New Building Inspections chief starts work, Dec. 7, 2016

Wyatt Pugh replaces Jim Wyatt

Wyatt Pugh

Wyatt Pugh Directs the Department of Building, Engineering and Zoning

A different kind of Wyatt is leading Homewood’s Building Inspections department now. On Dec. 6, Wyatt Pugh became Homewood’s Building Inspections chief, filling the vacancy left when predecessor Jim Wyatt departed for a job in Hoover months earlier. Before coming to Homewood, Pugh worked nine years as a Commercial and Residential building inspector for Birmingham city and prior to that was self employed 10 years as a contractor doing residential and light commercial building and remodeling. (Pugh maintains his Alabama Homebuilder’s and Remodeler’s license.)

In 1991. he graduated from the University of Montevallo with a finance degree.

Beyond Pugh’s job relevant credentials, he is a long-time guitarist who with his wife leads the event band Rock Candy, playing weddings, corporate functions, and private parties, etc. Pugh’s FB pages give a public glimpse into his talents and interests, which include pencil portraiture and restoring old cars.

Welcome to Mr. Pugh.

Board of Zoning Adjustments, Dec. 1, 2016

BZAOne case on Mayfair had been withdrawn before the meeting. The board didn’t encounter any easy decisions on the remaining three Edgewood cases, which took 90 minutes to produce rulings and not always happy results. As in past cases, one involved projects that had been started without permits or variances while another involved a tear-down and planned two-level new residence on a narrow, irregularly shaped lot. A third homeowner left mad that regulations to be enforced on his property had been waived or overlooked on neighboring lots.

Members present: Brian Jarmon, Lauren Gwaltney, chair, Jeffrey Foster, vice chair, Ty Cole, Beverly LeBoeuf, and Matt Foley.

Members absent: Stuart Roberts and Batallion Chief Nickolas Hill.

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

Audience attendance: 10

*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.

1305 Kenilworth Drive

305 Kenilworth Drive

Granted one variance but forced relocating structures on both sides of a house on Kenilworth: The homeowners at 305 Kenilworth Drive had stop-work orders issued on two noncompliant projects that were either completed or in progress when discovered. By the end of a protracted discussion in which a future neighbor at 307 Kenilworth spoke against the variance (see next case), the owner agreed to relocate a right-side wire fence he had built over his neighbor’s property line and a wooden storage shed in line with that fence whose metal roof drained rainwater onto the neighboring property. (A fence alone can be built on the line, but a storage structure must be five feet from the line unless a variance is granted.) In discussion, the neighbors were accompanied by builder Colt Byron, who built the left-side house and is planning a tear-down and rebuild on the right side.

pergola

A partially built deck will have to be moved to 5 feet from the property line.

On the left property side, the owner had built what he called a “pergola,” a deck and frame roof that occupied most of the setback area, being less than a foot from the property line. The required setback for the structure is 9 feet, but with the  neighbor’s permission, the board granted a variance to allow it 5 feet from the left property line.

The homeowner at first asked for a variance to leave the pergola as is, but was warned that an unfavorable vote would require tearing it down entirely or moving it completely outside of the 9-foot setback, i.e., elsewhere on the property. There being no other room–with the back of the lot extending into a Griffin Creek flood zone–he took the board’s advice and was granted a variance allowing the deck 5 feet from the line.

307 Kenilworth Drive

307 Kenilworth Drive

Granted in two separate votes to allow a new 2-story house on Kenilworth: The homeowner at 307 Kenilworth, who spoke in the previous case about his neighbor’s fence, was granted two variances to allow a 34-foot two-level house on an irregular lot that backs onto Griffin Creek and a flood zone. The board granted a 2.5-foot right setback variance (6 inches less than originally requested) because the house is positioned on a lot that is narrower in the rear than on the street. On the left side, and with one dissenting vote, the board granted a 2-foot variance to allow a chimney to protrude into the setback.

The builder and owner listened to but refused suggestions that the design could be altered at this stage to fit within the required setbacks. The house will have off-street parking for two cars on a concrete pad in the front.

Voting no to the chimney variance:  Matt Foley

713 Morris Avenue

713 Morris Boulevard

Granted a reduced right side variance for a carport behind a Morris house, and carried over an expanded rear variance request: The homeowner’s corner house faces Morris Boulevard, with the right side facing Cliff Place. An alley running parallel to the Morris houses exits onto Cliff behind the homeowner’s house. The homeowner plans to remove a storage building in back to make way for a master bathroom and a covered patio outside. The couple has been parking on a driveway off the alley and wants to build a 22-foot carport entered from Cliff Road, instead, and remove the unused pavement. As planned, the carport would have extended over 11 feet from the corner of the house almost to the property line. After discussion, the board approved a 1.5-foot right setback variance instead of 3.5 feet, as earlier requested, after the homeowner agreed to to shorten the carport by two feet.

morris-side-view

Side view of 713 Morris showing current driveway to the alley and approximate new drive and carport area. [2015 picture taken from Google Maps]

However, the homeowner lost his temper when board members refused to vote on a rear variance request he increased from 3 feet to 6 feet into the alley setback. Regulations call for a 20-foot setback from alleyways, which the homeowner said had been violated repeatedly at other houses up and down  Morris. The board, dismissing that argument, said the law didn’t allow them to consider an increased variance request without giving public notice. The homeowner agreed to take a vote on the 3 feet variance and return later to ask for more. The 3-foot variance was passed with one dissenting vote.

Voting no to the 3-foot rear variance: LeBoeuf

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 7:30 p.m.

Open Letter concerning recently passed tax and bond issue for schools and city projects, Nov. 29, 2016

Bob Echols, center, sits with neighbors who objected to writing a "blank check" to the schools with little study or public deliberation to support it. The school board violated its own policies by accepting the unpaid land use study by B.L. Harbert, one resident said. All complained that a regressive "forever" sales tax was being passed to support a project with a finite set of expenses.

Bob Echols, center, sits with family who objected to writing a “blank check” to the schools with little study or public deliberation to support it. The school board violated its own policies by accepting the unpaid land use study by B.L. Harbert, one resident said. All complained that a regressive “forever” sales tax was being passed to support a project with a finite set of expenses.

The “open letter” imaged here (and pdf link, below) has been posted on various sites around Homewood following the momentous passage of a penny sales tax and $110 million bond issue to help finance schools and parks facilities for a growing population of children in Homewood. The vote followed what city leaders called a 21-month period of concerted work and deliberation, apparently across three boards (council, education and parks & rec) and the mayor’s office, without public meetings or disclosure. The mayor, in congratulating the council for its leadership on behalf of Homewood children, said the 21-month effort probably “escaped public notice.”

letterhwcitizensIn fact, those deliberations took place in a way to avoid public detection, either by the voters or by those who campaigned for council, who say they had no idea about the tax and bond plans leading up to the August municipal election. The Board of Education made its first public presentation in September, outlining plans to expand four of its five schools and relocate the high school to West Oxmoor Road, on land already purchased by the city for $4.5 million.

letterhwcitizensp2The open letter distributed today calls for an open forum of city leaders to answer a series of questions developed about how the money will be allocated now that the decision to tax and borrow has already been made, and how the decisions themselves were reached. It includes contact information for the council to get the conversations started. (Calls and emails might also be placed to the city attorney, Mike Kendrick, Mayor Scott McBrayer, parks chief Berkley Squires and park board chairman Chris Meeks.) The school board’s contact information is on its website, along with the land study leading up to the September presentation:  http://www.homewood.k12.al.us/?DivisionID=22205&ToggleSideNav=ShowAll

President – Bruce Limbaugh bruce@limbaughtoyota.com

Ward 1 – Britt Thames bthames1@gmail.com

Andy Gwaltney – andy@andygwaltney.com

Ward 2 – Mike Higginbotham –  higginbotham@realtysouth.com

Andrew Wolverton – Andrew.j.wolverton@gmail.com

Ward 3 – Patrick McClusky –mccluskycc@yahoo.com

Walter Jones – walter.jones@homewoodal.net

Ward 4 – Barry Smith  barryandkyle1@charter.net

Alex Wyatt – awyattcc@gmail.com

Ward 5 – Peter Wright – pwright@sirote.com

Jennifer Andress – andressk@bellsouth.net

Click here for a pdf file of the letter.

Pedestrian Bridge, Special Issues Committee, Nov. 21, 2016

Regional Planning Commission principal planner Mike Kaczorowski pitches a $60,000 federally funded plan for the U.S. 280 pedestrian bridge. The city and Mountain Brook would share the $12,000 local match to revive study on the connector.

A project that seemed fatally stalled three years ago has a new life in front of Ward 5 council member Jennifer Andress, who is pushing to see a new connector across U.S. 280 that will link Homewood to Mountain Brook Village for pedestrians and solve growing traffic concerns at the same time.

Regional Planning Commission Mike “Kaz” Kaczorowski detailed the benefits of a $60,000 engineering and feasibility “preview” of the project under its APPLE (Advanced Planning, Programming and Logical Engineering) program, which shares local and federal funds at a 20/80 percent split. Mountain Brook would contribute half the $12,000 local match.

Mr. Kaczorowski said the project would combine engineering work and a feasibility study, with the goal of uncovering any obstacles and considering alternatives and cost before making a final recommendation. The cities would use that information to decide whether to pursue a full-blown federal transportation project. To get underway, RPC would invite prequalified firms to submit a one-page proposal from which the city would choose the consultant. Work could commence fairly soon, with a final report presented by next summer. ALDOT would receive the report but not participate in the consulting work. The committee voted in favor of pursuing the APPLE project for its $6,000 share  (to be paid out as $12,000 and reimbursed by Mountain Brook for its half).

Ms. Andress said Mountain Brook was a willing partner for the project revival, describing two positive earlier meetings with Mountain Brook city manager Sam Gaston, two members of the Mountain Brook council, former councilman Fred Hawkins, state Rep. David Faulkner. State Rep. Paul DeMarco was on hand tonight but didn’t speak.

She said the project two years ago was led by concern for pedestrian safety, but now the bridge must be improved to resolve growing traffic flow, particularly from Mountain Brook’s Grand Bohemian and its other Village developments.

The council denied any rumors that a pedestrian bridge planned on Hollywood Boulevard (seen in distance) would include a sidewalk along the Union Hill Cemetery fence. Two cemetery preservationists said a sidewalk could threaten unmarked graves and increase litter in the historic burial ground. Councilman Peter Wright said pedestrians exiting the bridge would stay on the street pavement.

The council in 2013 denied any rumors that a pedestrian bridge planned on Hollywood Boulevard would include a sidewalk along the Union Hill Cemetery fence. Two cemetery preservationists told TV reporters a sidewalk could threaten unmarked graves and increase litter in the historic burial ground. Councilman Peter Wright said pedestrians exiting the bridge would stay on the street pavement.

Interest in the $1 million pedestrian bridge idea grew in 2012 but in September 2013 drew pointed criticism from a cemetery preservation group worried about connecting a sidewalk to the bridge that would cross “unmarked graves” outside the iron fence of the Union Cemetery.  Ward 5 councilman Peter Wright at the time assured them that no sidewalk would be built alongside the cemetery. Ms. Andress, however, said her constituents were overwhelminglyin support of the bridge project. Pedestrians already use the roadside by the Union Cemetery, she said. Persuading critics is something she said “I’ll take on personally.”

All five members of the Special Issues Committee voted in favor (Smith, chair, Andress, Gwaltney, Higginbotham, and McClusky). The agenda item goes to the council’s Finance Committee next.

Board of Zoning Adjustment, Nov. 10, 2016

An aerial of a large wooded lot on Mecca to be subdivided into three small lots.

An aerial of a large wooded lot on Mecca to be subdivided into three small lots.

Three of the seven cases heard Thursday were under construction when the work was stopped to obtain a variance. In the first case, the board angrily denied a request from a builder who had maneuvered the permitting process to sidestep the zoning board. With help from the quick-thinking board clerk they later used a procedural maneuver of their own to reverse the unfavorable vote since the difference was a matter of inches. A subdivision planned on Mecca was approved over the objections of neighbors while other cases weren’t so lucky. Out of nine votes in seven cases, four were denials, of which  two were ultimately changed.

Members present: Brian Jarmon, Stuart Roberts (S), Jeffrey Foster (S), vice chair, Lauren Gwaltney, chair, Ty Cole, arriving moments after roll call, which figured in a disputed vote over the first case, Beverly LeBoeuf, and Matt Foley.

Members absent: Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.

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

Audience attendance: 34

NEW BUSINESS

117 East Glenwood

117 East Glenwood

Denied a variance for an addition already underway on East Glenwood (later allowed through a creative procedural interpretation):  Builder Matthew Blocher made his case for allowing an addition on the rear of the house at 117 East Glenwood Drive to be built straight back from the existing footprint, which was already .4 feet into the setback on the right side. Had Mr. Blocher admitted that his first permit request had been denied without the variance, and that he re-submitted drawings for a compliant addition while laying block for the noncompliant version he hoped would be granted, he would have been better off. Instead, questioning revealed the subterfuge and the builder said he was only trying to get the permit approved quickly to start work on the front of the house, knowing he would have to stop at the addition before the BZA case was heard. The board, expressing its annoyance, denied 3-2 the request for a .4-foot right building setback variance. Before closing the case, Ms. Gwaltney noted a voting inconsistency, namely that the substitute voting member, Mr. Roberts, had been called to vote and not she. Ms. Gwaltney then voted yes and the clerk replaced Mr. Roberts’s yes vote for her’s before closing the case. Mr. Blocher immediately asked to have the case reheard and was asked to wait til the end of the agenda.

After hearing the six other cases, Ms. Gwaltney said she wasn’t inclined to reopen Mr. Blocher’s case, but the clerk then intervened to say she had made a second mistake, i.e., allowing Mr. Cole to vote on the case when he was late (by seconds) arriving in his seat. Apologizing, she saidi Mr. Cole’s negative vote should be disqualified and replaced with the positive vote taken earlier from Roberts. The builder, who stood up to make a statement to the board, was advised to keep his seat and accept his good fortune. The variance was now decided in his favor.

Voting no:  Jarmon and Cole

516 Broadway

516 Broadway

Denied a 6-foot variance for a garage on Broadway, then reopened the case to pass a variance for 5-feet: The owner of 516 Broadway could have gone home earlier if he had taken a hint from the board and reduced his request for a 6-foot variance to 5 feet. The left-side accessory structure variance was to allow a two-level garage to be built on an existing parking area in the back, but on sloping terrain, so that a single (top) floor facing the alley would be above a first level built into the ground and facing the opposite direction. Asked if he would reduce the setback encroachment to five feet, he opted to take his chances on the original request, which failed on a 3-2 vote. At the end of the agenda, the case was reopened by Ms. Gwaltney, who had voted no originally. The homeowner requested a 5-foot variance, which passed unanimously.

Voting no on six feet:  LeBoeuf, Foley, Gwaltney.

216 Devon

216 Devon

Unanimously denied a covered deck on Devon:  The builder asked for an 8.5-foot left building variance at 216 Devon to cover a deck on the back of the house. The board was influenced by a next-door neighbor’s email objecting because of rain runoff from a roof and pointing out that the deck was already too close–only 1 foot off the property line–and would seem even closer with a roof. The denial was unanimous. 

700 Grove, left side

700 Grove, left side

Granted two variances on an addition on Grove: This house at  700 Grove Street, which sits at an angle to the street corner, was already under construction and the left foundation laid in block to compare with a survey and determine any need for a variance. The results showed a front setback encroachment of 4 inches and left side over by 1.1-feet, both variances allowed by the board.

Mecca

211 Mecca

Allowed smaller lot sizes for a subdivision of land on Mecca:  Despite objections from neighbors, a builder’s request to subdivide a vacant parcel at 211 Mecca Avenue into three lots was unanimously decided despite substantial area variance (2,969 square feet smaller per lot) and width variance (of 18 feet per lot). A presentation by the owner pointed out that the 50 X 140-foot lots would be consistent with the majority of lots on Mecca and nearby Stuart Street. The proposed house plans included three 1 1/2-story houses of 2,800 square feet each and widths narrowed to 31-feet to make room for driveways to parking in the rear. Owner/developer is Korbin Works, LLC, with applicant Bob Easley.

Objecting neighbors said the land had always been either a field or had stabled horses; that it had only one address; that lots on either side were much bigger than the 50 X 140-feet quoted by the developer, making the new development look out-of-place. They also complained new houses would aggravate chronic parking and traffic problems on the one-way street near the middle school.  Another neighbor, on Peerless, asked if the houses would be within setbacks and pointed out that water ran down the steep slope and across the property being developed.

In discussion, Mr. Cole dismissed many of the objections about traffic as irrelevant to the zoning questions. He admitted there were larger lots nearby, but pointed out lots had indeed been platted in 1907, although never built. As to drainage, the builders had an engineer on the team, who was present at the meeting, and would pipe any runoff into the storm drain system, for a net improvement in the neighborhood. There will be no setback variances needed, according to the plans presented, and the variances were approved.

1748 Murray Hill Road

1748 Murray Hill Road

Granted 4-1 a significant front setback variance for a new house on Murray Hill Road: Homeowners at  1748 Murray Hill Road plan to tear down the current house on the  1-acre lot and re-build 18.6 feet into the front setback in order to retain an existing pool in the back and create a backyard on some of the scarce flat areas of the property. Board members were reluctant to grant such a large variance without a more credible hardship and said the house plan was only on paper and could be easily re-thought to comply with setbacks. They ultimately conceded the variance, however, because the 18 feet difference wouldn’t be noticeable on such a large lot.

Voting no: LeBoeuf

delcris

310 Delcris

Allows one variance and denies another for a porch and grill deck on Delcris: The homeowner asked for a 2-foot right building variance at 310 Delcris Court to build a covered porch to replace a deck that had already been torn down when the homeowner learned about needing a variance. That variance was unanimously approved but a second 2-foot variance for a separate grill deck was killed in a 4-1 vote because it would lay too close to the property line.

Voting yes for the failed grill deck variance: LeBoeuf

City Council swearing in, Nov. 7, 2016

Walter Jones sang the National Anthem before the swearing in of the new 2016-2020 council.

Walter Jones sang the National Anthem before the swearing in of the new 2016-2020 council.

This special meeting included the swearing in of the council, establishment of bank accounts, standing committee appointments and representatives assigned to city boards and agencies, as follows.

Standing Committee assignments

FinanceWalter Jones, chair

Britt Thames, Mike Higginbotham, Barry Smith, Peter Wright

Special IssuesBarry Smith, chair

Andy Gwaltney, Mike Higginbotham, Patrick McClusky, Jennifer Andress

Public WorksPeter Wright, chair

Andy Gwaltney, Alex Wyatt, Patrick McClusky, Andrew Wolverton

Planning and DevelopmentBritt Thames, chair

Alex Wyatt, Walter Jones, Jennifer Andress, Andrew Wolverton

Public Safety – Patrick McClusky, chair

Britt Thames, Alex Wyatt, Jennifer Andress, Andrew Wolverton

Liaisons to boards and agencies:

Library Board – Andy Gwaltney

Planning Commission – Britt Thames (also a voting member of the commission)

Environmental Commission – Mike Higginbotham

Parks and Recreation – Patrick McClusky

Cable Commission – Walter Jones

Chamber of Commerce, and Samford University – Alex Wyatt

Arts Advisory Council – Jennifer Andress

Board of Education – Peter Wright

Homewood Historical Commission – Barry Smith

Other decisions

Bank deposits – Bryant Bank is chosen for city deposit accounts; Raymond James has the city’s investment accounts.

City clerk – Melody Salter, finance director and current clerk, was reappointed to a 4-year term as city clerk.

City attorney– Mike Kendrick was reappointed to represent the city and city council.

The next regular meeting of the council is Monday, Nov. 14, at 6 p.m. Three of the newly assigned committees will meet beforehand, Public Works at 4:30, Special Issues at 4:45 and Finance at 5 p.m.

Planning Commission, Nov. 1, 2016

planning & zoning(1)Two major and ongoing developments in town–Samford and ServisFirst–requested changes in their development plans, with ServisFirst adding tiers to its parking lot earlier than expected, and Samford installing new (and quieter) cooling towers, but in a location slightly closer and more visible to Saulter Road houses than before. The drama award, however, goes to the McElheny case on Cobb Street, where an unfavorable vote was taken and then rescinded to appease the homeowner and the case carried over for a second time.

Members present: Mike Brandt, Billy Higginbotham, chair, Jeffrey Foster, James Riddle, Mark Woods, and Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.

Members absent: None

Vacancy: The year-long vacancy created by the resignation of James Ponseti was filled by new member Brady Wilson, a mayoral appointee. Meanwhile, a new vacancy is created temporarily by the expiring council term of Fred Hawkins, who served as a voting member and council liaison to the commission. He will be replaced by a mayor’s designee from the upcoming council.

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

Audience attendance:  Not reported

Announcements: Ms. McGrath is going to be scheduling subcommittee meeting to discuss the master plan for the central business district.

OLD BUSINESS

shed

Homeowner John McElheny requested–and received–a do-over on a failed vote to allow his shed to remain beyond the setback limits. The case has been carried over twice in what has become a mini contest of wills between the commission and applicant.

Carried over for a second time a contentious case on Cobb Street involving a tool shed: The case at 820 Cobb Street involves a request for an amended development plan by an applicant who had been cited for building a shed inside the setback and less than a foot from two corner property lines, including a public sidewalk. (Most residential cases are governed by NPD zoning and must appeal to the BZA for variances. Here, however, the McElheny property and two adjoining lots are part of Planned Residential District subdivision, which is governed by a Development Plan and the Planning Commission). Mr. McElheny last month had refused to move the shed voluntarily and the matter was carried over pending a site visit by all concerned. This week the case was carried over again after the issues were re-presented for Mr. Brant, who had been absent, and new member Mr. Wilson. Click here for last month’s case. Mr. McElheny this time offered to move the shed three feet off the side lot and 2 feet from the rear, a request which failed on a 3-3 tie, with Mr. Wilson abstaining since he hadn’t seen the property.

Mr. McElheny seized on the abstention issue, asking for a new vote after Mr.  Wilson completed a site visit. Mr. Higginbotham agreed to carry it over and the motion on the failing vote was amended to a postponement.

Voting No: Mr. Foster, Chief Hill, and Mr. Higginbotham.

Abstaining: Mr. Wilson

NEW BUSINESS

Recommended rezoning property on Central to a different commercial classification: The owner of the properties at 2826 and 2824 Central Avenue plans to renovate and expand one side to add a restaurant and other retail uses, requiring a rezoning from the current C-2, Neighborhood Shopping District to match the zoning of the adjoining property to C-4, Central Business District. 

If the council approves the request, the owner will return to the commission to ask for an amended survey.

Abstaining: Mr. Wilson

27thcourtstreetviewRecommended rezoning a former residential building for commercial use: The property at 1718 27th Court South (next door to Jim and Jim’s auto service), is owned by MACCO, LLC, whose owner is asking to rezone it from C-4 (c)-Central Business District with conditions, to C-4, Central Business District for mixed office and retail use. The property has an interesting history.

27thcourtsouthIt was rezoned in 2006 to C-4 with conditions imposed by the city council, namely that any new building constructed would resemble a Tudor-style house and be less than 3,500 square feet in size. The owner didn’t move ahead with that development and the current request, presented by his attorney, is to remove the conditions to renovate the existing building first and develop property around that structure. The building will have to be upgraded to meet commercial building codes.

Abstaining: Mr. Wilson

Tiers added to the parking deck, center; and a parking lot is added on the east side, as planned.

Tiers will be added to the parking deck, center; and a parking lot to the right is added, as planned.

Approved a ServisFirst development plan change to allow more parking and change an entrance: The ongoing construction of the bank headquarters at 2500 Woodcrest Place is governed by a Final Development Plan, whose last change was approved in January. 

In the current request, the bank, represented by applicant Walter Schoel Engineering, asked for and received changes that allow an additional two parking tiers that the bank had initially said would be built later on.

Three people from the adjacent residential community were present, asking to see drawings of the requested changes. There were no objections made.

ServisFrst has decided to go forward with an additional two parking tiers they had previously indicated would be built later on. No other changes to their master plan at this time. 3 folks from community were present, and wanted to see what the changes were. No objections from the public.

samfordchiller

The current cooling towers are in the building left of the building with the green roof in this aerial. The new towers will be moved 24 feet north of the building and planted with a screen of evergreen trees.

Amended a development plan to allow Samford to relocate three chilling towers closer to Saulter Road:  Samford’s cooling towers atop the current chiller plant have failed and the university has been running temporary chillers (which are noisier) since August. The request for an amended plan allows Samford to place three new cooling towers in a different location, i.e., 24 feet north of the plant on the other side of a parking lot and closer to Saulter Road. For a zoomable detailed PDF of the Samford development plan, click here.

There were several questions from the public and commission members on noise, runoff, height, alternative locations east or west of the parking lot, and shrubbery, as follows:

  • Condensation runoff: Neighbors were concerned about condensation runoff in this location, as there has been in the past. Condensate from HVAC by regulation must be collected/filtered/cleaned before it can re-enter the water cycle, so either way Samford said they are aware and have been exploring ways to better deal with it, including recapturing for irrigation. Samford representatives said the university will not allow condensation runoff to affect residents.
  • Location: Several questions arose from the public and commission as to why Samford couldn’t place the new towers to the east or west of the plant instead of closer to the Saulter residential area. Samford said there were complications with moving related pipes; that the towers will be 700-800 feet from the nearest house and have a lower profile on t he north side because of topography.
  • Noise and buffering: These are not new chillers, but new cooling towers and per the manufacturer, installer, and noise consultant they should be 2-3 decibels quieter than the previous cooling towers (48-50 decibels v 52-54 decibels for the ones being replaced). Additionally, 20 foot  evergreen trees (magnolias or cypress) will be planted around the  towers to further buffer the sound. Samford representatives agreed to proffer that if noise levels from these towers is greater than from the previous towers (not the temporary units) they will add further sound dampening measures to meet the decibel limit. Homewood’s noise limit is 80 decibels.
  • Height: The new towers will be 28-30 feet tall. Based on topography they will be shorter/same height as existing chiller plant. They will not be taller.
  • Landscaping and appearance: The new towers will be surrounded by plantings of evergreen trees that will be planted at a minimum height of 20 feet and could potentially reach 50 feet tall. In addition the new towers can be painted and camouflaged, if necessary, to better blend with new plantings and existing deciduous trees on the hillside.