Smart Code Corner from the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham

Often we are asked about the challenges communities struggle with when reviewing and calibrating SmartCode for their city or town. Two themes often arise in the discussion of SmartCode developments and mixed use projects in general. One is the financing of mixed-use development and the second is the long term municipal responsibility of improvements constructed within the public frontage.
The tightening of underwriting standards and changes in interest rates has altered financing capabilities for mixed-use properties. This makes the financing of mixed-use properties challenging. The development team must help bankers and investors feel comfortable with the project and how its various components will fit together to create a successful development. If the community is committed to changing development patterns, then the case can be made that mixed-use development will provide incremental benefits to the community in which the development sits. Secondly, the case can be made that mixed-use projects provide long term benefits the public in ways that single-use developments do not. Local government may play an important role in providing ongoing support, zoning flexibility, and/or creative financing for mixed-use projects.
SmartCode diagrams typically delineate private frontage and public frontage. This delineation should not be confused with sidewalk maintenance responsibility. Sidewalk maintenance can be designated as the responsibility of the adjoining property owner. In fact §11-48-65 of the Code of Alabama states, “Nothing in this article shall be so construed as to take from any city or town or in any manner affect the power and authority to compel the property owners, by penal ordinance or otherwise, to repair the sidewalks in front of their property in such manner and with such material as may be directed under the supervision of the engineer or other officer or agent of the city or town or to cause such repairs to be made at the expense of the property owner, such expense to be collected as in the case of taxes”. The issue of sidewalk maintenance does not need to stand in the way of SmartCode Development.

If you have SmartCode questions please contact Steve Ostaseski or Richard Amore at RPCGB. Steve may be reached by phone at 205.264.8421 or by email at Richard may be reached by phone at 205.264.8447 or by email at

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