City Council work session, April 14, 2014-Sidewalks, trails and roads

The flood damaged the Griffin Creek channel through Homewood, calling for emergency repairs.

The flood damaged the Griffin Creek channel through Homewood, calling for emergency repairs.

The council held a 50-minute work session tonight to receive updates on engineering and sidewalk projects and to approve several expenditures. The topic attracting the most interest was the failure of a portion of the retaining wall along Griffin Creek, which runs between Broadway and South Forrest Drive. As a result of the downpour Sunday night a week ago, a substantial section of the concrete wall fell over into the creek, taking with it walls and fences owned by several property owners. The council determined that money was available from a $75,000 emergency fund and a $163,000 “small infrastructure” fund to replace the retaining wall, but they would need to expedite the bidding and approval process, possibly by holding an emergency City Council meeting after next Monday’s Finance Committee meeting.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Mayor?

Members absent: Patrick McClusky

Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Michael Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, Building, Engineering and Zoning staff Jim Wyatt, Vanessa McGrath and Greg Cobb.

Audience attendance:  2

Status of engineering projects: Jim Wyatt reported on the following projects:

Greenway Trail Project, Phase II (Goodwyn Mills & Cawood Engineering): Total project estimate: $3.5 million, with federal funding covering $2.8 million, and local funding of $708,000. The 2013-14 budget had a balance of $146,000 for this project, which will be applied towards a balance owed of $119,000 for preliminary engineering.

Oxmoor Road Project (Gonzales Strength Engineering): The total project estimate: $6 million, with federal funding covering $4.8 million, and local funding of $1.2 million. The 2013-14 budget had a balance of $231,000 for this project, which will be applied towards a balance owed of $231,000 for preliminary engineering.

Lakeshore Interchange Project – Additional lanes (Volkert Engineering): Total project estimate (subject to change because it is based on 2002 ALDOT approvals): $4.7 million, with federal funding covering $3.8 million, and local funding of $947,000. Funds available from 2013-14 budget are $50,000.

ALDOT Grant – Valley and West Valley Avenue Resurfacing (Goodwin, Mills & Cawood Engineering): Total project estimate: $1.6 million, with federal funding covering $1.28 million, and local funding of $320,000. The city’s portion will come from gasoline tax proceeds, and the current fund balance is $412,000. The project probably won’t be put out to bid for at least 9 months, as it is still in the ALDOT approval process.

An artist's rendering of a redeveloped corner of Oak Grove Road and Raleigh Avenue under the West Homewood Village redevelopment plan. Portions of the streetscape and other improvements may be put in the upcoming city budget.

An artist’s view of a redeveloped corner of Oak Grove Road and Raleigh Avenue under the West Homewood Village redevelopment plan. Streetscaping and angled parking costs of $400,000 — less than half the total price tag–are in the current budget.

West Homewood Commercial Revitalization Project (Walter Schoel Engineering): The engineering firm is still putting together its proposal, but a working project cost estimate is $874,000, with $400,000 allocated in the 2013-14 budget.

Highway 280 pedestrian bridge (Gresham Smith Engineering): Total project estimate: $1 million, with federal funding covering $613k, and local funding to be split 50/50 between Homewood and Mountain Brook. Homewood’s share is estimated at $150,000, with the same amount allocated in the 2013-14 budget. [This project's feasibility is the subject of much debate.]

New sidewalk on Sterrett Avenue.

A multi-year campaign to install sidewalks across Homewood made the city one of the most walkable communities in Alabama. This new sidewalk is on Sterrett Avenue.

Sidewalks: Vanessa McGrath reported that sidewalks on Central Avenue (25th Court South to 27th Avenue South and 27th Avenue South to 18th Street) and in Rosedale (from end of sidewalk on 26th Avenue South to end of sidewalk on Rosedale Drive) would be funded by outside grants. The Rosedale project is awaiting grant of an easement from a property owner.

The Council has approved $10k for engineering on the Rumson Road blind spot/hill sidewalk project. It’s been suggested that the necessary retaining walls be made of poured concrete, with a stamped-on texture to resemble stone block. Mr. Limbaugh encouraged Ward 5 representatives to seek input from property owners regarding heights of retaining walls.

Greg Cobb stated that he will seek approval for up to $5,000 of funding for a sidewalk to connect Oak Grove Road with the Eagle Scout-built flag stand and rock memorial at the Senior Center.

Approved funding for these sidewalks: Funding of $29,000 for sidewalks on Mecca Avenue from the Middle School to Highland Road, and on Highland, from Mecca to Peerless Avenue. The sidewalks will be built into the street (like the new sidewalks on Roseland Drive, but without the strip of green). One block of this stretch is two-way, and lanes in that area will be about 10 feet wide.

Also approved: 1. Funding of up to $5,000 is approved to complete the sidewalk on Edgewood Boulevard and connect it to the Roseland sidewalk. 2. Funding of up to $5,000 for two wheelchair ramps at Hall Kent School.

The meeting adjourned around 5:50 pm.

City Council meeting, April 14, 2014

The yellow segment shows the approximate size of the proposed Exceptional Foundation addition. The agency's architect has repeatedly said the expansion would "square up" the recreational activity area.

The yellow segment on this early view of the new Rec Center shows the approximate size of a proposed Exceptional Foundation expansion. The agency’s architect had repeatedly said the expansion would “square up the neighborhood activity area.” Tonight the council agreed, 9-1.

It took two separate votes, but the council finally approved the rezoning of two residential properties on Oxmoor Road that will be cleared to allow a second expansion of the Exceptional Foundation.  Two seemed to be the magic number on this request, which had been before the Planning Commission twice, the Planning & Development Committee twice, and tonight was making its second appearance in front of a council hesitant about approving an expansion without multiple conditions to appease neighbors and themselves. Although many residents had predicted the outcome going in, they had not foreseen such a one-sided result.

After a motion and a second to approve from Fred Hawkins and Vance Moody of Ward 2, Walter Jones asked members to offer “creative” solutions to the traffic problems he foresaw from the Foundation’s planned new entrance on Oxmoor. Traffic stacking up behind cars turning left and traffic using the drive to cut into the rec center were his concerns. Following discussion, Jones made an amended motion to approve the rezoning conditioned on prohibiting any left turn from Oxmoor into the facility. Jenifer Champ Wallis seconded the conditional motion, which failed in a 5-5 tie, sending the next vote back to the no-strings-attached motion still on the floor. Here the vote passed 9-1 with Mr. Hallman dissenting.

This wasn’t the only news in a two-hour meeting with an unexpected 30-minute executive session called at 7:15 to discuss impending litigation. But by appearances, it was by far the most painful.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Walter Jones, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Patrick McClusky

Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Michael Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, Building, Engineering and Zoning staff Vanessa McGrath and Greg Cobb.

Audience attendance: About 25 to start.

Approved February 10, 2014 meeting minutes.

Appointed three members to vacancies on the Homewood Environmental Commission, as follows: Hans Paul was reappointed, for Ward 5; Arnold Rutkis was appointed for Ward 1 and Erin Clark was appointed for Ward 1.

Approved 9-1 a rezoning for the Exceptional Foundation Expansion: The two residential properties at 1610 and 1612 Oxmoor Road were rezoned from the current zoning of NPD (Neighborhood Preservation District) to I-2 (Institution District). The Exceptional Foundation will close on purchasing the adjacent properties, which will be bulldozed to allow a facility expansion and separate drive and drop-off point off Oxmoor Road, opposite West Glenwood Drive. Traffic congestion was by far the most prominent concern of those who sent emails opposing it, said Ms. Wallis. A vote for a conditional approval based on prohibiting a left turn into the new building from Oxmoor Road failed in a 5-5 tie. Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Moody were staunch in their motion to pass the rezoning with no strings attached and in the first balloting voted no to the amendment, followed by Ms. Reid, Mr. Wright and Mr. Hallman–who was against the rezoning at any cost. Voting in favor of conditional rezoning were Mr. Jones, Ms. Wallis, Mr. Thames, Mr. Laws and Mr. Limbaugh, who said he opposed having any second entrance built to the new facility. All four council members favoring an amended motion, however, voted in favor of the rezoning without any conditions, making the final vote 9-1.

Voting no: Mr. Hallman has maintained his final no vote was in favor of preserving the surrounding neighborhood from institutional encroachment. Although he had planned to abstain, he followed Mr. Jones’ advice to make his vote a clear yes or no.

Simply Ponds, a business about to open on Oxmoor Road in an area slated for a new pedestrian-friendly building codes, wants to keep a non-regulation front fence. The matter was kicked back to committee.

Simply Ponds, a business about to open on Oxmoor Road in an area slated for a new pedestrian-friendly building codes, wants to keep a non-regulation front fence. The matter was kicked back to committee.

Sent a front fence variance request back to committee:  Owners of a garden pond and statuary business being moved to 173 Oxmoor Road apologized profusely for building a high iron security fence in front of their property without getting a variance first, but insisted they were ignorant of the regulations and that it was necessary to protect valuable fountains and concrete figures–which they planned to display outside the business when it opened. Mr. Moody said he saw no justifiable hardship to allow the fence. A resident (reporting) opposed the fence, which is in the Green Springs Renewal District and subject to rezoning into the more stringent West Homewood District–a new improvement area. The council will deliberate further in a Special Issues Committee meeting.

Agreed to allow a resident to remove–and replant–a public tree - A homeowner at 205 East Edgewood Drive was allowed to remove an evergreen tree from the city right of way if it was replaced, per the Tree Ordinance, with a same-size or larger street tree. Mr. Hallman added to his motion a stipulation that the replanting occur within 60 days. A similar request to remove two public trees behind 1411 Primrose Place and deemed to be in danger of falling was referred to an arborist before a decision is made.

Correction–Sent back to Public Safety CommitteeApproved taking three Oxmoor Road traffic lights temporarily out of service – The council was just about to approve removing three signals at Edgeview Avenue, St. Charles Street, and East Hawthorne Road prior to synchronizing the remaining lights, when the mayor asked that they consider covering them or turning them off for a period of time before going to the expense of removing them. The mayor, noting that he wasn’t a traffic expert, said he didn’t think any of the signals should be removed. After some discussion, it was discussed whether to cover the signals for a period of time, then hold a public hearing before making any  decision to remove the lights. Any synchronization of the lights on Oxmoor will await such a hearing. The cost of removing the signals is in the $50,000 range and is unbudgeted for this year, he pointed out.

Approved on a split 8-1 vote:  – With Ms. Wallis temporarily out of the room, the council voted to renew for three years an audit contract with RiverTree Systems, Inc., a tax auditing service.

Voting no: Mr. Hallman voted no, saying after the meeting that he preferred to let the state provide the service.

Approved a reduced rate for AT&T Business Local Calling – The city’s IT director alerted the council that a promotion for a long-term contract would save monthly fees.

Approved a grant-funded road project on Valley Avenue and West Valley Avenue. The council authorized the mayor to enter a contract with Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood, Inc. for engineering services required for  resurfacing Valley and West Valley avenues in city limits. The project is to be funded by an ALDOT grant for road improvement. No dollar amount given.

Approved a combined package of sidewalk projects and related expenses: Sidewalks and other paving and road projects were addressed in a council work session that preceded this meeting.  Here’s the link. http://wp.me/p2FKt1-Hv

Dropped, at the mayor’s request, an intersection improvement grant: At the mayor’s request and with an air of mystery, the council agreed to drop a request allowing Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood, Inc. to apply for a TAP grant related to services at 18th Street South and Rosedale Drive.
The mayor referenced “missing documents.”

Approved various amendments to the current budget: No details.

In one vote the council refers many questions each meeting to committees. Here is this meeting’s Committee Referral Agenda:

To Finance-A request to declare surplus property; To consider emergency repairs to Griffin Creek; To set a bid date for emergency Storm Water Drainage Pipe and Road repair at 1717 – 27th Court South; and to consider a crosswalk across Shades Creek Parkway to Brookwood Mall.

To Planning & Development-Prior to public hearings, the committee will consider 1)The Planning Commission’s tie vote on rezoning from NPD (Neighborhood Preservation District) to MXD (Mixed Use District) a property of duplexes at 2756 B. M. Montgomery Street, in which one duplex would contain a graphics studio; 2) A favorable Planning Commission recommendation to rezone  a downtown office building from C-1 (office) to C-4 (central business district) to allow a Pilates class to be taught in an office suite; and 3) The rezoning of 24 separate and variously zoned commercial properties in West Homewood to WHD–a district based on a more uniform and aesthetically regulated codes than traditional zoning based on use.

To Public Safety – To review the Homewood APPLE Traffic Study, part 2 (see part 1, above) about upgrading traffic signal systems on Oxmoor Road; To review street/road closure procedures for neighborhood events; To request a liquor license application for Crescent Hotels and Resorts LLC d/b/a ALOFT at 1903 29th Avenue South due to business changing management companies; and To consider a no parking ordinance at or near 905 Columbiana Road.

To Special Issues – To consider unspecified special issues in Rosedale; and the fence variance request from the Simply Ponds business at 173 Oxmoor Road.

To Public Works – The committee will meet to consider giving up possession of a city easement next to 1380 Kendall Place.

Set the following May 12 public hearings on rezonings cited above: 1) On the proposed rezoning at 2756 B. M. Montgomery Street; 2) The proposed rezoning at 1628 29th Court South; and 3) The proposed West Homewood Village (West Homewood District) rezonings.

Paid the bills, with two exceptions: Mr. Thames reviewed the invoices for March 31-April 11, 2014, with a motion to approve all except two, awaiting documentation.

Went into an executive session:  The city council voted unanimously to enter a closed-door executive session to discuss “impending litigation,” one of many exceptions to the state’s laws prohibiting private deliberations by public councils and boards. The council, attorney and city clerk were in session approximately 30 minutes before returning to adjourn the meeting. The city is in at least one lawsuit, with America’s Best Value Inn and Suites, which is contesting the council’s decision not to renew its business license. The city’s chief of police appeared to be in the private session as well.

To Rezone or Not to Rezone

Your vote is anonymous.

Exceptional Foundation continued, P&D Committee, April 7, 2014

The Exceptional Foundation says it wants to build an addition to allow smaller class sizes, not increase enrollment. The current building has been expanded once.

The Exceptional Foundation says it wants to build an addition to allow smaller class sizes, not increase enrollment. The current building has been expanded once.

An architect for the Exceptional Foundation Monday night made clear to a council Planning & Development Committee and 15 residents that he had already gone beyond the call of duty in explaining the Foundation’s expansion plans, and was weary of appearing before various Homewood boards to talk about final touches on a design that was still in the infant stages. Despite the 90-minute March 31 hearing in which residents and council members asked about a laundry list of modifications to planned traffic flow, buffer height, tree preservation, a gated entrance, etc. — none of those suggestions is legally binding if the property is granted a rezoning at the April 14 council meeting, he said.

To drive his point home, architect Craig Rogers read aloud from the city’s zoning code, pointing out that with less than 3 acres of land and just one building, the project was only required to have a simple site plan–not a development plan. A site plan, he read, contained nothing more than information about shapes and dimensions of existing structures, easements, proposed parking, ingress and egress. Although he had agreed to provide more information at the request of city zoning staff, all that was really at stake for the council, he said, was to decide if it wanted the Exceptional Foundation to remain in Homewood, because it must expand.

Nevertheless, the architect said he had considered Mr. Jones’ suggestion to reverse a planned one-way drive off Oxmoor Road so that traffic would instead enter from Bridge Lane, then come through the shared rec center parking lot to the new entrance. Such a modification would require making the drive two-way for exiting traffic, which would take up building space and reduce the width of a buffer screen.

Mr. Rogers’ remarks opened the committee meeting set by the council March 31 when it heard the Exceptional Foundation’s request to rezone two residences for a building expansion. The nonprofit Foundation provides recreational services to special needs children and adults from across Jefferson County. Its bid to expand is based on rezoning from NPD (Neighborhood Preservation District) to I-2 (Institutional) two houses it has contracted to buy at 1610 and 1612 Oxmoor Road. The Planning Commission voted 7-1 to recommend the rezoning, but the City Council last week failed to get unanimous consent to vote on the first reading, prompting a courtesy referral to committee to look further at the plan.  About 15 residents showed up for the promised deliberations , which started 45 minutes late at 7:15 p.m.

Following Mr. Rogers’ remarks, chairman Peter Wright invited residents to make further comments if they wished.  Five residents took turns speaking, four opposing the plan, including a member of the city’s historical preservation commission, Wayne Thomason, and one who spoke in favor of giving the growing Foundation more room to expand–teacher and park board member Becky Morton. Those opposed cited the historic nature of the “rock” house that would be removed; the irreversibility of the rezoning; and the changed, institutional feel of the street that had already given way to several Dawson church expansions. Another resident asked why the Foundation threatened to leave the city instead of considering space in better zoning situations, perhaps even with the school board. He also questioned the reliability of the Foundation’s concept plan, since there was no commitment to abide by it.

A final speaker asked if there were any undisclosed funding agreements among the city, park board and Exceptional Foundation, saying that the plan seemed to benefit the rec center’s need for shared parking. [The Foundation has said it would close on the houses once the rezoning was approved, then deed the property to the city of Homewood, which already owns the ground under the current building. The three parcels would be resurveyed into a single lot and  leased to the Foundation for a nominal amount per year.] Mr. Kendrick said the resurvey merely satisfied legal requirements to build onto a single parcel under one ownership. He scoffed at the question about hidden agreements, calling it “mumbo jumbo” and saying there was nothing whatsoever clandestine about the arrangement.

Mr. Wright brought the meeting to a close as comments became more heated. In a 3-0-1 vote, (Hallman abstaining) the committee sent the matter with no further recommendation to the council’s April 14 meeting, where it comes up for a final vote without additional public comment.

Committee members present: Peter Wright, Michael Hallman, Fred Hawkins and Heather Reid. Also present were council president Bruce Limbaugh, Walter Jones, Britt Thames, and Jenifer Champ Wallace.

Committee members absent: Patrick McClusky, chairman.

Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, Vanessa McGrath and Greg Cobb, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience attendance:  About 15 for the P&D committee.

 

 

 

 

Board of Zoning Adjustments, April 3, 2014

Building Up--This house on the corner of Ridge Road and Roseland Drive was granted a series of building variances -- with conditions attached--to allow a second story. Four of nine cases heard at the April meeting were to add second stories to existing houses.

Building Up–This house on the corner of Ridge Road and Roseland Drive was granted a series of building variances — with conditions attached–to allow a second story. Four of nine cases heard at the April meeting were to add second stories to existing houses.

The BZA meeting lasted almost two hours and passed nine cases, with Ms. Gwaltney dissenting on two. Two scheduled cases were not heard because one was withdrawn just prior to the meeting and the applicant was absent for the other. The items decided were a mix of new construction, additions, covered patios and HVAC units.

In nearly all BZA cases, applicants are asking permission to build outside of the boundaries set by law, whether that is building height, or width (setback).

Members present: Valerie Askew, Hope Cannon (leaving halfway through the meeting), Brian Jarmon, Jeffrey Foster, Lauren Gwaltney, and Ross McCain.

Members absent: Trey Schaeffer

Staff present: Donna Bridges, board secretary, Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience attendance: 20

All votes unanimous unless otherwise noted.

Approved minutes: The board approved the Feb. 19, 2014, meeting minutes.

Approved on a split vote: Four variances, with conditions attached, were approved to allow a second story on a corner house at 300 Ridge Road and Roseland Drive, as follows: 1) Approved a 4-foot front building variance to “square off” the Ridge Road side (front); 2) Allowed a 21-foot front variance for a second floor on the Roseland side, (which itself was built with a variance; 3) Allowed a 1.1-foot left building setback variance for the second floor on the Ridge Road side; and 4) A 2-foot, 1-inch left side variance on Ridge side for second story. The owner also made a proffer that the HVAC would be build inside the existing property line.

The Fire Marshall required Hardie Board (a cement and fiber material) or brick, fire-retardant exterior paint, and glass block window in the first floor bathroom. At last month’s hearing, when the case was postponed, the fire requirements were to include a sprinklers. The owner also made a proffer that the HVAC unit would be within the existing property line.

Voting no: Lauren Gwaltney, giving no explanation.

Case passed over due to applicant’s absence: The request for several variances at 218 Broadway Street was dropped from the April meeting.

Approved: A 7.8-foot left building setback variance and a 7-foot right setback variance was granted for a house at 116 Oxmoor Road for an addition at rear and front. The homeowner owns land behind this property and may come back to have the lots resurveyed into one parcel.

Case withdrawn:  A request for a 14-foot front building setback at 609 Morris Avenue was withdrawn by the applicant.

Approved a touchy case: The applicant won a requested 4-foot right side setback variance for a second floor addition at 203 West Linwood Drive. However, a neighbor at 205 West Linwood spoke about drainage issues he has had because of inadequate downspouts on the house at 203, along with other drainage problems on that street.  The matter has come before the BZA in February 2013 for another house granted a variance.  The applicant said he is having the same problem and all those concerns that were within his responsibility would be addressed.

Approved: The BZA granted a 4-foot right setback variance to allow an HVAC unit to be placed beyond the building line at 3114 Overton Road. The unit was behind the house but an addition took up any level space and there was no room on the left side because of a shared driveway.

Approved variances for a pool and pool house: The board granted a 17-foot, 5-inch left “accessory structure” variance and a 15-foot right variance for a pool and pool house at 309 Malaga Avenue. This lot backs up to Office Park in Mt. Brook and adjoins two Mt. Brook houses. (Part of this lot was the last part of Jefferson County to be annexed by Homewood and has a non-standard shape.) The owner had a letter signed by six neighbors who approved the variance (probably hoping to use the pool)!

Approved: To make way for a third HVAC unit and an expanded kitchen, laundry, family room and bedroom suite at 1806 Lancaster Road, variances were granted for 2.35 feet on the right side, 1.75 feet on the left side, and 4 feet on the right side for an HVAC.

Approved: The board grant a 6-foot right variance for a second floor, which is over an existing variance, at 512 Broadway Street.

Approved for roof over a second floor addition: Variances were granted at 264 Virginia Drive for a .3-foot right side and 6.1-foot left side for a second floor addition. Roof repairs required for a correct slope were the reason for the request.

Approved: A 2-foot right side and 4-foot left side variance were approved for a new house at 306 St. Charles Street. The original request was for 6 feet, but was reduced by the owner.

Approved: A 6-foot right side variance was granted to build a cover over an existing flagstone rear patio at 825 Forest Drive.

Approved on a 4-1 split vote: With one dissenting vote, the BZA granted a 1-foot left building variance for a new house at 1749 Wellington Road. Two neighbors were present, with one speaking against it. The objection was due to runoff onto the rear neighbor’s yard when the former residence was demolished in April 2013. The neighbor had asked that run-off be diverted to a culvert between the properties, and the contractor did so. Now, the neighbor wanted to be sure the same accommodations would be made for the new residence and that the bare ground would be planted. The contractor, Colt Byrum, offered to meet with the neighbor and walk the property to ensure that his concerns were addressed.

Voting no: Lauren Gwaltney

The meeting was adjourned at about 7:50 PM

Park Board meeting, April 3, 2014

PARKSTime is drawing near for the Rec Center grand opening and a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony with speeches and fanfare is planned for Tuesday, May 13, tentatively mid-morning around 10:30 a.m. The ceremony will be followed by an open house to last most of the day, with refreshments, membership sign-up table, weight room opening and class demonstrations, the works. The building will be closed later that day and reopen for full business two days later–Thursday, May 15.

A drive-by shot of the new Homewood Rec Center, as seen in late March. A Ribbon Cutting Ceremony is set for May 13, 2014.

Here’s a drive-by shot of the new Homewood Rec Center, as seen from the street in late March, 2014. A Ribbon Cutting Ceremony is set for May 13, 2014.

Following the meeting Mr. Holley elaborated on the membership sign-ups so far, saying there were approximately 1,600-1,800 full-time members when the old building was closed, and there were 1,750 “Total Access” members signed up before the March 15 deadline on the early enrollment special giving away six months free. He explained that although the first year’s memberships are not open to non-residents, about 75 non-resident members who had continued at the temporary site during construction were also offered renewals. The board may open memberships to non-residents after the first trial year, he said.

Members present: Chris Meeks, chairman, Tom Walker, Becky Morton, Marjorie Trimm, Michael Murray and Tom Blake.

Members absent: Paula Smalley, Tyler Vail, and Keith Stansell.

Staff present: Berkley Squires, public services director, Rusty Holley, park and recreation center superintendent, Jakob Stephens, athletic director, and Dianne Rice, board secretary.

Audience attendance: 1

Approved March 6, 2014 meeting minutes

Exceptional Foundation update - At the chairman’s request, Mr. Squires brought everyone up to date on the status of the Exceptional Foundation’s rezoning hearing the previous Monday. The Exceptional Foundation’s expansion, as planned, involves a shared parking arrangement with the rec center and allowing EF traffic to exit the planned addition by circling through the parking lot and out to Oxmoor Road. Mr. Squires said the vote was delayed by an abstention, however two problems seemed to concern several council members–1)  The left turn from Oxmoor into the planned drop-off drive, and its impact on traffic, and 2) The aesthetics of the new building itself. Ms. Morton said the building appearance was a concern she’s heard most frequently.  The council has asked the architect for more drawings.

Although the council won’t vote again until at least the April 14 meeting, the council’s Planning and Development Committee will take another look at the plan on April 7.  If there are enough concerns or big changes requested, the plan may have to back to the Planning Commission, he said.

Approved three events for Central Park: 1) On Saturday, June 28, the Homewood Arts Advisory Council will host and all-afternoon “Picking in the Park” blue grass event; 2) The Foundation for Fighting Blindness will have an unspecified event from 6 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4; and 3) Samford University’s Phi Mu chapter will host a 5K run and fundraiser benefiting Children’s Miracle Network on Saturday, Nov. 15, 6:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. 

Rec center status report: Mr. Squires reported on the finishing touches being added to the rec center.

  • The parking lot will be finished by next Wednesday.
  • The pool was filled and passed a required 7-10 day “leak test.” It will be drained, tiled and hopefully ready for the real test by the Memorial Day opener.
  • The cardio and weight equipment will be delivered on April 14; office furniture will arrive 10 days later.
  • Telephone and Internet connections will follow the week of April 21.

Membership and summer camp updates: Mr. Holley said summer camp registration was filling up but there were still places left. The program is for residents only or children of city employees.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 6:30 p.m.

 

 

City Council, March 31, 2014 – The rest of the story

Homewood City CouncilAlthough Monday’s protracted Exceptional Foundation public hearing drew most of the council’s attention, members also conducted other business and entered an unusual executive session–the second in two months–to discuss “upcoming litigation.” Click here to read about the hearing. Continue below to read the “rest of the story” about Monday’s council business.

Members present: All-Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh.

Absent: Mayor Scott McBrayer

Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, Building, Engineering and Zoning staff Vanessa McGrath and Greg Cobb.

Audience attendance:  80+

Approved Jan. 27, 2014 minutes.

Set application deadline for Environmental Commission: The council set an April 14 deadline to fill a commission vacancy.

Council fails unanimous consent test to vote on Exceptional Foundation rezoning, matter carried over: As a check against hastily-passed legislation, law requires municipal ordinances to be presented at two separate meetings before a vote can be taken. The council can dispense with this rule only if the members unanimously consent to taking a vote without the second reading. In this case, councilman Hallman announced his intention to abstain from the final vote, and abstained as well on a vote for unanimous consent–ending the balloting until the next meeting, April 14. Later in the meeting the Exceptional Foundation plan was referred for further discussion to the Planning & Development Committee, which will meet at 6:30 p.m., Monday, April 7. 

Approved yet another sign variance for yet another version of Sticks ‘N Stuff:

The latest display incarnation of Sticks "N Stuff, aka Furniture Liquidators, briefly contemplated to be named Trader Bob's, and now planning to move from the showroom to the rear of the old Mazer property.

The latest display incarnation of Sticks “N Stuff, aka Furniture Liquidators, briefly contemplated to be named Trader Bob’s, and now planning to move from the showroom to the rear of the old Mazer property.

Despite the perpetually running “Going out of Business” sale at Furniture Liquidators, aka Sticks ‘N Stuff, at the old Mazer’s building at 816 Green Springs Highway, the business is still very much with us. However, it is changing its name and–according to real estate representative Chris Hoyt–also its location on the property. Furniture Liquidators will be moving from the front showroom to the rear of that building, next to the Jimmie Hale Mission thrift store. Since its last variance request before the council–after it violated the city’s sign ordinance, then violated the council’s three-month reprieve and submitted a design as Trader Bob’s –the owner has lighted on the name Stokhome. The property representative said they are working to improve the building.       

Passed a sign variance: The council passed a sign variance for a business at 2510 18th Street South, applicant listed as Jerry Spencer. No details.

Set College Street one-way during peak school traffic hours:  This measure was passed on a first reading on the unanimous consent of the council. Traffic on the road in front of Edgewood Elementary School will run one-way east, from Oxmoor Road to Broadway between 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 2:30-3:30 p.m.

Awarded a bid to purchase firefighter protection equipment: The council approved a contract purchasing undisclosed equipment chosen in a March 3 bid opening and costing roughly $1,920 per fighter. The fire chief has not yet answered emails asking for the number of items or description of the equipment. 

Agreed to pay $1,954 to “frost” jail windows for privacy: The police department got three informal prices before settling on a vendor.

Referring matters to various committees, as follows:

To Finance – 1) To consider an annual audit contract with RiverTree Systems, Inc.; 2) to consider an AT&T Business Local Calling contract; 3) To authorize the mayor to enter into an agreement with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc. for the resurfacing of Valley and West Valley Avenue in Homewood. The project is being funded with ALDOT road improvement funds; 4) To have compiled a detailed list of expenditures for completed sidewalks or those in progress from the Building, Engineering and Zoning Department from January 2013-March 2014 prior to authorizing contracts and expenditures; 5) To consider mayor’s request to enter into a contract with CM Food Services for Rosewood Hall; and 6) a budget amendment measure not made clear.

To Special Issues – 1) Preceding an April 14 public hearing (set later in the meeting), to consider a zoning variance allowing a fence on the front of property belonging to Simply Ponds located at 173 Oxmoor Road. The iron security fence was erected without a permit and requires a variance to be allowed to stay, according to city staff; 2) To consider, under the tree ordinance, removing a tree in the city’s right of way in front of 205 East Edgewood Drive and two trees from a city alley behind 1411 Primrose Place; 3) To consider a buffer at 1108 Columbiana Road; and 4) To consider a fall barbecue event?? details not clear.

To Public Safety – To consider adopting an ordinance prohibiting parking in an alley next to 21 Crest Drive.

[The Planning and Development Committee set an April 7 meeting at 6:30 p.m., to discuss further the Exceptional Foundation rezoning case.]

Approved a document requested in the sale of Brookwood Village by Colonial Realty to CAPREF Acquisitions:  The council, after an explanation from the city attorney, approved an “estoppel certificate” certifying that there was no default or outstanding complaint on a 2002 development agreement whereby the city contributed to the mall development in exchange for a road inside the property.

Approved closing Brookwood Lane for two events: Brookwood Village is hosting the Birmingham Reads Book Drive festival on Saturday, April 19 from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., with the activities open from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. The road will also be closed for the Brookwood Live music series on the following Thursdays in May, May 1, May 8, May 15th May 22 and May 29. The events run from 5-9 p.m. with the road closures from 1-10 p.m.

Paid the bills: Invoices for March 3-March 28, 2014 were approved for payment.

Voted to enter an executive session to discuss “impending litigation”: There may be a lot of impending litigation the council was discussing, but the main one seems to be the complaint following the council’s 6-3 decision not to renew the business license for the America’s Best Value Inn & Suites on Oxmoor Road. The 3-hour hearing and final unfavorable vote resulted in an expected legal response from the Patel family, who own the aging hotel. A circuit judge awarded a temporary restraining order, allowing the business to operate legally while owners seek a review of the decision in a higher court.  The executive session lasted about 30 minutes, to 8:45 p.m., after which the council members returned to adjourn the meeting. “Impending litigation” is one of several exemptions to the state’s Open Meetings Act that allows public boards to meet in private.