City Council Work Session, Nov. 17, 2014

This al.com photograph shows a deteriorating section of Valley Avenue with a patched utility cut in the near lane. The city is considering an engineering contract to better plan road maintenance and funding. [Valley Avenue is set for re-paving and other changes.]

This recent al.com* photograph shows a deteriorating section of Valley Avenue with patched utility cuts in the near lane. The city is considering an engineering contract to better plan road maintenance and funding. Valley Avenue is set for re-paving and other changes.

 In a special full-council work session on Monday, Volkert Engineering presented a pitch for the company’s “Management System for Paving” as a means to expedite city road projects. *(Link to al.com article http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2014/10/planned_changes_to_valley_ave.html)

Council members present: All- Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Walter Jones, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh.

Staff present: Jim Wyatt, Engineering and Inspections Department head, J.J. Bischoff, Mayor’s chief of staff, Linda Cook, City Clerk, Greg Cobb.

Audience attendance: 1

Making the sales presentation were Mike Harbert, asset manager for Volkert Engineering and former ALDOT employee, Kirk Mils from Volkert’s Birmingham office (and a Homewood resident), and Jim Reed from Whitaker Contracting. The purpose was to discuss implementing a system of municipal road maintenance to prolong their usefulness and safety. Presenters said the first step is prioritizing road quality–and therefore future funding needs–through a procedure of testing and grading road pavements.

The procedure involves taking a 100-foot sample of a road section and rating it based on the amount of cracking, rutting, and deterioration of asphalt glue binding. (Roads typically deteriorate the worst within 2-4 years of service life because of sun and moisture, Mr. Harbert said.) Mr. Limbaugh asked whether Homewood roads would benefit from this testing since the roads are mostly much older. There are topical applications that could extend the life of older roads as well.

Several questions were posed about how to determine if a sample was “representative” and Mr. Harbert said it’s usually easy to find enough of a base road to qualify. A discussion followed about using Volkert to coordinate utility company road work. Mr. Mils, the Birmingham manager, said Homewood could follow Mountain Brook’s lead by requiring higher standards for road cuts and increasing permit fees for road work contractors. The council seemed to agree that these actions needed to be taken.

Mr. Reed then gave a slide presentation on the importance of preserving municipal roadways. Infrastructure across the country rates about a D+, he said, including all infrastructure, not just roads. Every government entity complains that there isn’t enough funding to address all the problems, so there is usually no systematic road maintenance plan. However, the new Americans with Disabilities Act requirements must be met if the structure of any road is changed. So, pavement preservation is increasingly considered as an option to decrease future expenditures and extend the life of roads when possible.

He went on to present various coatings and sealants to preserve pavements costing about $2.50 per square yard. He also mentioned methods of mass re-surfacing such as “slurry” “microsurface,” and “chip sealing,” which are more commercial-grade surfaces; the most suitable method for residential street resurfacing involves milling and repaving with asphalt.

Council members discussed the benefits of establishing a maintenance schedule, such as it did with sidewalk prioritization. Volkert said it can do the rankings, by ward, and provide a data base for the city’s engineering department to use. Mr. Hawkins said he and Mr. Wright had discussed road issues last week and agreed something was needed. Mr. Wright asked if the strategy was road preservation or replacement and Mr. Hallman commented that it seemed a two-part approach, with some re-paving worked into a schedule of road preservation.

Before adjourning the work session, the council voted to refer the matter for further discussion to the Public Works Committee, tentatively set for the second week of December.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:50 p.m.

City Council meeting, Nov. 17, 2014

The council backed off a proposal to convert green space on a city-owned lot to a parking lot for GianMarco's parking-challenged restaurant across the bridge.

The council backed off a proposal to convert green space on a city-owned lot on South Forest Drive to a parking lot for GianMarco’s parking-challenged restaurant across the bridge. Two residents spoke at the hearing, both opposed.

The same Ward 3 councilman who advocated for a pocket park on Broadway in September 2013 tonight asked the council to consider using a South Forest Drive green space as a parking lot for GianMarco’s restaurant. Walter Jones and Council President Bruce Limbaugh together proposed two options–either creating five parking spaces on the landscaped lot next to the street, or using up the entire lot with angled parking for 12 cars. (Critics in 2013 pointed to the presence of the South Forest green space as a reason not to approve further green space on the Broadway side of the creek.) At least for tonight, however, neither option survived scrutiny either from other council members or from two residents who didn’t want a parking lot on their street. As one asked, “Why would the city of Homewood even think about providing parking spaces for a private business?” More on the issue below.

What appeared to be a routine meeting tonight was lengthened to two hours with the last-minute addition of eight items and long discussions over sign variance requests. A public hearing set for a proposed craft brewery/taproom/bottling plant was complicated by a Planning Commission error. More below.

Members present: All-Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright, and Bruce Mr. Limbaugh. Mayor Scott McBrayer was also present.

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

Audience attendance: 16

Approved minutes of the Sept. 22, 2014, meeting.

A picture off the Internet showing a Bike Share kiosk in Washington, D.C.

A picture off the Internet showing a Bike Share kiosk in Washington, D.C.

Entered a Bike Share planning competition: The Regional Planning Commission is sponsoring Homewood to receive technical and planning assistance toward creating a Bike Share program. The program establishes secure kiosks where riders can use their credit cards to rent bikes for touring around town. An RPC spokesperson said only 25 communities will be chosen for the planning assistance grants, which provide workshops and training–not funds–for setting up a local program. Federal funds for establishing Bike Share facilities are awarded much like transportation grants, with a 20 percent local match.

Nightly overflow parking for GianMarco's and JoJo's restaurants has become a neighborhood problem.

Nightly overflow parking for GianMarco’s and JoJo’s restaurants has become a neighborhood problem.

Postponed for now any plan to build parking on South Forest for GianMarco’s: GianMarco’s now famous role as the cause of the city’s longest running parking nightmare got an encore tonight when Mr. Jones and Mr. Limbaugh introduced an idea to use city right of way on South Forest as a lot for overflow parking. Two sketches from Mr. Cobb were produced, showing either the “less obtrusive” 5-car option right off the street, to the more obtrusive conversion of the entire lot for 12-car angled parking. Restaurant employees and customers are suspected of parking on the street, which is legal, and walking across the Griffin Creek bridge to the restaurant. The city has been in ongoing talks about the problem with the restaurant owner, who hired a valet service and leased parking places on Green Springs to ease the congestion. The city, which finally prohibited parking on Carr Avenue, is installing a lighted parking promenade with 16 spaces painted onto “short” Saulter right-of-way, to be finished Jan. 1.

Mr. Cobb said the South Forest plan came about when a contractor working on sidewalks on that street was repeatedly approached by residents complaining about people parking in front of their houses and walking across the bridge to the restaurant. None of those people was present at tonight’s hearing however, just opponents. Mr. Limbaugh, reacting to critical questions, agreed with Mr. Thames and the mayor to see if the parking problem abates when “short” Saulter is finished. The mayor will talk further with the restaurant owner about where his employees should park.

Denied 9-2 a sign variance for the humane society: The Greater Birmingham Humane Society is asking to place a second sign in the city’s right-of-way at 185 West Oxmoor Road, saying visitors can’t find the facility, which is off Oxmoor on Snow Drive. Mr. McClusky said he thought the problem was wording–no one recognizes the acronym GBHS as the humane society. Some discussion followed about allowing a variance for a larger sign. The current sign was erected on a variance for an off-premise sign, which is otherwise outlawed in Homewood.

Voting yes: Fred Hawkins, saying the GBHS representative had done everything the council had asked him to do before presenting his request. Peter Wright voted yes, after initially raising questions about granting the variance.

Tire Engineers proposed this hybrid pole/monument sign for its Green Springs location. The council approved the wording but wanted a wider base and made of rock or brick rather than aluminum.

Tire Engineers proposed this hybrid pole/monument sign for its Green Springs location. Tonight’s approval related to a different supporting base than that shown. Two council members maintain their objections because of the proposed sign’s ultra-bright illumination.

Approved 9-2 a sign variance for Tire Engineers: Most council members praised Tire Engineers for agreeing to take down a double-pole sign and erect a shorter sign on a masonry base instead. The process has taken at least three council meetings and tonight’s vote affected only the design of the base–a double column of split-faced block. Mr. Jones, however, who was absent at that vote, implored the council to vote down the sign, which will be super-illuminated. Mr. McClusky apparently agreed and voted no. The council doesn’t currently have an ordinance regulating sign illumination.

Voting no: Walter Jones and Patrick McClusky.

Approved a 30-year franchise with the power company: The franchise renewal approved tonight allows Alabama Power Company to operate in the city limits.

Declared as surplus several work vehicles and equipment: Declared as surplus to sell or trade are three Internationals, a Giant Vac, a pick-up truck and a city-built trailer.

Voted in support of a state beer and wine license for the Asian Market: The market is at 22 Green Springs Highway. The matter had been delayed while the Public Safety Committee examined the restaurant’s record.

Voted in support of a state liquor license at Jim ‘N Nicks: The long-standing restaurant and bar on West Oxmoor has undergone a minor change of ownership, to a partnership, requiring the re-application for a liquor license.

The hotel has exceeded revenue expectations.

The hotel has exceeded revenue expectations.

Approved a financial document for Aloft Hotel: The city in 2007 sold the former City Hall property for $1.1 million for a hotel, stipulating the hotel would return a minimum $1.4 million in lodging and sales taxes over seven years. The document approved tonight acknowledges the hotel’s compliance; it had in fact met that milestone after four years and has returned $1.6 million, according to the city attorney. The document is required by a lender in order for the hotel to refinance its debt.

Approved a $10,000 grant application for police car cameras: The approval authorizes the mayor to sign a grant application with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

Declared one house a public nuisance, dropped another one: A vacant house at 1602 Ridge Road was declared a public nuisance after city staff tried unsuccessfully to find an absentee owner. A residential property at 924 Irving Street was dropped from the nuisance list after the back yard was cleaned up.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL

The following new items were referred to committees in a series of votes:

To Finance: To consider 1) Amending the budget to close out the Community Center construction; and 2) Declaring certain police vehicles surplus in order to sell.

To Special Issues: To consider another sign variance at Big #1 Motorsports at 505 Cobb Street preceding a Dec. 1 public hearing; and 2) To consider allowing a fence partially in a city right-of-way for a house at 403 Oxmoor Road that abuts a commercial property.

To Public Safety: To consider 1) Milling pavement or otherwise addressing  slippery steep driveways at Homewood High School; 2) Adding center and edge lines to Park Ridge Drive; 3) Removing yellow hash lines at Edgeview Avenue and Oxmoor Road and re-establishing a turn lane.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Reiterated a Dec. 1 hearing to rezone property for the Islamic Academy: Click here for the original case.

Complications have arisen in conditions the Planning Commission placed on the proposed brewery rezoning.

The Planning Commission cannot place a reversion condition on a proposed brewery rezoning. That matter will be addressed following a Dec. 15 public hearing.

Set a Dec. 15 hearing for a brewery/taproom/bottling plant rezoning: The Planning Commission this month gave Joseph Pilleteri a 5-1 vote in favor of rezoning a former grocery on Central Avenue from commercial (C-4) to light manufacturing (M-1) for his craft brewery and tavern. The vote was conditioned on restricting the M-1 use solely for the brewery and on reverting to original zoning should the venture cease to operate. However, the city attorney tonight said that the reversion clause is against the city’s ordinance and must be deleted from the proposal. Therefore it was decided to wait until after the public hearing before referring the matter to the Planning and Development Committee. Several business neighbors opposed the brewery, as planned, because of inadequate parking at the already congested Little Donkey/Octane property.

Set a Dec. 1 hearing for a fence variance: The proposed front-yard fence at 403 Oxmoor Road would be in the public right-of-way and an indemnification agreement.

Paid the bills, with one complication: Bills were paid for the period Nov. 3-14, 2014, including one removed by Mr. Jones for the installation of speed bumps in the alley behind downtown shops. The mayor had authorized the installation, forgetting that it required passage of an ordinance first. That said, payment was approved, with the ordinance to be passed at the next meeting.

FYI Finance Committee meeting, Nov. 10, 2014, transit funding continued

MAX

The Broadway and Carr stop.

Carried over pending further discussion: Transit executives tonight brought information about bus routes, budgets, ridership and service hours requested by the Finance Committee, which in September led the council to slash the city’s transit funding — and therefore bus service– by 50%. This was the second appearance by Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority director Ann Dawson-August to answer the committee’s questions in hopes of having funding reconsidered, if not totally reinstated. To read about last month’s meeting, click here.

Service reductions, if needed, will probably go into effect in January following a series of public hearings in Homewood and other locations convenient to affected riders, Ms. Dawson-August said after the meeting. Right now, the authority has postponed hiring three bus drivers to maintain service during the discussions.

Ms. Dawson-August had already offered the committee two scenarios to address the funding reduction–either cutting mid-day service on two of three city bus routes, or reducing the number of buses from 3 to 1. Tonight she mentioned only cutting midday service, which would affect fewer regular riders, but would impact the approximately 146 elderly and disabled customers who use the door-to-door para-transit rides, mainly for doctors appointments.

She explained that para-transit must operate literally parallel with regular bus service under federal law, which prohibits the city from eliminating one or the other — as one committee member suggested–in order to save money.

By the numbers: BJCTA buses spend 1,375.01 service hours per year inside city limits for which Homewood this year has been levied $263,874, using a uniform $53.68/hour rate. BJCTA has figured a ridership in Homewood of 448, of which about half are probably Homewood residents.

BJCTA’s total operating expenses are $29 million. About half those expenses are paid through fares, advertising, federal grants, county property tax and beer tax. It is the remaining $15.6 million in unfunded costs that are shared by the county’s 10 participating cities, according to BJCTA figures. Birmingham, as the sponsoring city, pays $14 million, or 90% of the service hours, followed by Bessemer (3.48%), Fairfield (2.03%) and Homewood (1.69%). It was this share–or $263,874 for the current year–that the council cut in half in September.

Falling further down on this list are Mountain Brook, Vestavia and Hoover at sixth, seventh and eighth respectively. Two years ago Homewood and Mountain Brook both lost their board seats under a new and stricter re-reading of the state law governing board composition, which is based on population. Bessemer kept its seat and Hoover and Vestavia were granted new seats based on their size at the 2010 U.S. Census.

Mr. Jones and especially Mr. Wright have pointed to the “loss of representation” as a major sticking point in funding transit in Homewood. However, Ms. Dawson-August tonight pointed out that BJCTA has no decision-making power over board membership under the law, adding that Homewood should lobby its Jefferson County delegation if it seeks a change in the law. Cities have ample input to transit decisions, as the current budget discussions demonstrate, she said.

Finally, committee members scrutinized a data sheet showing actual ridership on a typical weekday in September along all three routes. Mr. Thames asked if unused stops could be eliminated, saving money. Ms. Dawson-August said yes, but the savings would be minuscule for shaving off a few minutes on each route.

At this point, BJCTA planning and development manager Henry Ikwut-Ukwa said he would be happy to work with the city staff to find routes that work best to maintain connectivity for residents and incoming shoppers and visitors to Homewood.

“When you cut services to the bare minimum, you have only those with no choice left using the service,” he said.

BJCTA is still putting together a requested comparison of Homewood’s detailed ridership data with those of Vestavia and Mountain Brook. The matter was therefore carried over to the next Finance Committee meeting, when that information will be presented.

Board of Zoning Adjustments, Nov. 6, 2014

BZAA downtown Holiday Open House and a Ducks Unlimited event in Rosewood Hall (at city hall) tonight created a festive atmosphere for the start of the BZA meeting, but also delayed board members who had to search for parking spaces. Board members thought long and hard before approving a lot size variance that would allow a property owner to demolish a house on Saulter Road and replace it with two new houses to resell. The resurvey splitting the property was approved by the Planning Commission earlier in the week, and conditioned on BZA approval and submission of professionally drawn plans. In the absence of those, the applicant submitted the plan pictured here. Click image to enlarge.

Members present: Chairman Ross McCain, vice chairman Jeffrey Foster (arriving after the first case), Hope Cannon, Brian Jarmon, and Lauren Gwaltney.

Board vacancies: 1 seat (Ward 2 member Trey Shaeffer moved out of the ward).

Members absent: Valerie Askew

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

Audience attendance: 11

All votes are unanimous, and no member of the public spoke unless otherwise noted.

1420 Ardsley Place

1420 Ardsley Place

Approved a 6-foot variance for an HVAC upgrade: The board allowed a variance at 1420 Ardsley Place to allow for the upgrade of an A/C unit. A neighbor stated that he had no objection to the variance, as long as it didn’t interfere with his driveway easement, and he was reassured on that point.

Absent from the vote: Mr. Foster arrived after the application had been presented.

The lot on Saulter was split vertically to create two narrow lots, with a 10-foot X 43-foot strip of land from one side assigned to the other side for county sewer access. The owner is tearing down the existing house and building two in its place.

The lot on Saulter was split vertically to create two narrow lots, with a 10-foot X 43-foot strip of land from one side assigned to the other side for county sewer access. The owner is tearing down the existing house and building two in its place.

Approved 4-1 a lot-size variance needed to make room for a sewer line: The applicant’s plan to split a single lot into two narrower lots was approved earlier this week subject to the BZA approving a lot-size variance. The applicant plans to demolish the existing house, which spans the back of the original lot, and build two houses in the two newly created lots. However, in order to connect and allow sewer line access to the eastern (right) half of the property, this lot must be deeded a strip of property 10 X 43-feet from the rear of the adjacent lot. (Jefferson County has become stringent in its requirements and won’t allow a service line for one lot to cross property belonging to another.) It is the proposed reduction in size of the western lot that necessitates a variance. Once the strip of land is deeded over, the western lot became too small to satisfy the city’s residential zoning  requirements without obtaining a variance.

Two neighbors from Raymond Drive, behind the subject property, objected to the plan and any variance allowing it to go forward, saying that resulting lot sizes would be inconsistent with the character of the neighborhood. One neighbor said no hardship existed to justify the variance. In response, the applicant said the narrow lots were actually part of the original 1928 plat, and that setback requirements will determine the sizes of the houses ultimately planned for the two lots. [Presumably he will not be returning to request further variances.]

Members deliberated quite some time, questioning whether there was any other way to connect the sewer line without redrawing the lot line. No other way presented itself.

In response to questions from Ms. Cannon, the applicant said he had owned the property for about a week and was aware of the sewer issues before he bought it. He said the service line was the only solution because extending the main sewer to a second house was too costly and the lot was too small to accommodate a septic tank. In response to a question from Mr. Foster, he said he intended to build two single-story houses rather than two-story houses. The motion to approve was made and passed with one dissenting vote.

Voting no: Ms. Gwaltney, giving no specific reason.

509 Woodland Drive

509 Woodland Drive

Approved variances for on Woodland Drive: The board approved a 1.7-foot left building setback variance to make room for a fireplace chimney, and a 3.3-foot left variance for a new air conditioner.

133EASTEDGEWOOD

133 East Edgewood Drive

Approved, with conditions, two variances for an addition on East Edgewood Drive: The request was made on behalf of the homeowners at 133 East Edgewood Drive by David Siegel, a co-owner of Twin Construction and next-door neighbor. The homeowners are requesting a 1-foot right setback variance for a screened-in porch and a 2-foot right setback variance for a chimney so the fireplace wouldn’t take up too much space inside the porch. With provisos that the porch not be converted to enclosed living space and that the 2-foot variance apply only to a chimney, the board approved the application.

Approved variances for the Exceptional Foundation: The Foundation, at 1616 Oxmoor Road, was granted a 6-foot, 6-inch variance to the setback rules to allow mechanical equipment to be installed at the rear of the building. The request was approved with the proffer of “greenscaping” around the HVAC units.

118 Bonita Drive

118 Bonita Drive

Approved a variance on Bonita Drive for a new addition: The board approved a 3-foot left building setback variance at 118 Bonita Drive to provide room for a 1-story master bedroom addition that will jut out 8 feet from the back of the house. The setback was requested on the side because the left property line is not parallel to the house.

400 Hambaugh Avenue, seen from Lathrop Drive.

Side view of 400 Hambaugh Avenue, seen from Lathrop Avenue.

Approved a 15-foot variance for a covered patio on Hambaugh. The board granted an extensive variance to allow a covered patio. The house sits on the corner of Hambaugh Avenue and Lathrop Avenue.

Park Board meeting, Nov. 6, 2014

Work has started on the Exceptional Foundation expansion, but it must remain on the Foundation property until a shared-use  agreement is reached with the Homewood Park Board.

Work has started on the Exceptional Foundation expansion, but it must remain on the Foundation property until a shared-use agreement is reached with the Homewood Park Board.

To end the acrimony, but also resolve persistent issues arising from the Exceptional Foundation’s expansion, Park Board Chairman Chris Meeks tonight announced a “board-to-board” meeting next week with EF directors, and out of the public eye. The meeting, to be held Monday or Thursday of next week, will include Public Services Director Berkley Squires, Mr. Meeks, and board members Keith Stansell and Tom Walker. Mr. Meeks said he suggested the meeting when he previewed the Foundation’s latest proposed shared use agreement, and realized the board would reject it.

Conflict erupted last month when the Foundation gave the park board just two weeks to approve a substantially changed shared-use agreement on the parking lot before it started construction on a expedited timeline. The latest proposal apparently doesn’t reflect park board demands made at the time, including a Dumpster relocation. Maintaining parking spaces for the Rec Center and getting the construction finished before a March 15 basketball tournament were top priorities, Meeks said.

The park board wants a private meet up with Exceptional Foundation directors to settle conflicts over parking spaces, Dumpster location, scheduling, and other issues with the shared parking lot.

The park board wants a private meet up with Exceptional Foundation directors to settle conflicts over parking spaces, Dumpster location, scheduling, and other issues with the shared parking lot.

Mr. Squires explained that until the new agreement is reached, Brasfield & Gorrie has agreed to keep its construction work completely on the Foundation’s property. However, a power pole was delivered early and takes up two parking rec center spaces; 15 parking spaces are already fenced off; and other spaces are being used –temporarily–to unload supplies and equipment. Those spaces will be freed up when construction access is opened from Oxmoor Road.

Mr. Walker said the board-to-board meeting was meant to help end the acrimony over the Foundation’s expansion plans. Because fewer than a quorum of the board will be present, the assembly doesn’t meet the legal standard of a public meeting and will remain private, he said.

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

Members absent: Paula Smalley. Also absent was council liaison Richard Laws.

Staff present: Berkley Squires, public service director, Rusty Holley, park and recreation superintendent, Jakob Stephenson, athletic director, Dianne Rice, board secretary and her assistant Angie Montgomery.

Audience attendance: 2

Approved minutes of the Oct. 2, 2014 meeting.

Approved three 2015 events at Central Park: The board approved a March 28 5K and Fun Run to benefit Alzheimer’s Research, a June 13 “Summer Watermelon Festival” from 4-10 p.m. to benefit Alabama EDSers (people diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder causing joint damage and pain), and a 5K from 6 a.m.-noon Aug. 22 to raise funds for Impact Family Counseling, in Birmingham.

Planning Commission meeting, Nov. 4, 2014

BREWERY

A brewery and taproom seeks to move into this old A&P Food Store, which has seen many lives as a drugstore, ABC package store, and now a print shop.

What once was old is new again, but still kind of old.

Small-scale beer making is just the latest example of our new taste for medieval craft-guild ventures like artisan bread-making, silver-smithing, hand tailoring, and leather-work — small businesses that flourish in shops across Homewood. Except that there weren’t cars in those medieval villages of yore.  So tonight’s split vote to recommend rezoning a building on Central Avenue for a craft brewery and taproom stumbled for a long while on the question of where business owner Joe Pilleteri would find an estimated 80 additional parking spots in the already congested Little Donkey/Octane parking area. Ultimately, however, only commissioner Mark Woods voted against the recommendation, presumably because he didn’t accept Mr. Pilleteri’s arguments that he would “find” the spots, or hire a valet service, or lease the dog veterinarian’s parking area at night, or shuttle in customers on a trolley, or reduce his future taproom size to match the required parking.

The approval came over the objections of three nearby business owners who complained strenuously of inadequate parking. Mr. Riddle reminded the applicant that the vote was advisory, with the final decision for rezoning resting in the hands of the City Council, which would hold its own public hearing.

Members present: Fred Azbik, Mike Brandt, Billy Higginbotham, chairman, James Riddle, Fred Hawkins and Mark Woods.

Members absent: James Ponseti, Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill, and Jeffery Foster.

Staff attendance: Donna Bridges, commission secretary; Greg Cobb, manager, Engineering, Planning & Zoning Department; and Vanessa McGrath, engineer, Engineering, Planning and Zoning Department.

Audience attendance: 17

Approved 5-1 to recommend a “conditional” rezoning for a craft brewery, bottling and canning plant on Central Avenue: The commission voted to recommend rezoning the 11,000-square-foot former A&P Food Store at 2821 Central Avenue from C-4 to M-1, manufacturing, on condition that it would be used solely for the operation of the proposed brewery, taproom and bottling and canning operation. If such operations ceased, the property would revert automatically to the C-4 zoning, according to the recommendation passed.

Commission discussion and three public objectors focused solely on the foreseeable parking problems, despite arguments by Mr. Pilleteri and his architect that the rezoning itself didn’t require a plan for a particular business configuration, which hadn’t yet been decided.

The location includes buildings that house the Little Donkey, Octane, Steel City Pops, a fitness center, shoe repair store and a printing operation run by property owner Ken Williams in the former grocery store. The available parking includes 128 spaces, or more than the 107 spaces required for the combined needs of all the businesses operating under C-4. The proposed brewery, with a taproom estimated at 4,000 square feet, would require 2 spaces per each 100 sf of seating area, or 80 parking spots under C-4 zoning. However, Mr. Pilleteri said he needed the rezoning to allow him to bottle the beer on site–the second most important ingredient to running a profitable brewery (the first is selling on premises with a tapper). M-1 zoning requires only half the parking requirement of C-4, or 40 spaces in the given scenario.

Speaking in opposition: Insurance business owner Joe Fuller objected most strenuously to the project, saying customers to The Little Donkey restaurant parked in his Crescent Avenue business and left the lot filthy and cluttered every night. He noted that “the city took down 300 trees and created a gravel parking lot for the Little Donkey,” referring to the 60 additional spaces created across Reese Street. He said it was the commission’s duty to the people to see that businesses had adequate parking.

  • An architect whose business was on 2908 Crescent Avenue also objected, citing his submitted written objections and adding that trucks blocked access to his business.
  • A representative from a business at 2909 Crescent Avenue echoed the same complaint, saying she was “very opposed.”

Speaking in favor: David Siegel of Twin Construction at 2907 Central Avenue, who was present for the next case, spoke briefly in favor of the development’s positive impact to the area.

Mr. Williams, as landlord, commented that he had no objection unless the rezoning would adversely affect his other tenants, which he was assured it wouldn’t.

In the following discussion, Ms. McGrath said Mr. Pilleteri could actually open a brewery and taproom under the current zoning without adding any additional parking, because the zoning based on the space inside the building as opposed to its use. (The expansion of GianMarco’s restaurant within its current building on Broadway, for example, has created additional parking problems but not zoning problems, since the space inside the building remained unchanged, she said.)

Although commissioners all expressed concern over the parking, they moved to vote confident in Mr. Pilleteri’s promises to solve the problem when the time came to open for business.

Voting no: Mr. Woods voted no without further explanation.

HALLKENTSITEReduced Cobb Street building plan from four houses to three: A plan to squeeze four two-story houses on a shallow lot across the street from Hall-Kent Elementary was amended to redraw the parcel into three lots instead. David Siegel of Twin Construction made the presentation, with one neighbor from Kent Drive speaking in favor. The earlier plan to put four houses on the parcel drew a storm of protest from neighbors and from a ranking school board employee, who was concerned about school carpool congestion and student safety. The amendment to the Final Development Plan for 816 Cobb Street and the resurvey of the parcel was approved unanimously in two separate votes.

Conditionally approved a lot resurvey to allow for sewer access: The commission, with Mr. Woods absent from the vote, gave conditional approval to a homeowner at 1102 Saulter Road to redraw a 10-foot x 43-foot strip of one lot to become part of the adjacent lot in order to provide access to an underground sewer line. The change in the lot size will require a Board of Zoning Adjustments variance approval on Thursday. For that reason, the homeowner submitted only a sketch of the plan and the commission conditioned its approval on formal drawings being submitted following a positive decision from the BZA.

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