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Birthing and bingo: Decatur city council, P&Z discuss where such uses should be located in city

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, June 27, 2018
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Decatur does not have a birthing center/midwife facility or a bingo hall, but city leaders are discussing where those types of places should be located in the future.

The city council and planning and zoning commission held a joint workshop last week to consider which zoning districts would allow the two types of uses.

The topic of the birthing center came to the city’s attention when a request was made for a midwifery center in a residential area in the 600 block of South Trinity Street.

City Planning Director Dedra Ragland said that type of use had not previously been requested, and the city needed to determine if that type of use should be allowed and, if so, which zoning districts should allow that use.

“Staff obtained information from other cities, and what we found was that they are permitted in mostly non-residential, mostly medical office uses,” Ragland said.

The city’s Development Review Committee identified a number of concerns with allowing such a center in a single family-2 zoning district, including:

  • the disposal of waste through wastewater systems that are not necessarily common or routine in a residential neighborhood;
  • unusual traffic or parking situations, including increased EMS calls;
  • hours of operation and overnight stays;
  • use and storage of medical equipment;
  • building and fire code occupancy classification; and
  • fire protection.

She said that city staff recommended that if the city wanted to allow birthing centers, it should be located in the city’s commercial zoning districts (thoroughfare business, restricted business and office), but she left the decision about extending the use into residential areas to the council.

While they could not take any formal votes, members of the council and planning and zoning commission indicated they would support allowing birthing centers in the commercial areas without a specific use permit, but not in residential areas.

“We have plenty of office space,” P&Z member Eddie Allen said. “I don’t think any residents would say, ‘Please locate next to my house.'”

The other item for consideration included where to allow bingo halls. This item became necessary following the May election to allow bingo games for charitable purposes in the city.

Ragland said anyone who wants to hold a bingo game would have to receive a specific use permit.

Often, those organizations holding charitable bingo are churches. Churches are allowed in all zoning districts, including residential, but churches won’t be the only charitable entity that will be allowed to hold bingo games, Ragland pointed out.

The suggestion by staff, which seemed to be favored by the council and commission, was to allow bingo games in all commercial zoning districts with an SUP as well as churches that might be located in residential areas, also with an SUP that would require certain conditions such as a time frame and parking requirements.

Both zoning items are expected to be brought back for formal action in July.

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