission opened the door on Tuesday evening for more city development by addressing zoning updates, along with rules for the establishment of small, wireless communications facilities.

Pending zoning changes were presented by Patrick J. Coleman, AICP, principal of North of 45 in Hancock, after which commissioners voted to present them at a public hearing during their next meeting.

As a certified professional planner, Coleman said his role was to draft the language for changes requested by the commission.

“It’s a good time to update everything,” he said, in relation to Bessemer recently have acquired state status as a Redevelopment-Ready City.

Toward that end, he noted refinements in nearly 20 categories such as business use, forest management, indoor entertainment, lodging/accommodations, research and development, general retail, tourist service, medical service, office and mixed use.

Each category included a revised definition. For instance, the repair services category included divisions for light repair (including watches, cameras, shoes, etc.), versus medium repair, meaning small engines.

Coleman also stated that amendments to site plan reviews now assure that such work must be prepared by qualified authorities.

“A site plan review is a very important part of your job,” said Coleman to commissioners. He added that proper reviewing can deflect “unintended consequences.”

Coleman also explained that the revised zoning now includes separate definitions of each of the following categories: brewpub, craft distillery, distillery, microbrewery and tap room.

Such establishments, he said, now could be located in C-1 zoning (which includes the downtown) or C-2 zoning (which includes the U.S. 2 area).

Overall, the planner said that the pending refinements could help to ease utilization of some of the city’s empty commercial buildings.

In other news, commissioners also voted to approve Ordinance 374 regarding the establishment of strict rules for possible future development by small, wireless communication facilities.

“This is as much as we can enforce, according to our attorney,” said Loper, who added that the extensive rules will prevent any “obnoxious” activity downtown.

The rules also include rates for wireless applications, usage, rental of city-owned poles, insurance requirements, and performance bond costs.

A public hearing on the wireless policies was held at the start of Tuesday’s meetings, but it quickly closed because there was nobody in the audience to offer comments.

After the meeting, Loper also said that the zoning changes will allow for more latitude in local enterprise. “A lot of our businesses are currently zoned residential,” she said, so adjusting the code will better ensure that those properties “can be utilized” effectively.

She said the wireless rules also now position the city to “have all this in place” in the event that small wireless operators, to whom she already has made some outreach, develop an interest in the city.

Loper also provided for the commission an article titled “The Surprising Link Between Parks and Violence Prevention” from Next City, a nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia, Pa.

Although Loper said the article, which explained how green spaces lead to safer environments, likely was geared more to urban concerns, she added, “It’s really interesting to see how green space affects our mental health.”

The commission’s next regular meeting will be on March 3 at 6 p.m. in the council room of the Bessemer City Hall. It will include the zoning change hearing, and the public is welcome.


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