City Council meeting, July 28, 2014

photo 4The consensus to close down the America’s Best Value Inn & Suites motel in West Homewood was made clear in a unanimous council vote tonight after owners ADMA, Inc. asked to extend operations one year, through July 2015. The council decided in a split vote in March to deny renewing a business license for the business because of criminal behavior allegedly tolerated to such an extent that it created a public nuisance. The owners immediately answered with a request in circuit court for a temporary restraining order — which was granted — to continue operations. Meanwhile, the legal discussion between the city and motel owners has taken place in a series of executive sessions leading to an agreed upon closing date of July 31. That date remained firm after a vote toonight.

Speaking of nuisances, a property on Irving Road repeatedly cited for overgrowth and litter was declared a public nuisance for the third time tonight, with a warning issued about actions needed for the dilapidated housing on the property as well.

Members present:  All-Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Walter Jones, Patrick McClusky, Heather Reid, Richard Laws (arriving late, Peter Wright, and Bruce Limbaugh, council president. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

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

Audience attendance: 45, including crews from ABC 33/40 and Fox 6 News.

Approved minutes of the May 12, 2014 meeting.

Board Vacancies: Eleven applications were submitted to fill the Ward 4, Place 1 Council seat vacated by the resignation of Jenifer Champ Wallis at the last council meeting. A replacement will be appointed to serve Ms. Wallis’s unexpired term.

Approved a sign variance for a new SoHo tenant: The council allowed a variance for PT’s Sports Bar & Grill at 1830 – 29th Avenue South (former Lovoy’s location at SoHo) for an additional sign because of its location at the corner of the building.

Is that the Sims Ecoscape we keep hearing about? No, this overgrown property is a repeat offender on the city's  "excessive growth" list. A July 28 hearing is set to see if this and several other overgrown properties should be declared public nuisances.

Is that the Sims Ecoscape we keep hearing about? No, this overgrown property is a repeat offender on the city’s
“excessive growth” list.

Ruled on several overgrown properties: Out of five properties subject to a  judgment because of overgrowth and litter, only one–1106 Irving Road–was declared a nuisance tonight. Council members and BEZ staff noted the continual decline not only of the grounds at this address but also two houses, saying they would consider pursuing action on the structures as well if not remedied by the owner. Cleared of problems since the last council meeting were properties at 2827 16th Place South, 2831 16th Place South, 1425 Ardsley Place, and 3406 Avalon Road.

Authorized a 3-year contract for CM Food service for Rosewood Hall:  The council approved the contract, with a caveat from the mayor that terms must include two rent-free nights per year, one for a Police Department event and one for a Homewood City Schools event. The city gets 100% of facility rental fees up to $100,000, then 70%. For catering, the city receives 5% of gross sales up to $250,000, and 2% for amounts above that. An additional 10% of all alcohol sales at Rosewood Hall goes to the city, according to the contract.

Approved, with one condition and over a dissenting vote, the ClasTran contract. The council approved $15,000 this year to continue funding Clastran pending a year-end budget surplus. Local government appropriations for the transit service serving elderly and disabled passengers are matched by federal dollars. It has been reported that the service makes 40 trips in Homewood per day, although the council last year split on its vote to fund the service, with opponents saying there weren’t enough riders to justify the expense. The director of the Exceptional Foundation, however, in defending a planned building expansion earlier this year, said there would be fewer traffic concerns becasue many clients traveled to the agency on ClasTran. The council in September didn’t include ClasTran in its 2014 budget.

Voting no: Ms. Reid voted no as she did in March 2013, saying then that there were not enough riders to justify funding the transit service.

Authorized the mayor to enter a contract to repair a storm sewer: Walter Schoel Engineering has the engineering contract for repairs to a storm drain at 1717 27th Court South. The estimated cost for the engineering work is about $10,000 with construction, depending on bid results, estimated at $150,000.

Referred the following items to various committees:

To Finance – A complaint regarding either reducing the speed limit or enforcing the current 35 mph limit on Valley Avenue near Vulcan; A mayor’s request to ease parking congestion on Carr Avenue by providing parallel parking spots (along with decorative street lights and a sidewalk) on city-owned property on “short” Saulter Road. The mayor reported in an earlier committee meeting that congested parking on Carr potentially blocked rescue vehicles and could not continue. GianMarco’s Restaurant has also leased valet parking space at the former Jefferson County satellite office parking lot to help alleviate the parking problem.

To Public Works – A request to vacate (surrender possession of) an alley off of Kensington Road;

To Public Safety – To consider recommendations of a traffic study by Skipper Engineering, Inc. required for an ATRIP grant to fund resurfacing and lane reduction via re-striping (from two lanes in each direction to one, plus left-turn lanes) on Valley and West Valley Avenue. 

Denied an extension on the America’s Best Value Inn & Suites settlement: Although the family owners of the troubled motel stood to speak at this agenda item, the council president reminded them it was not a public hearing. The vote was taken with no further discussion.

Settled a lawsuit on clearing a downtown chemical spill: The council approved, without making the terms public, a lawsuit filed against BBB Enterprises, LLC, to pay for environmental clean up of a dry cleaning business. Click here for first reference in November 2013.

Paid the bills, July 14-July 25, 2014. 

Adjournment: 6:45 p.m.


[UPDATED] Planning and Development Committee–design review, July 21, 2014

A design to replace this house at 1403 Sutherland drew opposition and a variance denial from the BZA.

A design to replace this house at 1403 Sutherland drew opposition and a variance denial from the BZA.

A homeowner’s request this month for setback variances to remodel rebuild a house on Sutherland Place stirred a hornet’s nest of opposition. Residents’ concerns appeared to focus entirely on the proposed design of the new house, and its radical departure from the “look” of the existing neighborhood. This case and others before it have prompted the city to consider establishing a Design Review panel to regulate the appearance of planned new housing or substantial additions.  The conversation is just beginning and the Planning and Development Committee will take up the question at its meeting today, 6:30 p.m.

The meeting and discussion

Six residents spoke at length about their views on establishing a Design Review Board, some in favor, some against, and some in the middle. As mentioned, the issue was revived after residents earlier this month vehemently opposed a new house design proposed to replace an existing cottage on Sutherland Place. The show of opposition earned a rare denial from the BZA to two minor variance requested. The owner of that house–an architect with the Appleseed Workshop–was one of the six speaking tonight.

Was the council considering writing new rules for residential design, establishing protections for historic houses, or adding a new board merely as a “filter” to reduce requests coming before the council? It seemed the members were not sure themselves, and the topic was carried over with a little more clarity after all the speakers were finished.

Here are the highlights:

  • Two residents spoke against establishing a board to rule on housing design, citing Homewood’s diversity in housing and lifestyle as a draw for the community. One said that trees, landscaping and the natural environment gave Homewood neighborhoods their charm, not necessarily housing design.
  • Two residents spoke enthusiastically in favor of both commercial and residential design districts, one saying his experience with three historic neighborhood districts in the Five Points South Neighborhood Association didn’t decrease design diversity at all. The districts’ design boards were governed by residents themselves, not city government, he said. A second resident said limits placed on design to protect the general look of historic neighborhoods could enhance design creativity. A builder spoke on both sides of the question and concluded he could work with such a review board, that many new houses were too big for their lots.
  • The owner of the “other worldly” house proposed on Sutherland talked for some time about his experience with the BZA denial, at one point saying that at least with a design board he’d know what the rules were. He said the BZA stepped beyond its jurisdiction in denying his variance request based on public opinion when it had already approved much larger code variances in that same meeting. He will make adjustments to the design to stay within the code, adjustments that will add $10,000 to the cost of the house.
  • Ward 1 representative Britt Thames said he thought the public had two separate concerns, 1) Whether to establish a panel to review on the appearance of new houses, and 2) Whether the BZA is allowing too many variances to the zoning ordinance.

What do you think?  Take the poll


City Council meeting, July 14, 2014

A council member universally admired tenders her resignation to almost everyone's surprise.

A universally admired council member tenders her resignation for a job in L.A., to almost everyone’s surprise.

From a time standpoint, tonight’s short meeting was the perfect time for Ward 4 council member Jenifer Champ Wallis to announce her resignation to take a job with a Los Angeles law firm, which she did at what seemed the close of business around 6:30. The council promptly announced the vacancy, then listened as the mayor and president read a resolution that must have been pulled together only hours earlier and which praised her for her “sensible and constructive contributions.” Wallis said later that the only people with advance word of her resignation were her ward mate and friend Heather Reid and the council president, who provided a job reference. The mayor got the heads up only today, she said.

Wallis graduated in 2005 from Cumberland School of Law and was in a downtown Birmingham practice of business law, including intellectual property rights. Her nearly two years on the council brought some polish to work that is sometimes–most of the time–tedious and unappreciated. And she and Ms. Reid appeared to work more as a team than any other two ward mates presently on the council. Council members themselves took turns expressing those very sentiments, with Fred Hawkins apologizing for having “pre-judged” Ms. Wallis and others using words like “persistence,” “boldness” and “bravery” before they got back to council business and slipped into a 10 minute closed-door session (without Ms. Wallis) to discuss “impending litigation.”

Judging by the audience presence of the America’s Best Inn & Suites owners and their lawyer, the executive session related to the legal aftermath of the city denying the business a license earlier in the year.

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

Members absent: Patrick McClusky and Walter Jones.

Staff present:  City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, and mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff,

Audience attendance: 17

Filled seats on the Downtown Redevelopment Authority:  The council reappointed Alex Edgeworth to the panel and appointed new members Mel McElroy, Steven Jones and Katy Lincoln.

Approve minutes: The April 14, 2014, regular meeting minutes and minutes of the rescheduled April meeting on May 5 were approved.

Looking north to Oxmoor Road where the city owns a vacant corner lot, this section of Oak Grove Road by Patriot Park in West Homewood is slated for parking improvements.

Looking north to Oxmoor Road where the city owns a vacant corner lot, this section of Oak Grove Road by Patriot Park in West Homewood is slated for parking improvements.

Dropped an earlier proposal for West Homewood Village work: At a committee’s insistence, Walter Schoel Engineering agreed to drop revise a costly proposal that included preliminary engineering studies for the entire 24-parcel West Homewood (Village) Redevelopment and replace it with an estimate for an isolated street-scaping and parking project on Raleigh Avenue and Oak Grove Road around Patriot Park. The council approved the new estimate, which was not made public.  However, Ward 2 councilman Fred Hawkins said the council agreed to drop consideration of Walter Schoel and seek other proposals after the company’s revised estimate came in even higher than the first estimate. No figures were made public

Approved beer and wine sales for a new grocery: The measure passed showed no objection to Mi Pueblo Mexican grocery to apply for an off-premises license for wine and beer sales.

Approved a contract for credit card payments in city court: The mayor was authorized to enter a contract with GOVT PORTAL, with fees paid by offenders, not the city, allowing basic court and traffic fines to be paid by credit card, over the phone or in person.

Committee Referral Agenda

In one vote the council moved various new issues to committees, as follows:

To Finance- 1) Amend the current year’s budget; 2) Consider a lump sum retirement pay-out to retirees and beneficiaries of the Retirement Systems of Alabama; 3) Consider a contract for ClasTran services; 4) Consider hiring Walter Schoel Engineering services for storm sewer culvert repair at 1717 27th Court South; and 5) Consider inviting proposals for city property, liability, auto liability, etc. insurance coverage.

To Special Issues – consider a sign variance at 1830 29th Avenue South before July 28 public hearing.

To Public Safety – Consider beer/wine on-or-off premises sale from Seeds coffee shop at 174 Oxmoor Road (a business of The Common Thread Community nonprofit); Consider ways to curb speeding on Valley Avenue near Vulcan; and consider parking alternatives to ease congestion on city streets.

Set a July 28, 2014, public hearing for a sign ordinance:  A variance has been requested at 1830 29th Avenue South. Google shows an Edible Arrangements at this address, although there are other storefronts.

Approved two Brookwood Village events:  The mall was approved to close Village Lane on JJuly 31, from noon-9 p.m. for a radio-station sponsored music event, with two bands scheduled from 6-8 p.m.; and to close the street again Monday, Aug. 4 from 6-9 p.m. to accommodate a Paul Finebaum book signing at Books-a-Million.

Approved a liquor license for PT’s, at the SoHo Lovoy’s location: The vacant Lovoy’s, once looking like it would become the new Dupont Public House, will now be a resurrected PT’s Grill and Pub, owned by Charles Matsos, of Michael’s  fame, which now leases space in the Aloft hotel. The original PT’s was just across U.S. 280 from the end of Homewood’s Hollywood Boulevard.

Is that the Sims Ecoscape we keep hearing about? No, this overgrown property is a repeat offender on the city's  "excessive growth" list. A July 28 hearing is set to see if this and several other overgrown properties should be declared public nuisances.

Is that the Sims Ecoscape we keep hearing about? No, this overgrown property is a repeat offender on the city’s
“excessive growth” list. A July 28 hearing is set to see if this and several other overgrown properties should be declared public nuisances.

Set several July 28 public nuisance hearings: For high weeds and litter at 1106 Irving Road; 1425 Ardsley Place, 2827 16th Place South, and 3406 Avalon Road.

Paid the bills: Bills were paid without comment for the June 23-July 11, 2014, period.

Passed a resolution commending resigning council member Jenifer Champ Wallis:  

Voted to go into executive session: For the fifth time this year, the council voted to go into a closed-door, private session. The reason given is to discuss “impending litigation,” which is one of several exceptions allowed by law to the state’s requirement to keep meetings open to the public. The council returned approximately 10 minutes later, to adjourn until July 28.

Board of Zoning Adjustments, July 10, 2014

A design to replace this house at 1403 Sutherland drew opposition and a variance denial from the BZA.

A design to replace this house at 1403 Sutherland drew opposition and a variance denial from the BZA. A house being rebuilt several doors down fared better with the board, but also drew fire for disrupting the neighborhood style.

A crowd–by Homewood standards–showed up for this meeting to oppose a new house planned on Sutherland Place. Unpopular design features and houses that are out-sized for the neighborhood are familiar objections to variance requests, and this case was no different. The board, which typically approves new house setback variances, especially when they will stay within the footprint of the existing house, denied a similar request at 1403 Sutherland in the face of neighbor complaints about the proposed design. This case and two others ending in denials dragged the meeting to nearly three hours, while the board chairman reminded the crowd that the city has no design review ordinance in place and the BZA rules only on setbacks and height limitations.

Members present: Hope Cannon (leaving mid-meeting), Brian Jarmon, Jeffrey Foster (supernumerary), Lauren Gwaltney, Ross McCain, chairman, and  Trey Schaeffer.

Members absent: Valerie Askew (supernumerary).

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

Audience attendance: 36

All votes are unanimous unless otherwise noted. FYI, the BZA board comprises two extra, or “supernumerary” members whose job is to vote in place of regular members during absences, as was the case at this meeting.

Homeowners won setback variances to finish this rebuild at 1411 Sutherland Place, but not before hearing criticism aimed at the design.

Homeowners won setback variances to finish this rebuild at 1411 Sutherland Place, but not before hearing criticism aimed at the design.

Approved on a 4-1 split vote: Variances at 1411 Sutherland Place were approved to allow a wall (9-foot variance) and a chimney (1.4-foot variance) to be rebuilt on the original, nonconforming footprint of a house being rebuilt because of fire damage. One person spoke against the demolition, citing the destruction of “beautiful old houses of character” in Homewood. She was informed by the board that there is no design review in Homewood, prohibiting the board from ruling on design issues alone. (However, the council has been entertaining the idea of establishing such a board.) The contractor was questioned in depth about why the chimney had to be torn down, which brought to light that the original fire repairs were inadequate and, while they wanted to preserve the fireplace, it was unsafe to do so.

Voting no: Lauren Gwaltney (who lives on Sutherland in the neighborhood).

Approved a carport: A 9-foot accessory structure variance for a carport at 516 Yorkshire Drive was approved, with neighbors speaking in favor. The original survey was found to be in error after the carport was located and a re-survey necessitated a variance request. It was approved after a proffer to not totally enclose the structure (the back will have a wall but front and sides will be open.

Approved: A 4.3-foot right side setback variance was approved for a roof and screen to cover an existing deck at 3110 Overton Drive.

Denied.   Homeowners at 310 Poinciana want to rebuild on their double lot, adding a porte-cochere. The BZA requires combining the two lots and centering the house.

Homeowners at 310 Poinciana want to rebuild on their double lot, adding a porte-cochere. The BZA requires combining the two lots and centering the house on the combined property.

Denied a variance: In an unusual case where two lots should have been previously combined but had only been made into a parcel (allowing only one tax notice instead of 2 but still being two lots), the board denied a request at 310 Poinciana Drive to allow a porte-cochere on a new house planned on the boundaries of the existing house. The owners wanted to preserve a large part of the second lot as a yard for their children, but will have to combine the two lots and center the house in order build the new house, as planned.

Denied variances: The board denied variances requested for a house being rebuilt at 1403 Sutherland Place, on the existing footprint (2-foot right side and 1.4-foot left side for a second floor and .4-foot left side variance on the first floor.)  The vast majority of the audience was attending to oppose this project, their opposition apparently fueled by the design by Appleseed Workshop. All but three of 13 speakers were against the approval, with the board allowing one speaker to read excerpts from more than a dozen emails objecting to the variances. The comments in opposition all focused on the design as conflicting with the style of the neighborhood. The three who spoke in favor mentioned that 1) Most older Homewood houses are non-conforming to the current setback codes, which requires variances for any remodel or addition, even on the existing footprint; 2) The “character” of Homewood comes from the people, not the buildings; and 3) Denying the variance would only mean the owner would have to shrink the design, not change it.

Once again, the board reminded the audience that there is no design review in Homewood and that the ruling must relate only to the setback variances. Such was the opposition that the homeowner spoke, stating that he and his wife loved the design but would have to “pray over what to do” as the wife would be at home all day with their two small children and wants to feel safe and accepted.

Ms. Cannon left at this point in the meeting and Mr. Foster, as supernumerary, voted in her place on the following cases.

Approved a two-car garage: The board approved a 10-foot front building setback variance and 10-foot right building setback variance for a two-car garage addition at 117 Windsor Drive. The house is on the corner of Windsor and Yorkshire Drive and is currently non-conforming.

Approved a residential addition: A 1-foot right building setback and a 4-foot left building setback for a master bedroom and third bath addition got an approval at 1420 Ardsley Place. The house is non-conforming as to lot placement because a strip of the lot had been sold to a neighbor for a driveway. The owner assured the board and attendees that the addition would be in keeping with the “character” of the neighborhood.

Approved/Denied: A request for two variances at 1601 Manhattan Street was split with one vote approving a 3-foot right setback for a wooden deck and another vote denying a 10-foot right side setback for an arbor. The owner wanted to add the deck and arbor with extensive plantings for more entertaining space. One neighbor to the rear spoke in opposition, saying her house was within two feet of the property line where the decking and arbor would be placed.

The meeting adjourned at 8:45 PM.

Park Board meeting, July 10, 2014

PARKSA self-employed personal trainer with a following of 15 clients told the park board tonight he did not feel “respected and appreciated” after a committee on Tuesday voted against his request to reduce the $10/hour fee the board charges instructors to teach in the facility. Undeterred, Royce Head returned to the full board meeting — with six supporters — asking specifically for the board to consider capping his monthly fees at $500 from now through December and to revisit the issue then. According to his complaint, he worked 135 hours at the center in June, owing the board $1,350, but only bringing in $1,700 in fees from his clients. The board, however, followed through on the committee’s denial, saying it would wait until August to address his specific proposal, because it was turned in after the Tuesday meeting.

But it doesn’t look good.

Following the meeting, staff and board members explained that Mr. Head had developed his loyal clientele — as he himself said — by being available whenever they wanted a session, giving out lots of free advice, and substantially under-charging for his services. “He’s really devaluing his services,” said park and recreation center superintendent Rusty Holley after the meeting. According to Mr. Holley, the board at one time charged instructors virtually nothing ($35/month), rates that made it possible to rake in a fortune teaching Zumba classes, for example, he said. When the new Community Center opened, the board decided to charge all classroom  instructors $10/hour to use the facilities and require them to obtain CPR certification and purchase a city business license. (Mr. Head has complied with those requirements.) The hourly rate, they say, is not only reasonable, but many times less than any other facility charges in the area. Mr. Head should adjust his business model and teach in groups and charge more if he isn’t earning enough.

Mr. Head’s supporters take a different view, saying he is an asset to the center and is more familiar with the equipment than any of the staff. One supporter pointed out that a personal trainer is expected to work one-on-one with a client, not in groups. Another had gathered a petition in support of Mr. Head’s request. Five of the six supporters present spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, some saying they would drop their memberships without the personal training benefit.

Members present: Chris Meeks, chairman, Michael Murray, Tom Walker, Tom Blake, Marjorie Trimm and, arriving late during the public comment session, Keith Stansell. Also present was council liaison Richard Laws.

Members absent: Paula Smalley, vice chairman, Becky Morton, and Tyler Vail.

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

Audience attendance: 8

Approved June 5, 2014, meeting minutes.

Denied request to reduce instructor fees: The board voted with the Program Committee’s recommendation to deny the request from fitness trainer Royce Head to reduce the $10 hourly fee charged to instructors. Mr. Meeks said that Mr. Head’s specific request to cap the monthly fees at $500 would be considered at the August committee and full board meeting because it was submitted after the committee’s June meeting on Tuesday.

Approved a September running event: The board followed the Facilities Committee recommendation and approved a Creative Montessori 5k run at Central Park, Sept. 27 from 6-11 a.m. 

Director’s comments – Mr. Squires briefly noted that the Community Center punch list was still being addressed.  He will meet with the mayor in two weeks to discuss the budget proposal approved by the park board in June.

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




Planning Commission meeting, July 1, 2014

This is the site of a proposed 3-house subdivision for family members of Mike and Dianne Kendrick. If developed, it would be the third such “private” subdivision in Homewood.

Subdivisions ruled tonight’s brief meeting, with plans revealed for three new housing developments, namely a “private” subdivision on Columbiana Road for family members of Mike and Dianne Kendrick; a preliminary development plan to build four houses on a difficultly sized empty lot across from Hall Kent Elementary; and the division of the now well-known “Heeter” property on “Short” Saulter Road into two lots for a residence. This is the property once proposed for a community garden, a pocket park, and a gravel parking lot for GianMarco’s.

Members present: Billy Higginbotham, chairman, Mike Brandt, vice-chairman, Fred Azbik, Fred Hawkins (member and council liaison), Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill, James Ponseti, and James Riddle.

Members absent: Mark Woods.

Commission vacancies: One seat.

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

Audience attendance: 12

Approved several variances to create a family “compound” on Columbiana Road: Resident Mike Kendrick, who also serves as Homewood’s city attorney, presented several applications on behalf of his wife, Dianne Kendrick, to waive subdivision regulations for the couple to develop property at 1051 Columbiana Road (on the portion of Columbiana located west of Green Springs Ave.) The Kendricks live in the house on the 2-acre property and propose to build two other houses for family members only. Ms. McGrath, however, pointed out that there would actually be no legally binding restriction on who lives there. [Click here to read Section 107 of the Homewood Subdivision Regulations, which covers private subdivisions.]

Specifically, the Kendricks sought waivers to omit sidewalk, curb and gutter requirements; to allow as an entrance the existing 14-foot-wide driveway, (within 24 feet of city right-of-way) instead of a required 24-foot wide driveway; to allow a 5-foot shoulder in place of a 7-foot shoulder; and  “[a]ny other provision of the Homewood Subdivision Rules and regulations not included in the Application and the Preliminary and Final Plats for the Kendrick Subdivision.” Jefferson County has already approved a sewer extension to serve the new development.

Mr. Cobb explained that the sweeping final provision was added as a protection in case the Engineering Department had overlooked any additional requirements. Interestingly, Ms. McGrath explained that this so-called private subdivision is not the first of its kind in Homewood–two others have been approved on Berry Road and Belmont Lane. During the public hearing, neighbors asked whether a back gate to the property would be accessible to all three lots. Mr. Kendrick said it would be used by only the owners of the existing house (themselves).

A developer wants to build four houses on a shallow vacant lot across from Hall-Kent. Previous attempts to develop the property have failed--including towing a house onto it, which was eventually removed.

A developer wants to build four houses on a shallow vacant lot across from Hall-Kent. Previous attempts to develop the property have failed–including towing a house onto it, which was eventually removed.

Approved a preliminary plan to build four houses by  Hall-Kent: A former plan to squeeze six houses on a shallow lot across from the West Homewood elementary school ultimately fizzled, as did an attempt to move a completed house onto the property in 2011. This time, under different ownership, developer David Siegel of Twin Construction, presented a preliminary development plan to build four houses at 816 Cobb Street. Siegel and architect Joe Ellis explained that the houses would be 1.5 stories (with upper stories having a smaller footprint than lower stories) and would vary in size from 1,700 square feet to 2,000 square feet. The exteriors would be similar but not identical. During the public hearing, two neighbors spoke in opposition, citing the past history of the lot and adding that second stories would encroach on neighbors’ privacy. One neighbor was concerned about the possibility of water runoff onto his property.

In response, Mr. Siegel and Mr. Ellis said each lot would be about 50′ wide, that the rear setbacks would be 20 feet–the same as nearby properties, but that the front setbacks would need to be smaller (about 10′) to account for the lack of depth. They also said that there were a number of two-story and split-level houses in the area. Siegel said he thought the proposed density was appropriate given the institutional zoning across the street (Hall Kent School) and that the new houses would be an asset to the neighborhood. Commission members approved the preliminary plan unanimously, but pointed out that no permits could be issued until a more detailed, final plan was presented and approved.

Approved: The commission granted a resurvey to David Heeter to divide a lot at 800 Saulter Road (“Short” Saulter) into two lots. The newly created lots are each approximately 72 feet wide and 175 feet deep. The lot closest to Carr Avenue was under contract to a Homewood family that intended to build a house there, with the sale contingent on the resurvey. The property owners had already received a variance from the BZA allowing the narrow lot width. No comments were offered at the public hearing, and the commission approved the request unanimously.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:39 pm.

FYI, ALDOT public meeting for Oxmoor improvement project, June 26, 2014

IMG_1334Click the image to open a full-sized image in another window or click here to open a zoomable pdf.