City Council, July 27, 2015

Sign concept for two new businesses going in to the old Mazer building on Green Springs Highway.

Sign concept for two new businesses going in to the old Mazer building on Green Springs Highway.

An Asian grocery and popular Chinese restaurant are the latest offerings at the newly redeveloped Mazer’s site.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, and Vance Moody, chairing the meeting in the absence of the council president and president pro tem.  Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Walter Jones, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh.

Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, Melody Salter, finance director, Scott Cook, code enforcer, and Greg Cobb, city Building, Engineering and Zoning staff.

Audience attendance: 26

Approved minutes of the June 22, 2015 meeting.

OLD BUSINESS AGENDA

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Approved a rezoning in Brookwood Medical Center for an orthopedic surgery pavilion: Brookwood Medical Center is building a 500-space paring deck and free-standing Orthopedic Surgery pavilion on property it owns but which was zoned commercial under the Brookwood District rules. The site was originally selected for the Women’s Center, which was put off and ultimately moved. Some opposition has followed this case through the Planning Commission and the council public hearing at the last meeting, where Mr. Hallman voted against a move to pass it on the first reading. Tonight, with no conflict and two abstentions, the rezoning from commercial to institutional at 525 Brookwood Boulevard slid through.

Abstaining: Michael Hallman due to his employment with a related engineering firm; and Mr. Wyatt, a lawyer who represents Baptist Health System, which is now a part of the for-profit Brookwood system.

Approved a question about an alley near Sutherland Place and Parkridge Drive: No details available.

Supported a state retail liquor license application for the Holiday Inn Express: The hotel is at 429 Wildwood Circle. 

Approved a dead-end sign for Acton Avenue: The request was made to stop unwanted traffic.

Approved an ordinance prohibiting parking on a portion of Forest Drive: The ordinance prohibits parking 30 feet either side of an alley entrance near 862 Forest Drive.

Set an Aug. 24 hearing before adopting updated building and fire codes: The council’s last attempt to adopt an updated building/fire codes met with opposition from certain businesses, particularly Barber’s, that objected to new requirements for installing automatic sprinklers. [See Aug. 23, 2013, Oct. 14, 2013, and Oct. 21, 2013.] The fire chief at the preceding committee meeting assured members this adoption carried no such “negative” effects. To be considered are the 2015 edition of the International Building Code, Residential Code, Plumbing Code, Mechanical Code, Fuel Gas Code, Building Code, Property Maintenance Code, Energy Conservation Code , AND the 2014 edition of National Electrical Code / NFPA 70 and the 2015 edition of the International Fire Code and all Appendices. Start reading.

Approved a larger combined sign size for a restaurant and grocery store at the old Mazer’s property: A Hometown Grocery is one of the latest additions to the Mazer property, judging from a sign variance request approved tonight for the business opening at 808 Green Springs Highway. The council, disappointed with an earlier, cartoonish sign prototype presented by the discounter Ollie’s, settled for a more conservative version when that store opened. Along with the Hometown Supermarket sign will be a sign and logo for Mr. Chen’s Authentic Chinese Restaurant, a popular restaurant now in a Hoover storefront. The request for a variance allowing a 223 square feet sign (Ollie’s is only 199 sf and Pep Boys is 149 sf) was rejected, but passed if limited to 200 square feet total.

Parking downtown is a madhouse.

Reese Street. Parking downtown is a madhouse.

Approved an ad hoc committee to address downtown parking concerns: Over loud objections from most of the city’s downtown merchants, the Planning Commission and City Council voted last month to rezone a downtown commercial building for a Church of the Advent satellite. Tonight the council established an ad hoc committee to study solutions to parking congestion–the main objection to the rezoning. The committee will be chaired by Mr. Thames, with mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff and the Chamber of Commerce president, as well as Kevin McCain–whose wife Tricia manages the Homewood Toy & Hobby Shop founded by her father–and Linden Avenue merchant Mark Westfall.

The first redevelopment under the new West Homewood Village District regulations could be another hotel on the currently EconoLodge property. This sketch is taken from the application to be reviewed by a district committee on July 30.

The first redevelopment under the new West Homewood Village District regulations could be another hotel on the current EconoLodge property. This sketch is taken from the application, to be reviewed by a district committee on July 30.

Postponed any action on changes to the West Homewood (village) District zoning code: The new redevelopment district is based on a non-traditional building code that focuses on the form and placement of buildings rather than mainly their use. As an experiment in so-called form-based codes, city leaders were hoping to start off with a building of their own choosing. Instead, an application to redevelop the 1970s-era EconoLodge under the code came first, and the city and zoning office have been scrambling to understand the code as well as procedures for implementing it. The Planning Commission’s recommendation to make significant changes to the code and replace the

The owner of the EconoLodge in West Homewood is proposing to remove this building to make room for a second hotel on the property.

The owner of the EconoLodge in West Homewood is proposing to remove this building to make room for a second hotel on the property.

Community Design and Review Committee (CDRC) with the traditional Planning Commission/BZA format, has been postponed once before. Tonight the council kicked the whole question back to the Planning and Development Committee, giving no reason. The CDRC is scheduled to meet Thursday, July 30 at 3 p.m. to consider the EconoLodge application.

Approved an agreement to allow work on the planned Lakeshore interchange: The vote allows the mayor to enter into a Construction and Utility agreement on behalf of the city.

Agreed, with one dissent, to pay $55,000 to replace a wrecked police car: The police department has pushed hard for this replacement, which calls for an unbudgeted $55,000 expenditure from this fiscal year. The Public Works Committee last week reluctantly voted its recommendation after a plea from the police chief and Sgt. Jerry Suttles. 

Voting no: Michael Hallman, saying the city should budget the replacement in the year starting Oct. 1.

Approved transfers for the Fire Department: No details.

Funded bus service through the end of the budget year: The council agreed to fund the final quarter of funding for the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority in the amount of $65,967. For more history on the long transit saga and maps of proposed new routes, click here.

Declared a Ward 1 property a public nuisance: The overgrown property at 1704 26th Avenue South was declared a nuisance, due to be cleaned up at city expense and billed to the owner.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance -To consider, 1) Costs for a new, revamped city website; and 2) Funding Clastran at $9,000 of initial request of $15,000.

To Public Safety -To consider 1) a state beer and wine license for the Red Pear/Super Oriental Market at 243 West Valley Avenue

To Public Works – To consider 1) Allowing a parking pad and retaining wall to be built in the city right of way near 222 Devon Drive, and a parking pad at 3107 Whitehall Road.

To Special Issues – To consider variances to the sign ordinance on the rear property lines of 2800-2836 18th Street South.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Set an Aug. 10 public hearing for a sign variance at 2800-2836 18th Street South: See above.

Appointed Mr. Moody as member and Mr. Hawkins as alternate to serve on the CDRC: Mr. Moody, who will be absent when the committee’s first case is heard on July 30, will be replaced by Mr. Hawkins. Both are Ward 2 representatives.

Approved $15,000 to fix the transmission on a fire truck:

Paid the bills: The council approved payment of invoices for the period July 13-July 24, 2015.

Transit proposals, July 2015

MAXThe Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority has proposed two new bus routes though Homewood–including a new circulator route serving Samford University that could replace Route 42–to resolve a nearly year-long discussion over transit costs, use and efficiency. Transit chief Ann August and the transit planner were present at tonight’s Finance Committee meeting, where the routes were mentioned only in passing while the committee talked about finding the $65,967 to fund BJCTA service through the end of the budget year.

The council’s history with public transit has been a long and adversarial one for most of FY2014-15, beginning with Mr. Wright’s September Finance Committee proposal to slash the $263,000 budget by half to “get the attention” of transit leaders, who the committee believed to be overcharging and under-serving the city. The council followed up the next week, Sept. 22, with a 10-1 vote in favor of the cuts (Mr. Hawkins dissenting).

Regular bus service was continued, but under the threat of carrying out those cuts, during months of subsequent Finance Committee meetings, with BJCTA executives providing hours of information on system finances and bus routes–sometimes down to hourly detail and names of special needs riders–to council members.

A transit authority VIP bus picks up a member of the Homewood Senior Center. The council's 50% cut to fixed route transit would cut corresponding services for the elderly and disabled. Incremental funding extensions to the transit authority have prevented that so far.

A transit authority VIP bus picks up a member of the Homewood Senior Center.

The fate of the BJCTA paratransit service for special needs and elderly riders figured heavily in the committee’s questioning, as corresponding cuts would have been made in that service as well.

A reconciliation of sorts was reached Jan. 26, 2015, with the council voting 5-4 (Limbaugh and Moody absent) to extend funding through March; Four members wanted a longer extension. Meanwhile, BJCTA planner Henry Ikwut-Ukwa agreed to work with Homewood staff on new routes, as follows.

Mr. Ikwut-Ukwa was on hand tonight with Ms. August, BJCTA’s nationally recognized transit chief. Ms. August said she would present the bus system’s funding request well before the mayor presents his budget, by Sept. 1 of this year.

OPTION 1

PROPOSED39A

In the Map 1 option, the route was removed from Broadway and re-routed through Palisades and Green Springs Highway to rejoin the regular route on Lakeshore Parkway. This option still leaves significant portions of the route within Homewood jurisdiction.

 

OPTION 2

PROPOSED39B

In the Map 2 option, the Broadway route was removed and re-routed through Palisades, Oxmoor Road, and Industrial Road to rejoin the regular route on Lakeshore Parkway. This re-route eliminates significant portions of the Route 39 from Homewood jurisdiction. It also addresses a transit need on Industrial Drive, where several businesses requested service for their employees.

 

 

LAKESHORE CIRCULATOR, SERVING SAMFORD

SAMFORDSHUTTLE

The proposed Homewood Circulator or shuttle would address the transit needs on Lakeshore Parkway, traveling to Brookwood mall and hospital, with emphasis on serving Samford University students. Because portions of the route mimic the existing Route 42, that route would likely be eliminated if it was implemented as recommended

 

Recent transit history, link by link

September 22, 2014 vote to slash bus funding.

October 6, 2014

Lawton Higgs appeals for more liberal transit funding while former councilman John Wright, foreground, listens.

Lawton Higgs appeals for more liberal transit funding while former councilman John Wright, foreground, listens.

October 20, 2014 The BJCTA presents its case to the Finance Committee.

November 10, 2014  The BJCTA continues its defense, provides detailed information on the system inner-workings.

Dec. 1, 2014  Councilman Thames presents his own plan for city bus routes.

December 8, 2014 Finance and transit, continued.

Dec. 15, 2014 Council votes to continue service through January 2015.

Jan. 7, 2015  Special transit work session.

Jan. 26, 2015   A 3-month reprieve is granted.

 

 

 

 

 

City Council, July 13, 2015

Ward 4 appointee Alex Wyatt and his wife Megan are applauded following a swearing in ceremony. Mr. Wyatt fills the unexpired term of member Heather Reid, who moved from the city.

Ward 4 appointee Alex Wyatt, standing with wife Megan, is applauded following a swearing in ceremony. Mr. Wyatt fills the unexpired term of member Heather Reid, who moved from the city.

Lawyer Alex Wyatt took his oath of office tonight, with judge Elisabeth French presiding. Mr. Wyatt will assume his predecessor Heather Reid’s committee appointments, except Finance Committee, which goes to Ward mate and council appointee Ms. Barry Smith, who has seniority. Mr. Wyatt will also be the council’s library liaison.

In other news tonight, the council rescinded and re-approved its ServisFirst tax abatement, in a maneuver that cuts Jefferson County out of a side agreement Homewood made to collect $30,000 annually from the bank during the abatement period. See below.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Walter Jones, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, new Ward 4 member sworn in tonight, and Peter Wright, chairing the meeting in the absence of the council president.  Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Vance Moody, Richard Laws, and council president Bruce Limbaugh.

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

Audience attendance: 21 after initial commendations and swearing in.

Approved minutes of the May 18, 2015 meeting.

Dropped three items, as follows:

  • A request to offer incentives to a restaurant proposed in West Homewood:
  • A request for speed humps on Sterrett Avenue; and
  • A request for a four-way stop at the Roseland Drive and East Glenwood Drive intersection.

OLD BUSINESS

A crumbling street in the Edgecrest neighborhood. The city is considering federal funds to start a city-wide pavement maintenance program.

A crumbling street in the Edgecrest neighborhood. The city is considering federal funds to start a city-wide pavement maintenance program.

Approved a $40,000 pavement management system for city streets: The project was pitched by consultants Volkert Engineers and awaits word on a federal grant that would pay 80%, or $32,000, with a 20% local match. The resolution tonight budgets the project based on winning the grant; the agreement must be restructured to be eligible. No further details. The matter was discussed in more detail Nov. 18, 2014.

A fence and driveway issue between two houses on Oakmoor Drive were carried over to the next meeting.

On Oakmoor — No to a parking pad to accommodate 3 or more cars, and no to an extended side fence to block out the neighbors.

Denied variances to allow an exposed fence and parking pad on Oakmoor: The homeowner at 605 Oakmoor Drive failed to make a hardship case to pour a concrete parking pad to accommodate three and sometimes four cars conveniently. Her request to extend a side fence at least 6 feet beyond the front edge of the house to somewhat enclose a carport area as a patio and screen the view of the neighbors and the corner intersection also fell on deaf ears. The council has been adamant about denying fences that divide front yards from neighbors, saying front-yard socializing is part of the city’s warmth and charm.

Brookwood's planned Orthopedic pavilion and parking deck will occupy the site originally planned for its woman's health center.

Brookwood’s planned Orthopedic pavilion and parking deck will occupy the site originally planned for its woman’s health center.

Approved a development plan for a Brookwood Medical Center orthopedic surgery center: To read background on the project at 525 Brookwood Boulevard, opposition, and a disastrous earlier attempt by Brookwood to develop this property, click here.  Steve President, a Brookwood executive, described the new Orthopedic pavillion and parking deck in glowing terms as part of Brookwood’s merger with Baptist Health System and $250 million investment pledged over the next five years. The hospital, owned by Tenet Healthcare, will be the company’s flagship of five hospitals, with an acute care hospital to be added soon that will bring 130 new employees, he said.

Location of proposed Orthopedic Pavilion for Brookwood Medical Center.

Location of proposed Orthopedic Pavilion for Brookwood Medical Center.

But opposition raised at the Planning Commission continued from Keith Hazelrig, who represented ownership of two Metroplex office buildings, saying the new facility and accompanying 500-car parking deck would create a traffic nightmare on Medical Center Drive, where buses, delivery trucks and pedestrians within two crosswalks already kept traffic continually backed up.Mr. Hazelrig said he had been asking for weeks for a copy of the traffic study but only received it a few days ago, and it didn’t address the day-to-day problems that concerned him. He asked the council to take more time to address traffic before okaying the plan.

Brookwood responded that improvements in elevators, an elevated walkway from the deck to main hospital and restriping a dedicated turn lane to the deck would all help clear traffic.

The council listened but ultimately voted to approve the development plan. A vote to immediately approve the actual rezoning from the Brookwood District’s C-1, commercial to I-3, institutiona, failed to get the required unanimous consent of the council when Mr. Hallman — first on the roll call — abstained. The vote will be repeated at the second reading next meeting.

Abstaining: Mr. Hallman.

Approved, in part, a sign variance for a cell phone store at the former Applebee’s: A Verizon store going up at 579 Brookwood Village was granted a variance to allow a taller sign on three building sides. It was denied a variance to allow it a fourth sign, which Verizon wanted to put on the rear side.

A fence can go up in the city right of way. Google.

A fence can go up in the city right of way. Google.

Approved a front yard fence at 1424 Melrose Place:  The homeowner took down a non-conforming side fence at 1424 Melrose Place, and asked for a variance to replace it. Discovering that the fence was installed 2 feet within the city’s right-of-way, Mr. Jones asked for the replacement to be moved onto private property. The council relented after finding the right-of-way extended too far into the yard and approved the variance, but requiring an indemnification agreement that would also allow the city access to the right-of-way if needed.

The now vacant America's Best Value Inn cleaned up its grounds. It and two other West Homewood properties cited for overgrown vegetation were dropped from the nuisance list.

The now vacant America’s Best Value Inn cleaned up its grounds. It and two other West Homewood properties cited for overgrown vegetation were dropped from the nuisance list.

Dropped nuisance proceedings against three West Homewood properties: Vacant residential properties at 416 Raleigh Avenue, 112 Knoll Crest, and the closed hotel at 260 Oxmoor Road were cleaned up to the city’s satisfaction.

Declared an overgrown vacant property on Ridge Road a public nuisance: A vacant house at 1602 Ridge Road will be cleared of overgrowth and the bill charged against the property. Ms. Smith said the structure was deteriorating and the grounds attracted rodents and snakes. 

The city is looking for offers to develop a corner lot on Oxmoor Road and Oak Grove, by Patriot Park.

The city is looking for offers to develop a corner lot on Oxmoor Road and Oak Grove, by Patriot Park.

Agreed to send Requests for Proposals to develop city-owned property by Patriot Park: The council, based on a Finance Committee recommendation, agreed to invite development proposals for property that was to be a catalyst project in the new West Homewood “village” renewal district. An earlier, informal offer to purchase the corner property for $50,000 for a restaurant development didn’t get much traction. The RFPs will go out with responses expected by October.

Replaced American Express with Visa cards for departmental purchases: The vote allows the mayor to execute an agreement with Iberia Bank for the cards.

Accepted a grant for Fire Department equipment: The council agreed to accept a Jefferson County EMA for Alabama Mutual Aid System grant of $8,044.

Agreed to spend up to $15,000 repairing a broken stormwater drain affecting a Woodmont house:  Few details were discussed. The city will repair a broken drainway causing problems at 108 Woodmont Drive.

Approved changes to the current budget’s various funds: Changes were approved int he General, capital and Special Revenue budgets. No details given.

DECORATIVE LIGHTS

Bull’s Construction Group got the low bid for construction on a West Homewood District intersection.

Announced low bidder for West Homewood streetscaping construction: At $317,463, Bull’s Construction Group was the low bidder out of three proposals to complete streetscaping, parking, lighting and other improvements at the intersection of Oak Grove Road and Raleigh Avenue by Patriot Park.

Approved spending $100,000 toward a comprehensive traffic study:  The vote approves a Request for Proposal to conduct and present results of a comprehensive traffic flow, biking and walkablity study, to be paid in the coming budget year.

Voted support of a state restaurant liquor license on West Valley Avenue: The restaurant is La Sabrosita at 191 West Valley Avenue.

Reduced a No Parking area from 50 to 40 feet: A 50-foot parking prohibition around the Roseland Drive and East Edgewood intersection was reduced by 10 feet in all directions.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider 1) A Construction and Utility agreement with the State of Alabama for the Lakeshore Parkway/I-65 Interchange modifications; 2) Line item transfers for the Fire Departments; and 3) Replacing a wrecked police car.

Work is underway to strengthen the city's tree replacement ordinance.

Work is underway to strengthen the city’s tree replacement ordinance.

To Planning and Development – To consider 1) Amendments to the Tree Ordinance from the Homewood Environmental Commission; and 2) Planning Commission recommended changes to the West Homewood zoning District, including dissolution of the Community Development Review Committee and other substantial changes. (An agenda item to set a public hearing Aug. 10 was canceled under new business, due to the extent of the changes.)

To Public Safety – To consider 1) A Restaurant Retail Liquor application for Maya Mooresville, LLC d/b/a Holiday Inn Express Homewood Alabama  at 492 Wildwood Circle; 2)  Posting a dead-end or other sign on Acton Avenue; 3) Prohibiting street parking at the intersection of an ally near 862 Forest Drive; and 4) The adoption of the 2015 International Building Code, 2015 edition of the International Residential Code, 2015 edition of the International Plumbing Code, 2015 edition of the International Mechanical Code, 2015 edition of the International Fuel Gas Code, 2015 edition of the International Existing Building Code, 2015 edition of the International Property Maintenance Code, 2015 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code and the 2014 edition of National Electrical Code;and 2015 International Fire Code and all Appendices.

To Special Issues – To consider 1) Discussion about various development authorities and boards; and 2) A sign variance at 808 Green Springs Highway.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Set two July 27 public hearings: The council set hearings for 1) a variance to a sign ordinance at 808 Green Springs Highway; and 2) Declaring an overgrown property at 1704 26th Avenue South a public nuisance.

Postponed setting a public hearing on West Homewood District zoning changes: Such significant changes were recommended to the governance and content of West Homewood District that the city attorney recommended putting off setting a public hearing until the Planning & Development committee could consider them more carefully. Mistakes can be time consuming because of the advance notice and advertising required for zoning changes.

Granted road closures for Brookwood mall’s Thursday evening concert series: Village Lane will be closed from 1 – 10 p.m. for “103.7 Radio “Just Show Up Show,”; from 1-11 p.m., Sept. 24, for a Brookwood Live event; and from 1-10 p.m., Nov. 14, for the Arrival of Singing Santa.

Paid the bills: Invoices were approved to be paid for the period June 22-July 10, 2015.

Rescinded and re-approved the ServisFirst 20-year tax abatement:
The tax abatement of historic proportions granted April 27 was rescinded and re-approved under a different timeline in order to avoid sharing with Jefferson County any proceeds of a $30,000 annual payment passed in the original agreement.

Mr. Kendrick explained that state law allows a city to grant tax abatements of local, county and state taxes for only a period of 10 years. After that, each jurisdiction can decide for itself if it wants to extend the tax waiver. In the ServisFirst case, Jefferson County objected to Homewood’s arrangement to collect $30,000 annually from the bank during the abatement period, saying the county was due a part of that payment or an amount equal to it. To work around the county’s objection, Homewood has agreed to postpone collecting the $30,000 annually until the 11th year.

The city will ultimately collect the same amount, but not up front, Mr. Kendrick said.

Board of Zoning Adjustments, July 9, 2015

The chimney on the right of the house must come down.

Two applicants asked for retroactive variances after building beyond code limits, but only one did so successfully. Spectators were stunned when the board ordered down a protruding chimney built prior to a variance request–testing the old adage that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Another variance request was denied on a split vote, and a third was carried over. The remaining four cases were approved.

Members present: All–Brian Jarmon, Jeffrey Foster, Beverly LeBoeuf, Lauren Gwaltney, and Ty Cole. Hope Cannon arrived after the fourth case.

Members absent: Hope Cannon was absent for the first four cases.

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

Audience attendance: 14

*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 substitutes (S) to sit in and vote if needed. All decisions are made following a public hearing. Variances expire in 180 days if a building permit isn’t obtained.

All votes are unanimous unless otherwise noted.

Approved May meeting minutes.

302 Clermont DriveApproved a variance allowing a second-story addition on Clermont Drive: The owner of 302 Clermont Drive asked for and received a left building setback variance of approximately 3 feet to allow for a second floor addition, contingent on being able to use the existing foundation and the left exterior wall to support the second story.

403 Hambaugh

403 Hambaugh Avenue

Denied a variance allowing a fireplace chimney that had already been built:  William Siegel of Twin Construction requested a variance to allow a  chimney to protrude from the right side of a new house under construction at 403 Hambaugh Avenue. The original plans called for the chimney on the back of the house, but the homeowner wanted it moved to the side, and without taking up interior space. Perhaps because Twin had received such variances in the past–or had mentioned the situation informally to board members last month–the company built the chimney before making the request. (The chimney is 12 feet, 7 inches from the neighboring house, requiring a variance of 2 feet, 4 inches.)

With one member calling the hardship “self-inflicted,” the board voted unanimously to deny. The chimney must come down.

1007 Melrose Place

1007 Melrose Place

Denied a variance allowing more room for a second floor addition on Melrose Place: The homeowner at 1007 Melrose Place requested a 6-foot left side setback variance in connection with a second story addition. The house is now 4 feet, 4 inches from the left property line and about 9 feet from the house next door. On an unfavorable vote that clearly upset the homeowner, members denied the variance for its close proximity to the neighboring house.

Voting no: Beverly LeBeouf, Jeffrey Foster, and Lauren Gwaltney.

108 Oglesby Avenue

108 Oglesby Avenue

Approved a variance for the setback requirement for a shed on Oglesby Avenue: A homeowner at 108 Oglesby Avenue asked for a variance after replacing a non-compliant storage shed with a new shed, explaining he didn’t realize he needed a zoning variance to do so. According to discussion, the applicant had rebuilt a deteriorating storage shed that was only 6 inches from the property line with another one placed further from the house, but still the same distance from the lot line. He said the irregular shape of the lot and small back yard determined the location, and members agreed.

117 Windsor Drive

117 Windsor Drive

Approved variances allowing a Windsor Drive renovation. The house at 117 Windsor Drive has been before the BZA a number of times and received variances that were not acted on. Now a major renovation is underway at this corner lot, and architect Warren Kyle requested a 3-foot left side variance and an 11.25-foot rear variance to build into the setbacks, citing as hardships the lot’s irregular shape and slope, and the desire to use an existing retaining wall and steps.

BZA member Hope Cannon arrived.

CMS

CMS

Approved setback and parking variances for a Creative Montessori school renovation and expansion. The Creative Montessori School, 1650 28th Court South, is renovating its campus, and the plans call for building a new covered drop-off location with a rain canopy that extends into the setback. The school was granted a 3-foot variance for placement of the overhang.

Most of the discussion, however, related to the request for a variance waiving the requirement for 16 onsite parking spaces. (Regulations require 30 total spaces and the school will end up with only 14 after construction.) The school’s preferred plan calls for expanding parking out to the street in front of and around the sides of the building, to conserve green space on campus. After extensive discussion of alternatives, the board approved the school’s requested  variance from the normal on-site parking requirement.

307 Broadway

307 Broadway

Carried over an application for setback variances for a Broadway Street house.  [This case at 307 Broadway was carried over because it was advertised as an addition rather than new reconstruction, and will be heard again in August.] The house is under contract, contingent on the buyer’s ability to get zoning adjustments to build a bigger house. The buyer originally wanted to add a second story, but changed his mind after submitting a variance application because of contractor concerns about foundation support. During the public hearing, a spokesman for a neighbor asked if the buyer planned to cut down magnolia tree if the variances were granted. The buyer said he would cut down the tree in any case and understood he needed a permit to do so.

One board member advised him that it is hard to justify building outside of zoning regulations when the construction is new, and he should consider keeping the lower story intact within the existing 5-foot setback.

The meeting adjourned at 7:33 pm.

Park Board, July 9, 2015

Pool numbers this year are about the same as last year. About 550 attended a recent members-only (plus a few guests) evening swim event. More will follow.

Pool numbers this year are about the same as last year. About 550 attended a recent members-only (plus a few guests) evening swim event. More will follow.

The board dispersed within 20 minutes after approving several events and discussing yet another delay in the signing of the shared parking agreement. The agreement will govern how the board will allow the foundation to use its parking space, including prohibiting parking during basketball season, and requiring from the foundation monthly advance notice of all its events, which must be approved by the park board. Friction has continued between the two entities, which both have expanded their buildings onto limited parking space. At issue this month is wording in the agreement that would allow the board to cancel the foundation’s parking privileges if it broke certain rules. Click here for the latest agreement.

Mr. Meeks said the foundation wants a procedure in place for addressing conflicts before privileges would be terminated. The foundation’s suggestions will be sent back to the board by the next meeting via the city attorney.

Members present: Tom Blake, Jody Brant, Chris Meeks, chairman, Michael Murray, Keith Stansell, Marjorie Trimm, and Tyler Vail. Council liaison Rich Laws was also present.

Members absent: Becky Morton and Paula Smalley.

Staff present: Berkley Squires, public services director, Rusty Holley, Rec Center Supervisor, and Angie Montgomery and Heddy Fitts, taking minutes.

Approved minutes of the June 4, 2015, meeting.

HANDMADELOGOApproved the Handmade Art Festival at Patriot Park in October: The annual art show was established 21 years ago and now revived and presented semi-annually by the Homewood Arts Advisory Council at Patriot Park. This fall’s show will be held Saturday, Oct. 24, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Approved the Creative Montessori Fun Run at Central Park in November: This recurring event involves mainly the students, parents and a few guests of the Creative Montessori School, just down the street. The event includes running laps of the park and an adult 5K run through the neighborhood, with onsite inflatables, tents, etc. 

CHILREN'SMIRACLENETApproved Samford University’s Phi Mu 5K charity run at Central Park: The 5K and Fun Run raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Birmingham. 

Approved the Exceptional Foundation’s August event calendar: The Exceptional Foundation is submitting for board approval a calendar of its events that would affect the parking lot. 

Planning Commission, July 7, 2015

 

Sanjay Patel presented his case to the neighborhood for a new 4-story extended stay hotel at the site of the EconoLodge. He's seen here with engineer, hotel developer, and resident Nic Seaborn, acting as moderator.

Sanjay Patel is shown earlier this year presenting his case to the neighborhood for a new 4-story extended stay hotel at the site of the EconoLodge. A change in the zoning status may put an end to those plans.

In a 90-minute discussion on rewording the sometimes tedious details of the West Homewood village regulations, it went virtually unnoticed when the Planning Commission dropped “Lodging” from the document’s permitted uses.

That one-word omission, if allowed to remain in the final ordinance for City Council approval, will effectively end the building plans and long-running uproar over the future of the EconoLodge motel at 195 Oxmoor Road. The proposed $8 million redevelopment into 4-story extended-stay hotel would not be allowed, nor would almost any significant development that extends the motel’s size or life expectancy, according to zoning official, city engineer Vanessa McGrath. “What we’ve said is, We don’t want any motels there,” she said.

Motel owner Sanjay Patel, who was one of 7 West Homewood residents present, had left the meeting before the vote.

The change was just one part of the Planning Commission’s overhaul of the 40-page West Homewood District ordinance, which included handing over the district’s final regulatory authority to the commission, and dissolving the original district’s Community Development Review Committee. The overhaul was first addressed by the commission last month.

Among other changes were firmer limitations on building height, and more generous closing times allowed for bars, taverns and nightclubs (moved from 9 p.m. til 2 a.m.).

More attention by far was paid to the relative benefits of different regulatory processes. As drafted, any future district development application must first pass review by the zoning office. Application denied at the first review could be repeatedly adjusted and resubmitted within time limits until the standards are met. The Planning Commission would act basically as a backstop to this in-house review, as well as conducting a public hearing for each case–although the influence of public opinion at this stage of review would be limited.

Any requested variance would go before the Board of Zoning Adjustments, also with a public hearing.

Voicing some disappointment in the dissolution of the CDRC was resident Mike Higginbotham, who suggested having some type of citizen committee established to advise the Planning Commission.

The City Council will advertise a public meeting at its next meeting and vote in the next several weeks.

Members present: Fred Azbik, Mike Brandt, Billy Higginbotham, chairman, Jeffery Foster, Fred Hawkins, Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill, James Riddle, and Mark Woods.

Members absent: James Ponseti

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

Audience attendance: 16

All votes were unanimous. Rezoning recommendations are advisory only and are subject to City Council approval.

NEW BUSINESS:

A concept image for the new Creative Montessori building.

An Architectureworks concept image for a Creative Montessori school renovation.

Approved on a 6-2 split vote changes to the Creative Montessori development plan: Gone are the days when you can build any old giant development in the center of Homewood and not consider parking. That was the conversation that almost upended an otherwise praiseworthy expansion of the Creative Montessori School at 1650 28th Court South. The project designer, Architectureworks, presented its plan for a first phase renovation, focusing on the school’s library and preschool.

Architectureworks concept of the new Montessori school library.

Architectureworks concept of Montessori school interior.

The private school currently encompasses three separate buildings housing toddler, preschool and elementary programs. In this first phase of construction, it will renovate its 2,500 square foot library into an administration building and replace its current 11,000 sf preschool building with a new 14,000 sf structure.  Future phases await a fundraising drive. The timeline is:

  • AUG-OCT 2015–Renovation of library and portion of existing elementary building; Construction of new drop-off entrance.
  • NOV 2015 — Demolition of existing preschool building.
  • DEC 2015-AUG 2016 – Construction of new preschool building.

Representatives said the school enrolls 130 in its preschool and maintains a waiting list of 20-25. The expansion will allow another 10 preschoolers to enroll.

Questions focused on construction staging and school traffic when the building is finished. The school hopes to purchase an undisclosed parcel nearby to help with the expansion, but currently has only 20 parking spaces onsite versus 30 that are required. There will be only 14 space left after the expansion, requiring a BZA-approved variance to waive 16 spaces.

Public parking available across the street requires an easement agreement with the city to be used specifically for school and construction staff during the building phase.

Mr. Woods and Mr. Higginbotham both wanted firm parking plans and agreements in place before approving the plan. The final approval was contingent on obtaining variances and parking agreements.

Voting no:  Mr. Azbik and Mr. Foster.

Brookwood's planned Orthopedic pavilion and parking deck will occupy the site originally planned for its woman's health center.

Brookwood’s planned Orthopedic pavilion and parking deck will occupy the site originally planned for its woman’s health center.

Approved combining two lots into one for Brookwood Medical Center’s Neuro/Orthopedic pavillion. The property at 525 Brookwood Boulevard was discussed at a previous Planning Commission meeting. Tonight’s decision was to redraw lot boundaries. 

The vacant former filling station at 187 Oxmoor Road is in the newly created West Homewood redevelopment district. Neighbors have reacted against a proposal by a convicted felon to rezone the property for a car lot.

The vacant former filling station at 187 Oxmoor Road is in the newly created West Homewood redevelopment district. Neighbors have reacted against a proposal by a convicted felon to rezone the property for a car lot. Google Street View.

Carried over a contentious rezoning request for a car lot in the West Homewood District:  A request to zone a parcel out of the newly created West Homewood village district for a used car lot precipitated a lot of early and harsh  protest from the neighborhood. Late this afternoon, applicant Jabari Mosley, of Infinity Investments, asked the city to carry over the request to August, saying he missed a plane flight back into Birmingham.

Paramount Auto Sales

Paramount Auto Sales

Mr. Jabari is owner of the Paramount used car lot in Birmingham and has made news for various arrests and drug seizures. Two residents tonight spoke at the public hearing, which will be continued in August. One resident spoke in opposition to the used car lot as an undesirable development in a neighborhood, making reference to the adjacent motel, as well. Motel owner Sanjay Patel stood up to ask if the plan was to sell new or used cars. Mr. Mosley’s request is to rezone the property at 187 Oxmoor Road from an existing WHD (West Homewood District) to C-3 (Community Business District).

IMG_3894

Developers have removed a 90,000 square foot warehouse from the rear of the old Mazer property. Reasons are unclear, but extra space will be used for parking.

Approved a change increasing parking to the Pep Boys/Ollie’s/Mission Possible property: Chris Hoyt of Dunn Real Estate explained that the company’s plan to demolish half of a rear warehouse was amended because “it was in our best interest” to clear away the whole structure — approximately 90,000 square feet — to make way for better parking, service docks and traffic circulation. The property has been significantly reduced from its approximately 250,000 square feet of building area at purchase. 

It was asked if the new parking area and recently renewed asphalt parking would be subject to the city’s tree ordinance, which calls for islands of landscaping and perimeter plantings in parking lots. The planning commission said no, but will investigate the question further.

Mr. Hoyt said all the space has been leased.

Approved a commission member’s resurvey request:  Fred Hawkins, a city council member and voting council liaison to the Planning Commission, came to the podium with his neighbors tonight to ask for a resurvey of his property at 604 Northmoor Lane. Mr. Hawkins said he had purchased the house from a man who had allowed his neighbors at 612 Northmoor to use a strip of the lot to pave a driveway to the rear of the neighbor’s house. Tonight’s vote officially redrew the lot lines to reflect that earlier agreement.

OLD BUSINESS:

Voted to recommend substantial changes in the content and governance of the West Homewood District ordinance: (See above) The original request was to seat two at-large community members to a committee overseeing the new West Homewood District. The council and eventually the planning commission rejected the committee format itself as too cumbersome and put the district under the rule of the Planning Commission and BZA instead. The final document replaces the CDRC with the Planning Commission, removes “Lodging” as one of the permitted uses, limits the height of buildings to 48 feet, inclusive of attics, elevator bulkheads, clock towers, etc., and removes various redundant language throughout.

The final ordinance will be advertised and open to a public hearing before a vote by the City Council, time to be determined.

The meeting adjourned at 8:20 p.m.

Annexation update-resolution to grab 11 Jeffco properties fails in the state senate.

Most Homewood residents are reminded each July 4 and New Year's Eve that the property at 201 Green Springs Highway is in unincorporated Jefferson County, which allows sales of fireworks banned in Homewood. This property and seven others were subjects of an annexation attempt that failed in the state legislature this spring. The city will have to try again next year.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD Most Homewood residents are reminded each July 4 and New Year’s Eve that the property at 201 Green Springs Highway is in unincorporated Jefferson County, which allows sales of fireworks banned in Homewood, just across the county line. This property and several others were subjects of an annexation attempt that failed in the state legislature this spring. The city will have to try again when the next regular session opens Feb. 1, 2016.

The Alabama Legislature ended its regular session June 5 and along with it the city’s attempt to annex 11 properties in unincorporated Jefferson County that are subject to its more relaxed zoning rules. The islands of county land came under scrutiny this spring when outdoor advertiser New Point Digital erected an oversized digital billboard on one of them, a Circle K at 1250 Columbiana Road, an act that sparked a rabid backlash from Homewood residents living across the road, and a boycott led by social media targeting the billboard owner and his clients.

The billboard was later relocated elsewhere in Homewood — also under local protest — after the council surreptitiously altered its own sign regulations to allow it.

Efforts to have this sign relocated from unincorporated Jefferson County along Homewood's Lakeshore Drive is prompting a city overhaul of its own sign ordinance.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD. New Point Digital’s enormous electronic sign stood for a while at the Circle K/BP site on Columbiana Road. The property is in unincorporated Jefferson County. Homewood officials later helped New Point owner David DuBose relocate the sign to less offensive Homewood private commercial property behind K-Mart.

Leery of a repeat performance by another sign company exploiting lax Jefferson County regulations, the council then moved to bring the Circle K and other properties into Homewood through an act of the state legislature, one of three annexation procedures available to Alabama municipalities. It is this bill which was carried over out of committee rather than reaching the Senate floor for a vote, perhaps because Sen. Waggoner wasn’t present, according to a Senate clerk. [It was reported on 7/14/15 by Homewood councilman Fred Hawkins that Sen. Waggoner was present but chose deliberately to have the matter carried over to another session.] Whatever the details, Homewood freshman state representative, lawyer David Faulkner, said several issues affected the bill’s fate: The Homewood resolution was received with barely enough time to be advertised, as a local bill must be,  before the end of the session. Lawmakers this session were consumed with more important budget issues, Faulkner said, and there were some unanswered questions about the measure, such as whether Homewood officials had informed all the property owners of the bill.

They had not.

“We thought they had talked to the owners,” Faulkner said. “And in the Senate there was all this fighting amongst themselves over issues that had nothing to do with this. They (Homewood) will have to re-introduce it and re-advertise it.”

JEFFCOZONEPIC

This Jefferson County GIS screenshot shows the islands of Jefferson County land Homewood attempted to annex. Other pockets of unincorporated land were left alone.

The resolution addressed annexing the following parcels, all of which lie on or west of Green Springs Highway:

  1. 201 Green Springs Highway owned by Rivas Justo and Cesar Gonzales (San Miguel restaurant).
  2. 1250 Columbiana Road, owned by Circle K Stores, Inc.
  3. 1 West Lakeshore Drive, owned by One West Associates Inc. (professional office).
  4. Lakeshore Drive, owned by Southeast Medical Homewood LLC (2 adjacent parcels).
  5. 209 Citation Court West, owned by Tyler Henry.
  6. 129, 137, 159, and 167 Citation Court, owned by Bobby Ward.
  7. 142 Citation Court, owned by Buffalo Rock Co., Inc.
NOT IN HOMEWOOD. But that's okay. Buffalo Rock Co. told a state representative it wouldn't object if the city attempts to annex its property at 142 Citation Court into the city, and under its taxes and zoning regulations.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD. But that’s okay. Buffalo Rock Co. told a state representative it wouldn’t object if the city attempts to annex its property at 142 Citation Court into the city, and under its tax rate and zoning regulations. Click to enlarge.

Mr. Faulkner said he spoke only to Buffalo Rock, which didn’t object to the annexation but had not been informed of it either. However, property owner Bobby Ward, contacted on Wednesday, said he wasn’t informed of the city’s attempt to annex his four properties on Citation Court, and would oppose another attempt to avoid paying higher city property taxes. A person in charge at the San Miguel Restaurant on Green Springs didn’t answer visits or calls about the annexation attempt. Other owners have not been contacted for this story.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD. Bobby Ward, owner of office warehouse properties on Citation Court, said he would object to any further attempt by the city to annex his land into Homewood and its higher property tax rate.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD. Bobby Ward, owner of office warehouse properties on Citation Court, said he would object to any further attempt by the city to annex his land into Homewood and its higher property tax rate.

Since the New Point billboard issue blew up in early March, Jefferson County has taken steps to make sure any such sign application comes before the County Commission before being approved. The New Point sign met county zoning and sign regulations and was approved with no commission notice.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD. Raleigh Avenue Baptist Church still sits in unincorporated Jefferson County. It was not part of the city's annexation attempt, despite its location near a Hampton Inn and I-65.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD. Raleigh Avenue Baptist Church still sits in unincorporated Jefferson County. It was not part of the city’s annexation attempt, despite its location near a Hampton Inn and I-65.

While Homewood is interested in closing nearby zoning and tax  jurisdiction gaps, its annexation maneuver sidestepped the Raleigh Avenue Baptist Church, a prominent West Homewood property that is adjacent to I-65 and remains in unincorporated Jefferson County adjacent to houses and a Hampton Inn. A city zoning employee said it was unlikely that a billboard would be permitted here, even under the county’s lax 300-foot rule, due to proximity to residences. Homewood’s billboard regulations set a required 600-foot distance between billboards and residential buildings.