According to the initiative’s website, the city’s goal is to “define a long-term vision for Tuscaloosa” and a guide for continuous growth. This will be done through a restructuring and reorganizing of Tuscaloosa’s Comprehensive Plan, which has not been updated since 2009, and zoning codes, which have not been redone since 1972.
Ashley Crites, Tuscaloosa’s Director of Planning, is one of the city staff members involved in Framework, and she said it is a necessity in order to guide and lead the city effectively.
“Without a new Comprehensive Plan and new zoning regulations, we are working out of outdated documents,” Crites said. “Our current zoning codes still mention telegraphs, so it is clear we are in need of a refresh.”
Crites also said that community participation is key to making the plan as effective as possible. One way Framework is community-focused is through its Steering Committee, a group of 30 Tuscaloosa residents from various backgrounds and areas of influence who work to give guidance and direction in the planning process.
One such stakeholder is Nicole Prewitt, the director of programs and partnerships for community engagement at the University of Alabama. Prewitt, one of the co-chairs of the steering committee, said she was appointed by the city because of her role for UA in the Neighborhood Partnership Committee. It works to improve the relationship between students, off-campus neighbors, and law enforcement. Prewitt said this concept of relationship-building carries over to her work on the steering committee.
“We work as mediators between the planning consultants and the community,” Prewitt said. “We go out into our community to connect with stakeholders and individuals and hear their opinions to help inform our decision-making. Community engagement is a shared agenda.”
She said this community input helps lead to more productive meetings and ideas for Framework because the city can ensure they are focusing on what matters to Tuscaloosa residents. Along with public input, the steering committee wants specific community stakeholders and organizations to share their ideas for the city, to make sure all cross-sections of Tuscaloosa are involved in the process.
The Tuscaloosa Preservation Society is one stakeholder committed to providing input into city’s new zoning regulations and comprehensive plan. William Hawkins, the executive director, said the society works to care for and maintain five historic homes in the City of Tuscaloosa. Hawkins said the society “keeps the history of Tuscaloosa alive” and wants to continue that tradition for years to come.
“We at the Tuscaloosa Preservation Society are planning to attend the next planning meeting in order to make sure our historic structures are preserved,” Hawkins said. “It is our city too, so we want to hold them accountable to what we think is the right path and direction.”
The city will host Forum on the Future on Nov. 27, for the community to learn about the Framework process and get involved.
Crites said the city wants Tuscaloosa residents from all walks of life to come to this interactive workshop to make their opinions on the city’s future heard.
“The plan cannot be successful unless Tuscaloosa residents buy-in to it,” Crites said. “No one knows the community and its needs like the ones living in it.”
For more information and to get involved with Framework, visit framework.tuscaloosa.com.