City Council, Oct. 10, 2016

The request for further schools and parks funding at the next Finance Committee meeting will illuminate the recent presentation for a system-wide schools expansion, park redevelopment, and probable relocation of the high school. Meanwhile, another expansion–of a second GianMarco’s restaurant to West Homewood–got everyone’s attention.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Alex Wyatt, Rich Laws, and Peter Wright, presiding in place of  council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Absent: Barry Smith and Bruce Limbaugh

Staff present: Mike Kendrick, city attorney, Melody Salter, administrative assistant Aimee Lanier, finance director and city clerk, J.J. Bischoff, mayor’s chief of staff, and Greg Cobb, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience attendance: 45 to start

Approved minutes of the Sept. 6, September 12, and September 26, 2016, council meetings. 


By general consent, agreed to drop the following items from committee agendas:  The council dropped the following either because the issue had been resolved, is in process, or doesn’t warrant further action, 1) Consideration of a waste water facility ordinance; and 2)  A request to make improvements to an alley behind 509 Edgeland Place.


An idea for expanding parks and relocating the high school onto acreage purchased by the city in August for $4.25 million.

An idea for expanding parks and relocating the high school onto acreage purchased by the city in August for $4.25 million.

Set an Oct. 24 hearing on a request for increased school and park funding: The requests were made in person by school board member Nancy Ferren and Berkley Squires, the city’s public services superintendent, who manages Parks and Recreation. The request, for which there are “no specific numbers,” according to Ms. Ferren, follows a joint presentation two weeks ago by Mr. Squires and schools superintendent Bill Cleveland to suggest expansion plans at all three elementary schools and the middle school and a relocation of the high school to West Homewood property the city has already purchased adjacent to the West Homewood Park ballfields. The entire plan, produced by H. L. Harbert, is available on the city schools website. Before the hearing, the request will be taken up by the Finance Committee at its meeting Oct. 17.

GianMarco's is bidding on the vacant lot by Patriot Park for a pizza restaurant. Public hearing before a vote is schedule for Oct. 10.

GianMarco’s owners have been offered a $500,000 offer to open a restaurant in West Homewood, to look something like this.

Sent a $500,000 tax incentive proposal for a restaurant in West Homewood to committee after a first reading: The proposal to lure successful restaurateurs Giani and Marco Respinto to open a second location and casual dining restaurant in West Homewood was carried over to the next meeting and referred to the Finance Committee after failing to get a unanimous consent for immediate passage.  The deal is a surprise culmination of years of negotiations, most of them confidential, with a handful of other developers for the lot at 165 Oxmoor Road, adjacent of Patriot Park. The city purchased the vacant lot–which was  once occupied by a gas station with leaking storage tanks–to build a “catalyst” project that reflects the village-form zoning district and to spark neighborhood commercial development. Three other projects had failed to materialize, the most recent being a combined condominium development with Post Office Pies pizzeria on the ground level that brought mixed reviews from the neighborhood.

In this proposal, the owners of the popular GianMarco’s on Broadway would purchase the lot for $135,000 and gain up to $500,000 over 10 years in combined waivers of sales tax (1 penny of the 3-cent tax), business license tax (first three years of operation) and Homewood property tax. The extent of the monetary offer has raised questions, but no open objections. No one spoke against the proposal at tonight’s public hearing.

Mr. Respinto, a New Yorker himself, said he was inspired to open the New York-style neighborhood restaurant GianMarco’s in Edgewood when he saw the Broadway building 14 years ago. Tonight, he handed out proposed menus and sketched his new concept briefly as a family-friendly, casual restaurant with an open air bar area serving draft beer and wine, pizza, pasta dishes, salads and sandwiches, lots of patio space, indoor and lawn games.

Voting no to immediate consideration: Michael Hallman

Set an Oct. 24 work session to discuss sidewalk projects: The work session will be at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 24, before the regular council meeting. 

Set an Oct. 14 bid opening date to contract for janitorial services at certain city buildings:

Approved sidewalk construction and one-way traffic on a section of Rumson Road: The item had been carried over multiple times to find and review a past traffic study to determine if limiting the 500-block to one-way traffic would adversely affect traffic on neighboring streets. Tonight Mr. Cobb said the study was found but didn’t contain any traffic counts, just field observations that yes, there would be some impact one block in either direction of the one-way area. On a vote, it was decided to establish the one way section going north first, for safety of construction workers, and then install sidewalks on the east side of the street. 

Deleted the Home Energy section of the 2016 International Building Code, adopted previously by the city of Homewood: No details. 

Dropped an annexation request for two Shades Crest Road properties:  The city attorney asked that the request to annex 913 and 1400 Shades Crest Road be dropped until problems with the legal description could be corrected. At an earlier meeting the attorney said the properties adjoined city of Hoover, making an annexation more complicated than if surrounded by Homewood jurisdiction. 

Approved up to $13,000 for 13 additional trash cans for downtown streets: That’s right, $1,000 apiece.

Carried over a franchise agreement with Level 3 Communications: The company hasn’t been prepared at two prior meetings.

Denied a Bingo Permit for a non-profit: The permit would have been been used to benefit the non-profit Agape House. The vote to deny followed an unfavorable vote from the Public Safety Committee.

Awarded Weil Wrecker the city wrecker/towing contract: No contract terms were  announced.


A stray hound waits for adoption at Vulcan Park Animal Care. The veterinary clinic won the city animal control impound contract.

Awarded Vulcan Park Animal Care the city animal control contract: The three-year contract is a renewal for the local veterinary practice to act as the city’s impound for stray animals.

Granted an exception to the sign ordinance on Green Springs Highway: The building at 150 Green Springs Highway adorned with concrete dolphins has been a dozen different businesses, the former Darryl’s restaurant in the 1980s, the Original Steakhouse & Sports Theater, Wing Out, and a waterbed store, to name a few. The seafood restaurant about to open there was allowed multiple sign variances to overcome visibility problems at the top of the hill, set back from the street.

Set a Nov. 14 public hearing about established one-way traffic on Ardsley Road.

Approved an engineering contract for the Valley Avenue repaving: The engineering work will be reimbursed at 100%, but the total cost wasn’t mentioned.


The Peerless-Oxmoor crosswalk will be signalized.

Approved signals to the cross walk on Oxmoor/Peerless intersection: There was no discussion of cost or the exact placement of the crossing signs. However, a similar project on Oxmoor Road and and Oak Grove Road cost

Voted support for a state ABC board retail liquor license for Michael’s restaurant:  The restaurant in Aloft at 1903 29th Avenue South has changed hands and management companies multiple times. The new company is the Basar Group, LLC.


To Finance – Considered requests for 1) Closing a loan for Capital Purchases not to exceed $710,000; 2) Funding FY2016 surplus from General Fund to Capital Projects Fund after employee bonuses are paid; 3) Redeeming the City’s 2007 and a portion of 2012 General Obligation Warrants; and 4) Additional funding for the consultants identifying the odor problem at Buffalo Rock or Barber dairy in West Homewood.

To Public Safety – Consider requests for 1) Supporting an application for an On- or Off-premises state beer and wine ABC board license for the Black Pearl Asian Cuisine restaurant at 180 State Farm Parkway; and 2) Supporting an application for an Off-premises retail beer and wine ABC board license for Fred’s Store at 234 Green Springs Highway.


Transit advocates get seated at the council meeting delayed by an hour-long Finance Committee meeting about bus funding. The service will continue funding at its current level at least through Jan. 31, while the committee considers alternative options for paratransit riders.

(Late 2014) Transit advocates get seated at the council meeting delayed by an hour-long Finance Committee meeting about bus funding. The service will continue funding at its current level at least through Jan. 31, while the committee considers alternative options for paratransit riders.

Authorized, in a 6-3 split vote, an FY 2017 contract with the Birmingham Jefferson Transit Authority: The council’s disdain for BJCTA is well known and was reported here in a protracted series of hearings with BJCTA authorities after the FY2015 budget was passed and funding cut in half  (and then reinstated) to “get their attention.” Most recently, Mr. Wright said the city is pursuing its own transportation system, a topic covered by  Click here for a look at last year’s transit resolution, proposed new bus routes in the city and recent history of  conflict, dating to September 22, 2014. 

Voting no to the yearly renewal: Britt Thames, Michael Hallman, Patrick McClusky.

westcitydiscoDropped an item to revoke support for a liquor license and deny a business license renewal for West City Disco: The business at 283 West Valley Avenue must have cleaned up its act since the item went on the agenda. There was no discussion or explanation given.

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period September 26-October 9, 2016, were approved to be paid.

Park Board, Oct. 6, 2016

Will Homewood parks offer a different kind of winter recreation next year? Ms. Smalley is leading the way.

Park board members in January didn’t seize on a suggestion by Ms. Smalley to investigate a pop-up skate rink at Central. The topic got new life for next year after Birmingham announced a similar project for Railroad Park.

The board accepted the council’s revised budget for FY2017, elected officers, and promised to reexamine for next year the feasibility of a pop-up skate rink in light of the same being announced this winter for Railroad Park in Birmingham.

Members present: Chris Meeks, chair, Gary Isenhower, programs chair, Jody Brant, Paula Smalley, vice chair, Keith Stansell, Michael Murray, and Becky Morton, arriving late.

Members absent: Chris Bailey and Tyler Vail.

Staff present: Berkley Squires, public services superintendent, Rusty Holley, Parks and Recreation superintendent, and board secretary, taking minutes.

Audience attendance: 1

Approved the September meeting minutes.


There will be a Fall Festival at Central Park, Saturday, Oct. 29, 4:30 p.m., a joint event with city police and fire departments, featuring kids’ activities, bounce houses, etc.

Pickin' in the Park will be merged with the Handmade event, both Arts Council projects, to be held at Central Park this year.

Pickin’ in the Park will be merged with the Handmade event, both Arts Council projects, to be held at Central Park this year.

Pickin’ in the Park, an informal music participation event, is scheduled Sunday, Oct. 16 at Central Park, sponsored by the Homewood Arts Council and presented jointly with the group’s other public event, Handmade, which was moved from Patriot Park this year.

Committee Reports:

There was no Programs Committee report. Under Facilities, Mr. Squires briefly mentioned someone had requested some plantings at Woodland Park, which is a passive neighborhood park not requiring active maintenance. Woodland has a deed restriction to allow green space and picnic tables, but no playground equipment.


Accepted the FY2017 $4.4 million parks budget returned from the City Council:


The proposed $4,165,550 was increased $71,499 by the council to $4,237,049 to cover additional insurance costs and wage step increases mandated by the county personnel board.


The proposed $204,350 capital budget was decreased $31,475 by the council to $172,875 after eliminating requested expenses for weight room additions and doors.

Elected officers for the FY2017 year:

  • Re-elected as chair – Mr. Meeks
  • Vice chair – Mr. Vail
  • Facilities Committee chair – Mr. Murray, with members Brant, Smalley, and Bailey.
  • Program Committee chair – Mr. Isenhower, with members Vail, Morton, and Stansell.


The pop-up rink proposed by Ms. Smalley is based on this one operated by the City of Tuscaloosa. The price tag is high and weather uncertain. Will the Park Board go for it?

The pop-up rink proposed by Ms. Smalley is based on this one operated by the City of Tuscaloosa. The price tag is high and weather uncertain. [The board did not follow up on this suggestion for those reasons.]

Dismissed until next year a discussion about hosting a winter season ice rink at Central Park: Ms. Smalley in January had proposed the board host a pop-up skating rink based on one she had seen in Tuscaloosa. A discussion the following month revealed a hefty pricetag, and the topic wasn’t revisited. Board members raised the subject again at this meeting after the announcement by the city of Birmingham to sponsor a pop up rink this winter at Railroad Park.

The next Facilities committee meeting is set for November 1, 5:30 p.m.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:20

Board of Zoning Adjustments, Oct. 6, 2016

This three-story guest house towering at 505 Yorkshire Drive played a big part in the board's decision to deny an accessory building at a neighboring house.

This three story guest house towering at 505 Yorkshire Drive played a big part in the board’s decision to deny an accessory building at a neighboring house. Picture provided by a resident objecting to “accessory structure overload” on Yorkshire.

In two of the three cases heard tonight the board uncovered situations that either slipped past regulators or called for more investigation. A request for two setback variances for a two-level detached garage on Durham Drive was defeated in two separate votes after objections from neighbor, developer Chris Tucker (Broadway triangle residences), who complained of a “behemoth” guest house allowed on 505 Yorkshire, next door to his house. On the last case of the night, which was granted variances for an addition, members discovered a noncompliant deck drawn into the plans that would have encroached into the setback.

Members present: Brian Jarmon, Stuart Roberts (S), Jeffrey Foster, vice chair (arriving after the first case was started and therefore not voting), Lauren Gwaltney, chair, Ty Cole, Beverly LeBoeuf, and new Ward 5 member Matt Foley, who declined to vote on his first visit. Mr. Foley was appointed to the seat vacated by Hope Cannon.

Members absent: Batallion Chief Nickolas Hill.

Staff present: Greg Cobb, Vanessa McGrath, and Fred Goodwin of the Building, Engineering and Zoning Department; Planning and zoning clerk Donna Bridges.

Audience attendance: 11

*Note on procedure: By state law, zoning variances granted by the 5-member board require a super majority of 4 members voting in the affirmative. To keep business moving in case of absences, the law also allows two supernumerary members (S) to sit in and vote if needed. Tonight there were only four present for the first three cases, meaning each vote had to be unanimous to pass, which they were. Variances expire in 180 days if a building permit isn’t obtained.

Approved April, May and June meeting minutes, with edits, and July minutes as presented.

The Westover Drive case carried over from last month was withdrawn by the applicants: The couple’s request for a 4-foot right building setback variance at 906 Westover Drive last month was carried over pending a survey, since the variance may not have been necessary.

1607 Grove Place

1607 Grove Place

Approved a variance for an addition on Grove:  The board approved a left building setback variance at 1607 Grove Place so the homeowners could build an addition on the rear. Because the house is angled on the property, the extension required a variance to allow a 2-foot encroachment into the setback, which is already partially occupied by an earlier addition to the house.


531 Durham Drive

531 Durham Drive

Denied in two votes variances for a detached garage on Durham Drive: Homeowners at 530 Durham Drive sought to build a detached two level garage (not fully two stories high) on the far rear and right sight of the property to gain room to maneuver their cars between the garage and house. A rise in ground level closer to the house was cited as a hardship, since building it closer have made the garage roof line taller than the house, they said. However, the request drew a successful objection from back yard neighbor at 507 Yorkshire Drive who said his yard already faced a close accessory structure at 536 Durham Drive, next door to the applicants, and a “behemoth” structure that had been going up seemingly forever next door to him. That structure, he said, should be viewed as the real cause of his objection, since one more garage or carriage house would create a wall of accessory buildings behind his house. 

The applicants' request for variances for a detached garage with attic would have been the third in a "wall of accessory structures" behind the Tucker residence.

The applicants’ request for variances for a detached garage with attic would have been the third in a “wall of accessory structures” behind the Tucker residence.

The neighbor showed a pictures of that three-story building, which prompted the board to shift their concern to how or whether it was permitted by the city (it was). While the Yorkshire Drive  building complicated deliberations, the board asked more pointed questions about the applicants’ ability to alter their garage plans, either by moving it entirely or shortening the depth of the space. Members then offered to vote separately on each variance to possibly salvage some of the request, an offer that didn’t work, with a unanimous denial voted for the rear variance and a split, 3-2 vote polled in favor of the right side exemption (approvals require a minimum of four votes for approval).

Voting no on the right side variance: LeBoeuf and Gwaltney.

814 Forest Drive

814 Forest Drive

Granted a variance for an addition on Forest Drive:  The couple at 814 Forest Drive plan to build a two-story addition onto their 1,000 square foot house, retaining the front rooms and porch and covering the original front and new addition with Hardie board siding and a metal roof. The addition to the rear will encroach 3 feet into the left building setback, requiring the variance. The board, which allowed the variance, discovered on the plans a deck over five feet from the ground (and therefore following the setbacks for the main house) that would also require a variance if it were to be built, a fact overlooked by the zoning staff. The applicants agreed they would not build the deck.

Interestingly, the variance request for the house, which will be 29 feet high, was received two days before the council approved a new method of measuring height and new setbacks (from 9 feet to 10), which didn’t affect the vote tonight because of that timing.

Planning Commission, Oct. 4, 2016

planning & zoning(1)Judging from tonight’s performance, attorney John McElheny is not used to losing cases. But this property line dispute is certain to go down to some degree of defeat for the Cobb Street homeowner. McElheny was slapped with a stop-work order in July for building a shed up against a sidewalk and neighbor’s fence against zoning regulations. Refusing to back down during a 25-minute stand-off over a setback dispute, McElheny agrees to carry the matter over to November.

Members present: Billy Higginbotham, chair, Jeffrey Foster, arriving after the first vote, James Riddle, Mark Woods, and Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.

Members absent: Mike Brandt and Fred Hawkins; Foster arriving after the vote on the first case.

Vacancy: Jamie Ponseti resigned following the November meeting. Mr. Ponseti filled the “mayor’s designee” spot on the commission. The mayor or a new designee can be named to fill the vacancy.

Staff attendance: Donna Bridges, commission secretary, Fred Goodwin, planner, Vanessa McGrath and Greg Cobb, city Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience attendance:  6


The house and property purchased to expand the Montessori campus is to the west (left) of this picture, behind the present gym. A school representative said the house (pictured below) would be razed and then the lot planned for a final use, which might be a playground or outdoor learning center.

Recommended rezoning a residential property for use by Creative Montessori School: The board voted in favor of a request to rezone a single house zoned (oddly enough) R-5–attached dwelling unit–to an Institutional use to extend the school’s campus. A representative for the case was noncommittal on the final use, saying the property would be converted to some sort of outdoor learning center or recreational area. The private school has been in an expansion and rebuilding mode for 18 months or so that

The Montessori school has asked to rezone the property it purchased behind its present day gym.

The Montessori school has asked to rezone the property it purchased behind its present day gym.

was spelled out in a July 7, 2015 meeting, where two members voted against the plans, citing poorly thought out parking. The school is still under construction, but recently celebrated an opening and ribbon cutting attended by the mayor and council.

The favorable recommendation goes to the council, which will vote yes or no following a separate public hearing.


A disputed shed will remain for at least another month in a heated case that was carried over to avoid a denial.

Carried over a request to alter a development plan to allow a shed already partly built on a Cobb Street house: The property at 820 Cobb is on the left of three new houses built about two years ago across the street from Hall Kent Elementary on a shallow parcel that was the remnant of an older subdivision zoned Planned Residential District. The PRD zoning classification is governed by different, but equivalent, regulations to most Homewood houses, and are written into a development plan overseen by the Planning Commission alone. Tonight’s case revolved around the details of that plan, which had established minimal 8-foot setbacks from the property lines for any structure,  a distance that was further reduced to 5 feet for two of the other houses, but due to an oversight, not for 820 Cobb. Mr. McElheny, the homeowner at that address, said he was led to believe he didn’t have any setbacks to worry about, and was angry when slapped with a stop-work order for building a shed less than a foot from a sidewalk and his neighbor’s back fence.

The property was developed by Twin Construction and originally slated for four houses, which drew strong opposition from the neighborhood and elementary school. It was later reduced to three lots, and Mr. Woods argued in favor of Mr. McElheny’s situation, that placement of the sanitary sewer encroached further on the lot size after buyers had entered purchase agreements. Nevertheless,  commissioners agreed that McElheny knew the lot dimensions and regulations when he bought the house.

In a heated discussion, commission members made clear they would probably alter the development plan’s setback to 5 feet, but Mr. McElheny said he wasn’t likely to budge at all. He said he had placed the shed to allow his children the best use of the back yard and would just remove it if it couldn’t remain. Pointing to the audience, he said twice his neighbors had no objections to the shed but didn’t show up to support him. Pointing to the zoning staff, he said he had purchased the house to improve the neighborhood and they had led him to believe there was an agreement about the use of his backyard. His materials were already ruined by standing unfinished since July, he said.

Mr. McElheny rejected commission claims that the shed posed any safety and maintenance issues where it stood and demanded to know what other reasons the commission had to deny the request. With no move toward a compromise forthcoming, ccommissioners suggested postponing a decision to November to avoid voting a denial, which several said was likely conclusion.

Allowed a boundary to be shifted between two lots to accommodate a house on Ridge: The commission approved moving a property line between 112 and 114 Ridge Road to create two lots of equal width for two-story new houses planned by Homewood Builders LLC. One neighbor spoke, not to object, but to ask what was planned.

High School relocation meeting, Sept. 27, 2016

More than 300 parents and residents showed up to hear why the current high school building is obsolete, and must be relocated.

More than 300 parents and residents showed up tonight to hear how growing enrollments have rendered the current high school building is obsolete. The school will likely be relocated to property purchased by the city on West Oxmoor Road.

Why the High School is moving to West Homewood and other questions asked and answered at a Homewood City Schools presentation tonight:

Most of the 300 + parents showing up tonight at the Homewood High School auditorium already knew the basic plan in play to relocate the 1973 high school building from Lakeshore Drive to a newly purchased parcel on West Oxmoor Road adjoining the West Homewood ballfields. But they were treated to an organized and straightforward presentation of supporting demographics and history, via a study by B. L. Harbert (which built the city’s latest Park and Rec Center) to make the decision more understandable.

Bottom line, the school system and city are partners in a plan to use a $4.25 million property on West Oxmoor Road to relocate the high school, expand ballfields and relocate the West Homewood Park swimming pool to a part of nearby Patriot Park property.

The supporting evidence was provided in an earnest, one-hour initial presentation by Homewood City Schools superintendent Bill Cleveland, who promised no elementary school would be relocated but toured the recent growth statistics at the system’s three elementary schools and middle school to the foregone conclusion that the high school could not long remain functional in its location on Lakeshore.

  • The growth in student enrollment system wide has increased 30% since 2000;
  • An equivalent growth in city park program participation has been tracked since 2009;
  • The median age of Homewood residents has dropped from 40 to 29, parents of early elementary-age students;
  • Kindergarten enrollment from 2009-10 to the current year has grown from 305 to 309, topping out at 349 in the 2013-14 academic year. These large classes are making their way through the grades, ultimately to push the capacity of the high school beyond its 1,177 capacity by 2023.

Current status by school, expansion possibilities and cost of additions at three elementary schools at $29,428,900 for all three and middle school expansion costing at least $13.7 million, probably more: 






Hall-Kent School, west Homewood

  • 588 students total; 42 classrooms
  • Easiest school to enlarge without disruption;
  • Could add 16 classrooms by an L-shaped addition on the north side that would occupy a portion of the track.







Edgewood Elementary School

  • The largest school in attendance and grounds, at 832 students in 55 classrooms;
  • Could build out the east side for more classrooms, including a partial second story, and also expand the cafeteria on the south side, by taking up part of the playground.









Shades Cahaba Elementary

  • The smallest of the three elementaries and most difficult to expand, with 578 students in 39 classrooms;
  • Expansion to the north could add 18 classrooms and enlarge the cafeteria;
  • Could build a new gymnasium in the “horseshoe”‘ and use the current gym space for more classrooms.







Homewood Middle School

  • The school has 927 students in 48 classrooms;
  • Considering adding a 5th grade wing angled out to the north toward Valley Avenue, and adding to cafeteria;

Dr. Cleveland,  a Homewood HS graduate and first principal of the new Middle School in 2005-06, said the school system’s working plan had been to sell the 28-acre Magnolia apartment property for single-family residential. Lately, in view of plans to expand, the system wants to hold onto the property, whether to build a new school building or build temporary classroom buildings to house students during elementary school construction (the original plan for purchasing the $10 million property was to develop a cross-country track and other facilities, possibly an intermediate school.)

At this point Dr. Cleveland introduced the parks and rec director to show how park lands were also in need of expansion to accommodate the growing city.

CIrcled area shows 15-acre property adjacent to the West Homewood Park ballfields to be used for park enhancements and potentially a new location for the high school.

CIrcled area shows 15-acre property adjacent to the West Homewood Park ballfields to be used for park enhancements and potentially a new location for the high school.

Park and Rec presentation

Berkley Squires, the park and rec director and now Public Services Superintendent over streets, sanitation, landscaping and parks, presented a case for expanding the park facilities, saying West Homewood Park had been purchased in 1966, enlarged in 197s and had multiple renovations in later years, including the pool and upper fields added in 2003-04.

Parks participation had grown from 3,100 children in 2009 to 4,100 in 2016, he said.

He said the ballfields were inadequate for growing baseball, flag football lacrosse, peewee football and soccer programs; the pool wasn’t up to the standard of modern families, and the parks maintenance staff worked out of a disordered collection of metal buildings on the grounds. Harbert’s study showed how a new high school could be positioned on the property (already purchased by the city for that purpose) by the stadium and also provide room for a new maintenance facility and three new multipurpose fields on the upper-field (also called the 6-acre field), and add five ballfields. The old pool would be moved to land between the Senior Center and Patriot Park along with tennis courts.

Finally, the high school

Dr. Cleveland returned to the podium to explain how the current high school, built in 1973 for a 1,200 student capacity and undergoing 8 additions since then–most recently to add the alternative school in 2008–could not be enlarged easily at its current location, which is hemmed in by a steep grade to the rear and the floodway from Shades Creek in the front. Can a high school of 1,400-1,600 students be expected to function well in this location, he asked? The answer was obviously, no.

The first hour presentation was accompanied by several offers to answer questions and a promise to post the entire slideshow, demographics, and maps on the Homewood City Schools website, beginning tomorrow.

City Council, Sept. 26, 2016

The council found a scant $107,091 difference of opinion with the mayor's budget after a month of hearings.

After a month of hearings, the council’s Finance Committee found a scant $107,091 difference of opinion with the mayor’s $69 million budget, about the usual net difference from past years. One of the largest disparities, of $277,841 the committee removed from the mayor’s gas tax budget, represents a savings gained from having paid for part of the Valley Avenue repaving project out of the current budget. The $466,581 added to capital projects appears mainly to cover added sidewalk construction.

Across the board bonuses for all employees, based on tenure, will be drawn from this year’s projected budget surplus when all bills are paid after Oct. 1, and not to exceed $375,000. That will start at $350 for employees with 1-3 years service up to a one-time $2,000 per year bonus for those at the 20-year mark and above. As in past years, Mr. Hallman voted no, signaling his support of regular COLA’s, which become part of the employees’ regular salaries, and pensions.

Other boons that fell to the city budget were the $1.19 million low bid from Dunn Construction, awarded tonight, which came well under the mayor’s $2.3 million allowance for a city-wide repaving and street repair project that would have addressed the worst streets first (those graded in “c” condition by Volkert Engineering). The extra funds can now be used to begin addressing streets in the “B” level, grades established by Volkert’s traffic consultants last year. The entire project to address all the streets is $4 million to be spent over 8 years.

Finally tonight, the council gave a rare denial to a business asking for a sign variance, and passed a Mayfair Drive sidewalk project that had been disputed for months, and attempted failed for years past, to the disappointment of some in the audience.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Rich Laws, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Absent: Fred Hawkins and Vance Moody.

Staff present: Mike Kendrick, city attorney, Melody Salter, finance director and city clerk, J.J. Bischoff, mayor’s chief of staff, and Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience attendance: 24

Appointed Matt Foley to the Ward 5 BZA position vacated by Hope Cannon. A second candidate, who already serves on the BZA, was disqualified because of term limits.


The following items were dropped from council consideration, for various reasons. Sometimes the reason is that the item has already been acted on or resolved. Dropped are 1) A request for a special event permit and tent variance at 200 Green Springs Highway; and 2) A request to address traffic concerns on Hambaugh Avenue.

Image provided by city to Homewood Star.

Image provided by city to Homewood Star.

Approved sidewalks and other improvements on Mayfair Drive between Whitehall and U.S. 31: The council passed Phase I (on the north side of Mayfair from U.S. 31 to Roxbury) and Phase II (Roxbury to Huntingdon) of street improvements planned between Whitehall Road and U.S. 31, which will use up to $70,000 from the current budget and include sidewalks. A couple in the audience said he and other long-time residents opposed the project and felt it was railroaded through by the council to please younger residents who, he said, were not likely to live on the street for more than a few years.

Purchased two Automatic License Plate Readers: Tonight’s purchase of so-called ALPRs for $34,585 was approved prior to adopting a policy to govern the use of data collected by the devices, which read license plate numbers and compare them to crime databases, matching the numbers to outstanding warrants and other offenses. ALPRs are in use now in Hoover and Jefferson County with no accompanying policies, a fact that prompted resident Ken Gunnells to pursue one for Homewood that, among other protections, would limit the retention period for any data collected. Gunnells’ main concern was the future use of data collected on individuals whose information is being searched in the absence of any reasonable suspicion. He has been in talks with council members since August about the dangers of police overreach, and has a meeting planned with the mayor. 

Awarded a $1.2 paving contract to Dunn Construction: The low bid left additional funds in the mayor’s $2.3 million allowance to repair, seal or repave more streets, and sooner than previously planned. See above. 

Carried over a vote to declare a block of Rumson Road one-way: The matter had been carried over previously to produce traffic counts from an earlier traffic study. That information still not available, Mr. Limbaugh had the plan to establish the 500 block of Rumson Road one-way going north and to build out sidewalks into the road because of  500 block of Rumson Road one-way:

Granted a fence variance on Hambaugh Avenue: The variance allows the resident at 612 to replace a split rail wood fence in her side yard with a 4-foot picket fence. 

Carried over a plan to rescind the Home Energy Section of the 2016 International Building Code: With builders apparently balking at onerous or costly insulation and ventilation requirements standards in the current International Building Code, the council moved to rescind this portion and revert to the 2015 version. That said, and with no objection during a hearing, Mr. Bischoff said the former building superintendent Jim Wyatt (now working with Hoover) said the city could not revert to a less stringent version of the building code than the one adopted by the State of Alabama. Some discussion followed on whether the state had passed the full 2016 edition, or had adopted an amended version. But without that information, the council president carried the matter over. Homewood and Mountain Brook are the only two municipalities locally to have adopted the 2016 version. 

Carried over again a request to annexed two properties on Shades Crest Road: The city attorney said answering questions about the legal descriptions of 913 and 1400 Shades Crest Road have prolonged the request. Earlier, he said the properties were bounded in part by the city of Hoover.

Denied a sign variance to a bridal shop on Linden: A motion by Mr. Hallman to approve this request, which had been held over since the last meeting, failed to get a second and the measure died. Ms. Smith explained that council members were reluctant to let a business erect such a large sign on a street dominated by small lots and houses. No picture of the sign was shown.

The city's major expenses this coming year include a $4 million in infrastructure projects, such as paving, trails and sidewalks.

The city’s major expenses this coming year include a $4 million in infrastructure projects, such as paving, trails and sidewalks.

Passed the FY2017 budgets in 17 separate votes: A summary of the separate budget funds approved tonight and a comparison with the mayor’s request are above. Pictured is a list of the major infrastructure spending planned for the coming year. The full budget will be posted online within a day and linked here.

Carried over a request for a franchise agreement with Level 3 Communications: No details.

Granted a tent ordinance exemption on Oxmoor Road:  The request is from Dawson Baptist Church at 1114 Oxmoor Road. 

Granted a sign ordinance exemption for a Green Springs Hwy. business: There was one dissent to a sign variance for the Jefferson County Satellite Building at 809 Green Springs Highway. No explanation given. 

Voting no: Mr. McClusky

Approved funds and ordinance to establish a cross walk on Manhattan Street. 

Set an Oct. 3 bid opening for a new wrecker/towing contract for the police department.

Set an Oct. 3 bid opening for a new animal control contract for the police department.

Awarded on a split vote one-time employee bonuses from a projected budget surplus: With one dissent the council approved across-the-board bonuses not to exceed $375,000 and conditioned on a surplus remaining after all bills are paid for the current budget year. Bonuses, which do not add to employees’ ongoing salaries or count toward retirement pensions, begin at $350 for employees with tenure 1-3 years and top out at $2,000 for those with 20 years tenure or more.

Voting no-Mr. Hallman voted no to indicate support for awarding the more permanent cost of living increase


To Finance – To consider A) A review of the sidewalk projects, past, present, and future; B) Paying for more street lights on Dixon Avenue (from Public Safety); and C) Amending the current budget.

To Planning and Development – To consider A) Establishing one-way traffic through Ardsley Road; B)

To Public Safety – To consider A) Improvements in a Peerless Avenue cross walk; and B) Supporting a new liquor license application for Michael’s restaurant.

To Public Works – To consider A) Planning for accommodations to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act; B) A request to review the contract for the Valley Avenue construction engineering.


Set an Oct. 10 public hearing for a sign variance at 150 Green Springs.

Approved a state permit fee, per Alabama law, to fund training of skilled construction workers: The Construction Industry Craft Training law levies a permit fee of $1 per every $1,000 in construction on non-residential permits issued by jurisdictions across the state. The fee, which is expected to raise between $3 million and $5 million annually, will pay for training to fill a shortage in skilled construction trade jobs that has occurred in the wake of a decline in trade unions. In discussion it was lamented that the city must collect and forward this additional fee to the state monthly, with no benefit to itself and in fact must pay a (very) small transfer fee to comply.

Passed an ordinance banning the use of engine brakes:  The city last year passed a prohibition against “jake braking,” and posted signs to that effect, which is apparently different than engine braking, a ban passed tonight. 

GianMarco's is bidding on the vacant lot by Patriot Park for a pizza restaurant. Public hearing before a vote is schedule for Oct. 10.

GianMarco’s is bidding on the vacant lot by Patriot Park for a pizza restaurant. Public hearing before a vote is schedule for Oct. 10.

Set an Oct. 10 hearing before voting whether to sell a lot by Patriot Park: The sale of the city-owned lot at 165 Oxmoor Road has been in play since at least 2013 and involved two city Requests for Proposals, multiple extensions, and attracted three bids, one for a retail building featuring a Cajun restaurant and other tenants, another for a food truck park, and most recently a controversial proposal by Avondale’s Hunter Lake for a Post Office Pies pizzeria in a building topped by condominiums. The property, bought by the city from a law firm for $135,000, is the site of a former gas station and contaminated by leaking underground storage tanks, which could limit its use for anything but commerce. For a look at past bidders and interested parties in this property, click here.

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period Sept. 12-25, 2016 were approved to be paid.

City Council meeting, Sept. 12, 2016

New height limits--although not as stringent as those originally passed by the Planning Commission--should hold houses down to a more reasonable scale on Homewood's narrower lots.

New height limits passed tonight–although not as stringent as those originally recommended by the Planning Commission–should hold houses down to a more reasonable scale on Homewood’s narrower lots.

In a meeting of record postponements, the most significant vote was one changing limits on height of single family houses and setting a new method of measuring height that engineering dept. employees think will be more enforceable for the small staff of two inspectors.  The new limits–29 feet for houses on lots 55 feet wide and under and 35 feet for wider lots measured from the threshold to the roof peak–are actually higher than the former limits (25 feet for lots 40-55 feet wide; 30 feet for lots 56-65 feet wide, and 35 feet high for larger lots). However, the old way of measuring by computing an average of heights from all four sides was easily manipulated by builders to produce roofs above the stated limits, they say. Zoning officials and the Planning Commission in April recommended a limits of 25 feet and 35 feet respectively for the two lot widths. The council declined to vote on that recommendation, carrying over the process to multiple discussions and pushing the suggested limits up to 29 feet and 35 feet as they did so. 

Members present: All- Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Rich Laws, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Absent: None.

Staff present: Mike Kendrick, city attorney, Melody Salter, finance director and city clerk, J.J. Bischoff, mayor’s chief of staff, Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience attendance: 15

Opened up the application period for two Homewood Environmental Commission vacancies, Ward 1 and at-large.


Dropped, by general consent, the following committee agenda items (Items may have been dropped not because they were denied but because they have been addressed without a council vote):  Dropped were 1) Request for a West Homewood Street Festival, with the idea that a private group will be incorporated to accept donations for funding regular street parties in West Homewood; 2) Request to resolve issues of sanitation, speeding and paving on Ashwood Lane;


Declared vehicles surplus to trade for new vehicles: A 2015 Freight6liner M2-106 with aerial device and 2016 Ford F550 with an aerial device were declared surplus in order to trade for similar 2017 trucks.

822 Columbiana Road The property fits inside the irregular shape of 818 Columbiana and adds four more units facing the original six that have been approved earlier.

822 Columbiana Road
The property fits inside the irregular shape of 818 Columbiana and adds four more units facing the original six that have been approved earlier.

Rezoned a parcel on Columbiana Road to expand a 6-unit townhouse development: Developer Eric Rogers’ Progressive Columbiana LLC had a parcel at 822 Columbiana Road rezoned from Office Business District (C-1) to R-7, for attached dwellings for a building with 4 units, to be built facing a 6-unit building already planned. Site clearing on the combined project is already underway. One person spoke at the hearing asking if there was adequate parking (yes, off-street parking enough for two cars per unit), and would it be gated (no).

Carried over a motion to convert the 500 block of Rumson to one-way only:  The matter has been under discussion for a while but was carried over from the last meeting to obtain information from an earlier traffic study by Skipper Consulting. The city is still waiting for that information and the item was postponed to the next meeting.

Carried over a measure to grant $5 million in tax abatements to promote a redevelopment of Wildwood South: The council wasn’t ready at the last meeting to vote on a proposed 10-year, 50/50 split in new Homewood sales tax (excluding the schools’ 1%), an offer on the table to Nashville retail development firm Oldacre- McDonald, which will potentially be adding traffic features and roads, building new outparcels and façade upgrades to the aging shopping center. The revenue sharing deal would be effective for 10 years or $5 million, whichever arrives first. Tonight the matter was carried over again because the development plan isn’t ready. However, the firm’s engineers have had parcels redrawn to align with the Birmingham-Homewood municipal boundaries, which are currently in dispute and divide two of the largest South Wildwood parcels.

yourpieGranted a sign ordinance exemption to allow an extra sign for a SoHo pizza franchise: Your Pie at 1831 28th Avenue South, Suite 160, a corner space, was allowed to have a third sign, which will be unlighted and project from the corner and be visible from traffic going both directions.

612 Hambaugh

612 Hambaugh

Carried over a request for an exemption from the city’s fence regulations for a house on Hambaugh: The request for 612 Hambaugh Avenue has been carried over once before.

Carried over a possible repeal of the Home Energy section of the International Building Code: The plan hasn’t been discussed in a council meeting but concerns new insulation and other building requirements associated with reducing long-term energy use but which are costly to implement.

Carried over, then provisionally passed funding for a crosswalk signal at Oak Grove Road and Oxmoor Road. The request had been carried over once and was carried over again tonight because funding hadn’t been approved. After the business meeting, Mr. Hawkins asked that it be re-opened and passed conditioned on what funding had been discussed in committee, i.e., that either it cost under $15,000 or if over, that it be bid out. With some reluctance, but no objection from the finance chairman, the council voted in favor.

Carried over for a second time a request for an oversized sign on Linden: A bridal shop at at 2900 Linden has asked for an oversized sign but not submitted a mock-up as promised. The business has agreed to shift the sign’s placement so it doesn’t block another business’s sign from view. Mr. Limbaugh said this was the last carry-over for the bridal business. 

Declared part of an alley pedestrian-only: The portion of an alley that runs between Woodland and Broadway will be marked with signs that it is not for vehicle traffic.

Approved an expenditure of $9,500 to synchronize the traffic lights on Lakeshore Parkway: The parkway is the portion of Lakeshore that lies west of I-65 that runs through the Wildwood shopping center.

Passed an amendment to the current budget: The amounts and changes weren’t discussed.

Carried over setting a public hearing on a requested annexation to Homewood: The request to annex properties at 913 and 1400 Shades Crest Road is complicated by the fact that they adjoin Hoover city limits, requiring a longer procedure. The request has already been held over once.

New houses push the limits of Homewood's smaller lots. New height limits will be measured at the front door to roof peak. The former method

New houses have pushed the limits of Homewood’s smaller lots. Now height limits will be measured at the front door to roof peak, not through complex and easily manipulated method of averaging.

Approved changes to the zoning book affecting lot size, housing height, setbacks and other details: The council, which had declined for months to vote on a handful of residential changes passed by the planning commission–including a controversial 25-foot limit on height of houses on lots 55 feet wide and under–was passed tonight after the limit had been raised by increments to 32 feet via a series of Planning and Development committee meetings, a public hearing and two informal public forums. In addition to the height limits (35 feet for houses on lots wider than 55 feet), the council added a provision for lots sloping down to the street–thereby raising the front door above the ground level–the height from ground to roof peak could be no higher than 32 feet for the narrower lots or 38 feet for the wider ones.

The amendments passed tonight included the new simplified the measuring method, which formerly was obtained by computing an average of heights of all roofs “between the eaves and ridge,” a time-consuming method that overwhelmed the city’s building inspection staff of only two. Under that method, which architects said could be manipulated to create ever taller roofs, the limits were 25 feet for lots 40-55 feet wide; 30 feet for lots 56-65 feet, and 35 feet high for larger lots. Beside changing setbacks, the changes tonight also reduced the number of lot classifications to just two: 55 feet and under and over 55 feet.

Approved sidewalks on Mayfair between Whitehall and U.S. 31: The council approved the measure in two phases.


To Finance – To consider 1) A franchise agreement with Level 3 Communications; 2) Set a bid date for wrecker/towing services for the police department; 3) Setting a bid date to consider a new animal control service contract; 4) Establishing a policy concerning police use of a license plate reader; and 5) Awarding one-time employee bonuses from a projected FY2016 surplus.

To Public Safety – To consider 1) Additional lighting on State Farm Parkway; 2) Establishing a crosswalk on Manhattan Street; and 3) Granting a BINGO permit to benefit the Agape House.

To Public Works – To consider 1) A request to work in the city right-of way at 11250 Columbiana Road.

To Special Issues – To consider 1) Allowing an exemption to the city’s tent ordinance t 1114 Oxmoor; 2) Granting an exemption to the city’s tent ordinance for a special event at 200 Green Springs Highway; and 3) Granting an exception to the sign ordinance at 809 Green Springs Highway.


Set a Sept. 26 public hearing for a sign ordinance at 809 Green Springs highway. The address appears to be the former Jefferson County courthouse annex.

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period Aug. 29-Sept. 11, 2016, were approved to be paid.