City Council, April 25, 2016

Newly appointed council member Barry Smith goes over the swearing in procedure with Jefferson County Probate Judge Alan King. City Clerk Linda Cook awaits, zinnias in hand.

Retiring City Clerk Linda Cook, shown with flowers for newly appointed council member Barry Smith, got her own bouquet tonight, her last council meeting before retiring.

This was the last council meeting for long-time City Clerk Linda Cook, who announced her retirement after 27 years at the last meeting. Her last day at the office is this Friday before taking a vacation in May. Ms. Cook will be replaced by City Finance Director Melody Salter, who will cover the vacation days in May before taking the additional job officially on June 1.

After hearing a resolution recounting the number of council presidents and mayors she had worked for, Ms. Cook spoke at the podium, looking into the video camera, saying she had considered her work to be for the residents and community, not just mayors and council members. As an aside before the meeting, she noted that a plan to donate a kidney to a sibling played into the timing of her retirement.

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

Members absent: Vance Moody and Rich Laws (arrived at second-to-last vote of the evening).

Staff present: City attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, and Greg Cobb, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience present: 17

Appointed two to the Historic Preservation Commission: Catherine Pittman Smith was appointed for the Ward 4 seat and Brittany Foley was reappointed in Ward 5.

CONSENT AGENDA

Dropped a sign variance item for Homewood Sporting Goods: The applicant withdrew the request, saying the business at 2941 18th Street South would keep its current sign. 

 

OLD BUSINESS AGENDA

Granted a sign variance for a downtown business: The council is allowing an extra sign at the shed used for various businesses, most recently plants, at 2510 18th Street South. The variance allows two signs, or one more than the code allows, to have one facing traffic in each direction.

Urban Cookhouse was approved for a blade sign, projecting from the front of the. building

Urban Cookhouse was approved for a blade sign, projecting from the front of the. building

Granted a sign variance for a downtown business: Urban Cookhouse owner Andrea Snyder won a variance to allow a “blade” sign projecting 3 feet  from the entrance at 2846 18th Street South.

Voted to spend up to $10,000 for a guard rail on Saulter and Forest. 

Declared vehicles surplus and due to be sold: The vehicles include three 2007 Ford Crown Victorias, one 2000 Chevrolet Impala, and an incomplete engine on a pallet. 

Approved year-end transfers: Unspecified in the meeting, the council approved end-of-fiscal-year transfers required by city fiscal policy.

Approved a $1,000 transfer to cover polygraph operations: No details.

Approved amendments to current budget: The current budget was amended, with no details reported outside of committee.

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 five others were subjects of an annexation drive to prevent undesireable developments on the Homewood city line.

This property and several others were subjects of an annexation drive to prevent undesirable developments on the Homewood city line. Owners of this and some parcels on Citation Drive are disputing either the annexation or its impact on their businesses.

Set May 23 hearings to rezone three recently annexed properties: The properties represent a third of the nine parcels annexed from unincorporated Jefferson County by act of the State Legislature last year. The impact of the annexation on a fireworks business now outlawed by being brought into Homewood remains in dispute. Other parcels on Citation Court are also in dispute at the Planning Commission, where the rezoning hearings are first heard. Set to be rezoned from Jefferson County C-1, Commercial, to Homewood C-2, Neighborhood Shopping District, are 1) Circle K at 1250 Columbiana Road; and 2) One West Associates, at #1 West Lakeshore Drive. 

The Southeast Medical Homewood property at 35 West Lakeshore Drive is set to be rezoned from Jefferson County C-P, Preferred Commercial, to Homewood C-1, Office Building District.

Homewood prohibited advertising and renting residential spaces like this Homewood house on Airbnb,

The city council voted to prohibit advertising and renting residential spaces like this one on the Airbnb site for less than 90 days.

Passed new restrictions on short-term residential rentals, anything under 90 days: The vote puts an end to homeowners advertising and renting out residential property through online platforms such as Airbnb, although some council members have used the service themselves on travel out-of-town. The ban applies to any residential property and sets out the civil and criminal penalties for violation, which do not affect cases under way before the ban. The city attorney said one such case from Sylvia Drive, a misdemeanor, is pending now in city court. 

Granted approval to close a street for up to 12 hours for a spring festival at Patriot Park, some changes pending. This proposed street party was carried over from the previous meeting until dates and times were settled. The date is May 21, but the proposed street closing of part of Oak Grove Road from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. is still “being whittled down,” according to the police chief. The closures and other details are still being worked out.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

A parcel to be donated, according to the address given at tonight's council meeting, is at the end of a residential street in West Homewood that abuts I-65.

A parcel to be donated, according to the address given at tonight’s council meeting, is at the end of a residential street in West Homewood that abuts I-65.

To Finance – To consider 1) A request to spend up to $2,500 for downtown trash cans; 2) Purchasing an ad in Business Alabama Magazine; 3) Setting a bid opening date to purchase patrol rifles, paid from the Capital Projects Fund; 4) A request to allow Crown Castle to install “small cell technology” (cell phone antenna panels) in the city right-of-way, no address given; 5) A $60,000 appropriation from next year’s budget toward a new downtown master plan, and 6) A parcel at 628 Greenhill Drive to be donated to the city.

To Planning and Development – To review changes to the NPD Neighborhood Preservation District to simplify and regulate height and to allow drop a step-in requirement for second floors, among other matters.

To Public Safety – To consider 1) A request to raise parking fines; 2) To address mosquito control options, including spraying; and 3) A cross walk.

To Public Works – To consider opening and allowing work in the Mountainview/Lakewood alley and the Sunset/Ridgewood Alley behind 1627 Sunset Drive.

To Special Issues – To consider 1) Allowing a 7-foot variance for a narrow lot to have a circular driveway at 1511 Oxmoor Road; and 2) A variance to the sign ordinance at 3048 Independence Drive (U.S. 31).

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period April 11-22, 2016 were approved to be paid.

Approved a cross walk at Broadway and Forest Drive.

Mr. Laws arrived.

Approved a stop sign at Durham and Yorkshire Drive.

Approved a stop sign at Lakewood and Cornelius Drive.

Park Board, April 7, 2016

Three of Homewood’s youth leagues presented their annual reports at this meeting, with football showing the first increase in three years despite a corresponding increase in lacrosse, its rival for players. Urban Cookhouse, a chain of “farm-to-table” themed restaurants with a location in Homewood, persisted in its effort to hold its summertime farmers’ markets at Central Park. The park board, originally reluctant to approve such space for a commercial enterprise, relented under condition that vendors keep vehicles off park grounds, which could be a deal breaker for the restaurant.

Members present: Chris Meeks, chair, Jody Brant, Gary Isenhower, Michael Murray, Paula Smalley, Keith Stansell and Marjorie Trimm.

Members absent: Chris Meeks, chairman, and Paula Smalley.

Staff present: Berkley Squires, public service superintendent, Rusty Holley, Rec Center director, and board secretary.

Audience attendance: 0

Minutes approval not reported.

Under certain conditions, the board will allow the Urban Cookhouse chain to host its Homewood Farmers' Markets at Central Park this summer.

Under certain conditions, the board will allow the Urban Cookhouse chain to host its Homewood Farmers’ Markets at Central Park this summer.

Allowed, with conditions, Urban Cookhouse to hold a series of summer Farmers’ Markets at Central Park: The question before the board last month was whether the public park would be an appropriate location for a for-profit business to sponsor a promotional and long-running event (11 Saturdays from June 4- Aug. 13, from 8 a.m.-noon). The first answer was a probable no, given the impact of vehicles on the park grounds and the amount of public space and time to be dedicated for a commercial purpose. At this meeting, the board was persuaded to approve, but only if the vendors understand they could not bring trucks and vehicles onto the grounds. Furthermore, a conflicting event is scheduled for one of the Saturdays requested, June 18. With those caveats, the board is awaiting an answer from the event spokesperson.

Homewood's 6A team was were the season champions, with 8 wins and 0 losses.

Homewood’s 6A team was were the season champions, with 8 wins and 0 losses.

Homewood Patriot Youth Football report: The program’s annual report showed the first increase in participation and corresponding rise in revenue after three straight years of decline. The 2015 enrollment totaled 110 players compared to only 74 the year before. The three largest groups were the 120 lb. and 130 lb. categories, with 32 and 30 players respectively, and the 80 lb. group, which typically has the highest enrollment, with 29 players. In 90 lb., there were 19 players and no teams were made in the 105 lb. group.

Financially, the league brought in $21,191 in registrations, admission and merchandise sales total, spending $29,336 in expenses (mainly for equipment and uniforms – $13,914 – merchandise, $5,819, in merchandise and $3,551 in ‘miscellaneous,’), for a negative $8,145. That amount, taken from a $15,683 starting balance (exactly the same as the year before) left the account with a balance of $7,538 at the time of the report.

The league also performed better on the field, with a 21/11 win-loss record compared to only 10 wins and 14 losses the year before.

Enrollments are off due to the popularity of soccer and lacrosse and concerns over concussions. There was one concussion reported in the 2014 season. The board is open to offering flag football for younger players, he said.

Financially, the program brought in $14,593, which was also down from last year, against expenses of $31,089, primarily for new helmets ($15,000), plus equipment, uniforms and merchandise. The program started with a positive carry-over balance for the year and has $15,683 in cash in the bank. Six scholarships were awarded to financially needy residents.

Click here to see last year’s report.

Lacrosse is catching on in Homewood, with its relative low impact compared to football.

Lacrosse is catching on in Homewood, with its relative low impact compared to football.

Youth Lacrosse –

The four-year old program has been self-sufficient so far but once again requested a concrete rebounding wall upgrade for the six-acres field (upper field) at West Homewood Park for teaching passing and catching to new players.

The mid-season, or spring, report showed an enrollment of 121, a slight drop since spring 2014, when there were 136 boys and girls on 8 teams. This was nevertheless a large gain since the league was organized four years ago with just 50 players on 3 boys teams. At the time of the report, Lacrosse fielded four girls teams totaling 37 players, with most (17) in the grades 6-8 category, and four high school girls, who play for Mountain Brook. That is compared to 84 players in five boys teams, fairly evenly spread across the grade levels, but with 25 players on the high school-age team.

Financially, the league listed a balance of $16,801, after revenue of $9,070 from registration fees and against expenses of $7,781, for park and rec fees ($1,170), uniforms ($5,511) and insurance ($1,100).

Five players were given fee waivers.

Click here for pdf of 2014 season budget.

Homewood Youth Cheerleading

Homewood Youth Cheerleading

Homewood Patriot Youth Cheerleading

The cheerleading program is an adjunct to Homewood Youth Football and enrolls Homewood girls in grades 1-6, who are organized into five separate squads. The 2015 report doesn’t list enrollment, but past years have averaged 85, ranging from a low of 64 in 2011 to a high of 101 last year. [Update with most recent, 2015 enrollment:   85 total with most (36) in the 1st-2nd grade squad and the least (14) in sixth grade.]

Financially, expenses of $35,482 for 2015 slightly outran income of $34,005 from registration, three fundraisers and donations from 10 sponsors, not broken out in the report. With a beginning carry-over balance of $3,601, the organization ended the year with $2,123 in the bank.

For last year’s report, click here.

Approved a 5K and fun run from Patriot Park to benefit a backpack giveaway: The Homewood Church of Christ is hosting a third annual backpack giveaway for local school children on Saturday, June 18, with the 5K starting at 7:30 a.m. and the fun run at 8:30 a.m., and the course going throughout West Homewood neighborhoods. Parking will be at the church with participants taking shuttle to the event. Expected attendance for the run is 150.

Approved a Pumpkin Festival at Central Park to benefit Grace House Ministries: Grace House hosts this third annual fundraiser to raise awareness for the organization and girls in foster care. The festival will have food trucks, live music, bouncey houses, and pumpkins to purchase and decorate. Previous years have attracted up to 500 in attendance.

 

City Council, April 11, 2016

Newly appointed council member Barry Smith goes over the swearing in procedure with Jefferson County Probate Judge Alan King. City Clerk Linda Cook awaits, zinnias in hand.

That’s retiring city clerk Linda Cook, left, bringing zinnias to welcome new council appointee Barry Smith at her swearing in two years ago. Ms. Smith was especially warm in her remarks tonight about the retiring clerk, saying she taught her everything and made her feel welcome. Ms. Cook leaves June 1, to be replaced by finance director Melody Salter.

A long and not otherwise spectacular meeting held two surprises, the announced retirement of long-time city clerk Linda Cook and council’s appointment of current finance director Melody Salter to take her place. The consolidation of  two departments follows the mayor’s earlier move to name parks director Berkley Squires as Public Services Superintendent and add Streets and Sanitation to his duties.

Further fireworks followed the meeting when city attorney Mike Kendrick explained why he asked the council to drop the rezoning of a recently annexed fireworks trailer and restaurant property on Green Springs Highway. The objection came from fireworks owner Pam Palmer, also mayor of the City of Adamsville in northwest Jefferson County. The stand-off over rezoning will be addressed in an upcoming meeting, Mr. Kendrick said. Homewood bans the sale of fireworks and the fireworks stand on the very edge of town has been a perennial source of irony.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Fred Hawkins (arriving after the seventh item), Vance Moody, Britt Thames, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Britt Thames and Fred Hawkins.

Staff present: City attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, and Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience present: 17

Minutes of the Jan. 25 and Feb. 8, 2016 meetings were passed.

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 five others were subjects of an annexation drive to prevent undesireable developments on the Homewood city line.

Crazy Bill’s Fireworks is fighting the rezoning of the recently annexed property. But it’s the Homewood ban on fireworks, not zoning, that is the issue, says the city attorney.

 

CONSENT AGENDA – The agenda was passed, dropping the rezoning item for recently annexed property at 201 Green Spring Highway and also dropping a traffic measure on Central Avenue: The city has been rezoning several parcels annexed last year from unincorporated Jefferson County in the aftermath of a furor over a digital billboard being erected in one of those parcels. In this case, the city received objections to rezoning annexed property owned by operators of a Mexican restaurant who lease ground next door to a fireworks business. The fireworks business owner and Mayor of Adamsville Pam Palmer has asked for a meeting, claiming the fireworks business–which is banned in Homewood city limits–should be “grandfathered” or allowed to continue operating under certain conditions, despite the annexation. Homewood city attorney Mike Kendrick said after tonight’s meeting that he asked to drop the rezoning (for now) to keep from muddying the discussion. Although it’s true that an annexed business can be rezoned while grandfathering in a noncompliant business, Homewood has strictly outlawed fireworks sales anywhere in city limits, he said. “This is not a zoning issue. This is a business license issue.” A meeting with the Adamsville mayor is still being planned.

Membership and vacancies synced on three separate development boards to consolidate their power: In previous actions the council has approved changing the number of seats in each of the Commercial Development Authority, Homewood Downtown Redevelopment Authority, and Industrial Development Board to 13 and placing the same members to serve on each board simultaneously. Tonight a member acknowledged that when a term was up on one board, the existing member could continue in that seat until a replacement was found to fill seats on all three boards.

Continued for a third time a sign ordinance public hearing for a medical clinic on Lakeshore: With the business continually unprepared to make a request, the council talked about dropping the item altogether. It was decided to allow one more continuance to the next meeting. 

OLD BUSINESS AGENDA

After a postponement, voted in support of two liquor licenses at related businesses on West Valley Avenue: The matter had been carried over because of questions over the physical addresses/locations of the businesses, a gas station, Homewood Fuel, and a package store, Home Package, at 317A and 317B West Valley Avenue, which have been recently purchased by AAMR, Inc. The fire department had concerns about the addresses and if the businesses had separate entrances. The wrong addresses were corrected and the matter was approved tonight.

DOCINBOX

This annexed property was rezoned under Homewood zoning tonight. Two others had to be re-set because of errors in the parcel id; A third property–with a fireworks trailer–is protesting any move to put it out of business.

Rezoned one of three recently annexed properties; postponed two others due to typos in the parcel id’s: Mr. Moody noted that one parcel id on the agenda didn’t match the parcel id for the same property on the ordinance. It was determined that two of three parcels were “advertised” or publicly posted  with wrong parcel id’s, an error that called for re-posting them and setting two more public hearings. Ironically, the council quickly counted and voted to set the new hearing date for May 11, which wasn’t technically far enough, then had to re-opened the item to set the hearing for May 23, prompting the city clerk to announce that the original hearing (tonight’s) had also not been set to the correct date. Tonight’s hearing was then allowed to stand for the one correct property–the medical clinic at #1 West Lakeshore Drive. It was rezoned from Jefferson County C-1, commercial, to C-2 Homewood’s Neighborhood Shopping District.

Reset public hearings to May 23 for two recently annexed properties on Lakeshore: Re-advertised properties were the Circle K Store, Inc. at 1250 Columbiana Road, site of the digital billboard that in March last year sparked interest in the annexation campaign, and the medical association building at 35 West Lakeshore Drive.

Annexed a residential property in Forest Brook: A residential lot at 1601 Shades Glen Circle was annexed to Homewood tonight.

Carried over a street festival request by Patriot Park in West Homewood: Questions about the street-closing permit and the times of the festival forced this matter to the next meeting. Some said the times were 2-8 p.m. and Ms. Smith said the times were 2-10 p.m., because a previous street festival the city hosted didn’t allow enough time for clean up. 

Review of paving and adequate repair of street cuts by utility companies: The council, with mainly the Birmingham Water Works Board in mind, passed a far-reaching ordinance to set tougher repair standards for utilities excavating city streets. It wasn’t clear what specific changes were made despite an exhaustive first reading of the provisions; however committee discussions centered having the city make the repairs and charge costs to the utilities. Two water works board officials were in the audience, but had not comment except to say they’d try to comply.

Approved street closures in May for Brookwood Village concerts: The concerts will be on Thursdays, May 12 and May 19, closing the street from 1-10 p.m.

Approved funds to hire a consultant to track down source of odors coming from Barber Dairies and/or Buffalo Rock plants on West Oxmoor Road:  The vote authorized up to $27,000 for the consultant.

Approved hiring an insurance consultant: No details.

Authorized actions to lease election equipment from Jefferson County for upcoming city elections: Municipal elections are being held this summer.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance To consider 1) Declaring equipment surplus and due to be sold, being a one an incomplete engine, a 2000 Chevrolet Impala, and three 2007 Crown Victorias; 2) Hiring Skipper Consulting for a traffic study; 3) Conducting a mid-year review of the current fiscal year;  4) A review of finances following a final audit to see if any year-end transfers are needed; and 5) Transferring $1,000 to the polygraph operations of the pd.

To Public Safety – To consider 1) A request to place a pedestrian crossing at the end of Devon Drive over Lakeshore Drive; 2) Safety concerns at Overton Park; 3) Placing a stop sign at Durham Drive and Yorkshire Drive; and 4) adding a stop sign at Lakewood Drive and Cornelius Drive –

To Special Issues – To consider sign variances at 1) 2941 18th Street South; 2510 18th Street South; and 2846 18th Street South.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Urban Cookhouse and two others want new (bigger) signs.

Urban Cookhouse and two others want new (bigger) signs.

Set an April 25, 2016, hearing for sign variances referred to committee, see above. The three include a new construction and two existing businesses including the Urban Cookhouse, which want new signs.

Denied a Bingo application for Helpmate Ministries: The council voted against the request after Chief Ross reported finding three convictions for the applicant, who had stated on the application she had no criminal background. The chief explained afterwards that the convictions were misdemeanors, with the oldest dating to 2004, for assault, hindering prosecution, and resisting arrest.

This photo of rooftop cellphone antennas is only an approximation of what the panels would look like.

Small building-attached cellphone antennae, not towers, will be norm. The ordinance passed tonight regulates their placement.

Approved an ordinance allowing and regulating small cellphone antennae, etc.: Shortly after the BZA has reluctantly approved Dawson’s parking deck as a site for Verizon cellphone antenna, the council passed an ordinance reflecting recent federal court decisions saying small-scale technology was taking the place of cell towers and cities and local governments had to make accommodations to allow them. Tonight’s ordinance, although it sets limits on height and placement of such antennas, would not have influenced the decision on the Dawson cell panels, according to the city attorney.

Voted in support of a state liquor license application for a Hallman Hill Thai restaurant: The restaurant is Shiki Thai and Sushi at 300 Hallman Hill, Suite 109. 

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period March 21-April 8, 2016, were approved to be paid.

A rare pic of Melody Salter, finance director, who was also appointed as city clerk tonight, replacing retiring clerk Linda Cook.

A rare pic of Melody Salter, finance director, who was also appointed as city clerk tonight, replacing retiring clerk Linda Cook.

Announced retirement of city clerk Linda Cook and search for a successor: The long meeting ended with an announcement that Linda Cook, 27-year veteran city clerk, would be retiring effective June 1, but taking vacation during the last weeks, with the next meeting being her last. Mayor McBrayer recommended and the council unanimously accepted his choice of Melody Salter, the current Finance Director, as her replacement. Ms. Salter, according to tonight’s vote, will act as interim clerk during the last month of Ms. Cook’s tenure, while she’s on vacation, then take the permanent position June 1. In their final remarks, council members thanked both women and wished them well in their new roles. Earlier in the day, Ms. Cook had announced her retirement via email.

 

Board of Zoning Adjustments, April 7, 2016

BZAThe board continued its pattern of denying cases that failed the “hardship” test to justify exemptions to the city’s zoning regulations. In one case, the board denied a request for one variance, then agreed to reconsider a similar variance granted on the same house in 2014 which the homeowner allowed to expire, and denied that one as well. Lot divisions generally don’t win support on this board, and tonight’s case on East Hawthorne was no different. Three cases were approved.

Members present: All- Lauren Gwaltney, chair, Ty Cole, Jeffrey Foster (S), Stuart Roberts (S), Brian Jarmon, and Beverly LeBoeuf.

Members absent: 0

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

Audience attendance: 15

OLD BUSINESS

Once again carried over a Waffle House request for a package of variances in the new West Homewood District, adding a request for a sign variance:

141 East Hawthorne. A proposed lot division request on this corner property was carried over to January.

141 East Hawthorne. The board denied a variance that would allow this property to be divided parallel to Oxmoor Road. The case had been carried over since December.

Denied a request for a lot area variance to divide a parcel and build two houses on East Hawthorne Road:  In a case that has been carried over for months, the board unanimously denied a request from the property owner and a real estate agent to split a corner lot at 141 East Hawthorne Road to create two lots of 1,988 square feet (Lot A) and 2,292 square feet (Lot B, next to Oxmoor Road). The property was originally three lots, from which the third lot had been partitioned years ago, leaving two lots that had been merged into one tax i.d. In making the request, the new owner, a contractor, said his intent in purchasing the property was to re-divide it and build two houses, one for himself. He said he understood at closing that it was one parcel that would require legal work to divide, but didn’t think that would present a problem. He described the existing 1940s house as an eyesore that was additionally unfit to renovate because of various problems, including asbestos. In describing the hardship that would justify a variance, he supplied only financial and sentimental arguments, saying a new house on the combined lot would have to be too large to fit in with the character of the neighborhood.

Two residents spoke against the division. The first, a neighbor, objected primarily because the divided lots would be much smaller than the norm for the area. He pointed out that the original lot division was only possible because of the additional square footage from the now-partitioned Lot “C.” The second resident, the granddaughter of the original owners, said the property was never intended to be sold as two lots. She objected to the characterization of the house as an eyesore. As was evident from the beginning of the questioning, the board was not convinced by the financial arguments, and denied the variance.

NEW BUSINESS

222 Devon Drive (2016)

222 Devon Drive
(2016)

Denied a current variance request and denied a previous variance granted but allowed to expire on Devon: The homeowner at 222 Devon Drive, on the corner of Hampton Drive, was denied a 9-foot variance requested for an addition that would extend the sides of the house, including the right side facing Hampton. The addition contemplated would have brought the structure nearly to the property line on that side, where the owners had planned to make other changes, such as raising the grade of the driveway for better visibility backing out of the garage, and a city council-approved re-routing of the sidewalk for the same reason. 

222 Devon Drive (2014 case)

222 Devon Drive
(2014 case)

Frustrated by the denial, the homeowner asked if the board would re-approve a 7-foot variance for the same side that had been granted in 2014, but allowed to expire, and add two more feet to it. In re-opening the case, the board’s changed membership was more reluctant to allow building to close to the property line. After much discussion to compare the two cases, the second vote was 3-2 in favor, or one vote short of an affirmative decision under the BZA’s rules for a super-majority to pass a variance. (Ms. Gwaltney didn’t vote on the 2014 case and Ms. Cannon voted yes both times. However, Brian Jarmon switched votes to a “no” tonight.)

The reversal from 2014 was due only to a change in the board’s membership and interpretation. However, Mr. Cole explained after the meeting that the 2014 approval was more questionable than tonight’s denial. At that time, he said, the ordinance defined a corner lot as two “fronts” or entrance sides, requiring much longer setbacks from the street. A variance extending so far into a “front” setback should have been even harder to justify, he said.

Voting yes in the minority on the failed first request:  Hope Cannon

Voting no, resulting in a denial on the second vote: Ty Cole and Brian Jarmon

110 Theda Street. Except the for the trees, the rear addition to this house shouldn't change the looks of the house.

110 Theda Street. Except the for the trees, the rear addition to this house shouldn’t change the looks of the house.

Granted variances for a rear addition on Theda: The tiny house at 110 Theda Street got a relatively easy approval tonight following two complex cases that ended in denial. With little ado except to round the variance request from 1.1-feet to an even 1 foot and a question about the fate of a large tree in the back yard (will probably be removed), the board voted unanimously to approve.

309 Le Jeune Way

309 Le Jeune Way

Approved a variance to allow an addition to a house on Le Jeune: Twin Construction is handling the renovation, asking for a 4-foot right setback variance to build a kitchen addition, with the owner adding that a roofed porch will also be enclosed. A neighbor on the unaffected side spoke in support of the project and there was no opposition. The case was approved unanimously.

2919 Parkridge Drive

2919 Parkridge Drive

Approved a reconsidered request to build a front porch on a house on Parkridge: Denied in March, a request for a 6-foot, 1.5-inch variance for a front porch at 2919 Parkridge Drive was scaled back to 4-feet, 8-inches and passed without much discussion tonight.

Planning Commission, April 5, 2016

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 five others were subjects of an annexation drive to prevent undesireable developments on the Homewood city line.

Owners of the recently annexed restaurant and fireworks trailer on Green Springs have objected successfully to rezoning the outlawed business, at least for the time being.

The commission heard the first official presentation of a long-awaited downtown master plan, agreeing to seek $60,000 toward its $280,000+ total cost.

Meanwhile, another property owner has reacted to the city’s annexation last summer of nine properties from unincorporated Jefferson County land along the city limits. The annexations, by act of the state legislature, were a response to a digital billboard installed on Circle K property on Lakeshore Drive and intended to stop other undesirable developments going up near Homewood but under lax county regulations. While the Circle K and a first group of properties were rezoned last month with no problem, owners of the annexed San Miguel restaurant and its fireworks business next door objected strenuously, calling for a meeting and demanding that the fireworks business be allowed to continue, despite the city’s ban on such businesses.Following that meeting, but giving no further explanation, city attorney Mike Kendrick on Monday asked a council committee to drop the San Miguel rezoning from its agenda. Tonight, the owner of four annexed parcels on Citation Court also objected, saying he was unaware of the annexation when it happened and demanding more time to study the zoning effect on his businesses. And the hearing gave yet another Citation Court owner a chance to publicly complain about the condition of city property at 175 Oxmoor Drive.

Members present: Jeffrey Foster, Chairman Billy Higginbotham, James Riddle, Fred Hawkins, Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.

Members absent: Fred Azbik, Mike Brandt, and Mark Woods.

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, Greg Cobb, city Building, Engineering and Zoning Department, and Vanessa McGrath, city engineer/zoning.

Audience attendance:  6

NEW BUSINESS

A 2015 Google shot of 175 Citation Court. Former owner said the property is in shambles, called on the city to clean it up.

A former owner of the city-owned building at 175 Citation Court complained about the condition of the property today, inside and out, he said. (Google 2015)

Carried over the question of recommending rezoning on five recently annexed Citation Court properties: Five properties annexed by act of the state legislature last year, and due to be rezoned under Homewood regulations, will be considered as a group next month after an owner of four of parcels contested the move through his attorney. Bobby Ward owns parcels at 129, 159 and 167 Citation Court, and owns 137 Citation Court through his company Universal Development Corporation. The Planning Commission was to vote on recommending that these properties and a fifth parcel at 209 Citation Court, owned by Henry Tyler, be rezoned from Jefferson County I-1, Light Industrial, to Homewood’s M-1, Light Manufacturing. The two zones are similar in permitted uses and the city staff said there would be no negative impact on any business so annexed. However, they carried over all five to give Mr. Ward time to study the new designation.s

Also speaking out at the public hearing was Dennis O’Brien, owner of a Citation Court property who said he sold the city the neighboring parcel at 175 Citation Court for several million dollars and it was being poorly maintained inside and out, calling it a dump. Mr. O’Brien’s said he brought his complaint tonight because he was unable to get on the city council agenda or to talk to the mayor or council president about the problem. He was advised to take his complaint to the Building Inspections director. Mr. Hawkins gave him his number to call since the property is in his area, Ward 2.

1422 Ardsley Place

Changes in calculating maximum height will make it difficult to build higher than a story-and-a-half.

Recommended changes to the zoning ordinance affecting residential building: The commission unanimously passed changes to the Neighborhood Preservation District zoning that changes how maximum height is determined, with the effect of lowering height of single-family houses, while also allowing second stories to be built straight up from the foundation without being stepped in. Specifically, changes to Article II defines height as the distance measured from the first floor at the front door to the highest point in the roof or parapet. A related change to Article IV reduces the number of different heights allowed per lot width from four to two, with a 25-foot maximum for lots up to 55 feet wide (a typical case) and 35 feet maximum for wider lots. (The maximum is currently determined by calculating an average of all elevations of a building.)

209 Clermontside

Minimum side setbacks from property lines have been simplified and a requirement dropped to step in the width of a second story.

Side setbacks are simplified as well, to 5 feet and 9 feet respectively for lots up to 55 feet wide, and 10 feet on each side for larger lots.

Ms. McGrath said the new restrictions will make it difficult to build more than a story-and-a-half on most Homewood lots, unless builders opt for flat roofs to maximize the inside square footage (at the cost of aesthetics).

Another section of the same Article defining a minimum living area was deleted. “Building smaller houses is not the problem,” Ms. McGrath said.

Overgrown trees, congested parking are two issues to be addressed in a downtown master plan..

Overgrown trees, congested parking are two issues to be addressed in a downtown master plan..

Voted to request a $60,000 for FY2017 toward a budget toward a downtown master plan: Mikhail Alert of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, of which Homewood is a member, made a brief presentation of a $280,000+ plan to re-envision the downtown as it relates to signage, zoning, pedestrian and bike use, landscaping, and to accommodate live/work situations that mix commercial and residential in the same buildings.

The plan outlined, which updated a section of the 2007 general Master Plan, covers only the area from Rosedale to Oxmoor Road and from U.S. 31 to Central Avenue. Ms. McGrath said the area has accumulated 12 different zoning categories and three different sign districts. Ruling on sign variances has become a regular feature of each council meeting, she said. The city has very limited zoning to handle mixed use.

The Planning Commission governs the city’s master plan, which theoretically guides future zoning and development decisions, but has no binding effect.

Parking downtown is a madhouse.

Reese Street between downtown and Central Avenue is a parking zoo. A downtown master plan may help with solutions.

Mr. Alert said the RPC’s study would address big issues such as parking, finding better ways to transition from urban to residential sections, incorporate bike and pedestrian traffic, improve the streetscape, resolve landscaping problems (trees), and consolidate zoning and signage regulations. This update of the general Master Plan could be followed by other sectional plans targeting problem areas such as Wildwood and the Green Springs Urban Renewal District (GURD).

In discussion, Mr. Foster, a grant-writer, asked a flurry of technical questions about how the RPC arrived at its price tag. (The 2007 general Master Plan, produced by a private consultant, cost $116,000.) Those questions deferred for the time being, a motion was made and passed unanimously to request $60,000 in FY2017 to pay the city’s share of the plan’s total cost.

City Council, March 21, 2016

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 five others were subjects of an annexation drive to prevent undesirable developments on the Homewood city line.

For years Homewood residents were reminded each July 4 and New Year’s Eve that the property at 201 Green Springs Highway was in unincorporated Jefferson County, which allowed sales of fireworks banned in Homewood. No longer. This property and five others were subjects of an annexation drive to prevent undesirable developments on the Homewood city line.

It was a brief meeting where important matters got only a mention:  The city’s audit report for the previous year was accepted, although the presentation was made in a previous committee meeting; a struggling buffer of evergreen Cypress downtown are being considered for removal; and more crosswalks — and stop signs — are possible on Manhattan and the intersection of Forest Drive and Broadway. This month marks a year anniversary of Circle K’s land lease to the digital billboard that divided West Homewood and sparked a firestorm leading to its annexation out of unincorporated Jefferson County. That and other annexed properties are being rezoned, while the fate of the now-illegal fireworks trailer is under discussion.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Fred Hawkins (arriving after the seventh item), Vance Moody, Britt Thames, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Fred Hawkins arrived late, see below. Rich Laws was absent.

Staff present: City attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, and Greg Cobb, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience present: 10

The council did not vote on past meeting minutes.

Approved a new member to the Homewood Environmental Commission: A single applicant for the post, Amy Milam, was approved to the vacant at-large seat on the commission.

No front fence for 1732 Wellington.

No front fence for 1732 Wellington.

Added to the consent agenda, and dropped, consideration of a front yard fence at 1732 Wellington Road. The request to build a front yard fence was heard after the city stopped work already in progress for lack of a permit and variance. One neighbor has supported the project; several had gone on record last week to oppose it, when the council voted to return the topic to the Special Issues Committee. 

OLD BUSINESS AGENDA

Continued again a request for a sign variance/variances to a walk-in medical clinic on Lakeshore Drive:  The request from a clinic at #1 Lakeshore Drive, Med Help, was continued for the second time because the applicants weren’t ready to present their request.

Carried over again a request for local support of a renewed package store and liquor license at two related businesses on West Valley Avenue: Last week the request was carried over because of uncertainty over the dual addresses. Carried over for the same concerns again this week were requests for an off premises retail beer and wine license for Homewood Fuel at 317A West Valley Avenue and a Lounge Retail Liquor Class II/Package Store license for Homewood Package, located at 317B. The businesses have been bought by AAMR, Inc.

BADSIGNS3

Circle K’s decision to lease its highly visible corner property to a digital billboard advertiser ended with the sign being relocated and the property–and five others–annexed to the city from unincorporated Jefferson County.

Set an April 11 public hearing before voting to rezone 3 of four annexed properties: Four of six unincorporated properties on city limit boundaries were annexed to the city last summer in the aftermath of a furor over a digital billboard installed at the Circle K on Lakeshore Drive and Columbiana Road. The annexations, which took two trips through the state legislature to accomplish, and were passed only after Buffalo Rock was removed from the bill, were to prevent another installation or nuisance development on the relatively unregulated county land. The commercial properties are now being formally rezoned from county to Homewood city designations. One of the four properties, the San Miguel restaurant and adjacent lot, has been set aside from the rezoning until a dispute with the owners is resolved over whether the fireworks business is somehow exempt from the new city zoning, which outlaws fireworks. The city says there is no way to “grandfather” a business brought into a new jurisdiction. The parties are in talks before the zoning will resume.

Meanwhile, those being considered for rezoning are the Circle K Store, Inc. (which leased the property for the digital billboard a year ago, starting the firestorm that ended in annexation) at 1250 Columbiana Road, from Jefferson County C-1 commercial to Homewood C-2, Neighborhood Shopping District, and the same for the medical clinic at #1 West Lakeshore Drive. The property at 35 West Lakeshore Drive occupied by Southeast Medical Homewood, is pending rezoning from Jefferson County C-P, Preferred Commercial, to Homewood C-1 (Office Building District).

Approved work to clear an alley of overgrowth in the city right-of-way next to 12 West Lakeshore Drive.  The property appears to be a house up for sale across the street from the BP station.

Abstaining – Mr. Wyatt, saying later the request involved a law partner.

Fred Hawkins arrived.

Approved a street light on Manhattan Street: A street light will cost $140/year and be paid from the 7-cent gasoline tax. The city is still considering a cross-walk for safety reasons.

Accepted an audit report on the FY2015 (year ending Sept. 30, 2015): The audit report by Carr Riggs & Ingram CPA firm was presented in the Finance Committee meeting earlier. It will be presented here, later, in a separate entry. No details were presented.

Voted to pass unspecified amendments to the budget. No details presented at the meeting.

Approved a three-part contract involving the fire and police departments: The approval is to join the Birmingham Emergency Communication District/Jefferson County 800 MHz/SmartX Radio System; lease certain public safety communications equipment for police and fire departments, costs not specified, and amend the current E911 budget. No details were presented at the council meeting.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider 1) Entering an agreement with the Jefferson County Commission’s General Services Department/Elections Division for voting equipment; and 2) Addressing traffic concerns on Saulter Road, transferred from the Public Safety Committee.

To Public Safety – To consider 1) Placing a cross walk at the intersection of Broadway and Forest Drive; and 2) Hosting a spring street party at PPatriot Park.

This buffer is being eyed for removal.

This buffer is being eyed for removal.

To Public Works – To consider 1) Removing Cypress trees used as a buffer between the former Do-Di-Yo’s in downtown Homewood and the new Holler & Dash to facilitate walking from the parking lot to other businesses

 

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Paid the bills: The invoices for March 14-18, 2016, were approved to be paid.

In the announcements segment of the meeting, Britt Thames, liaison for the Homewood Chamber of Commerce, reported the Taste of Homewood fundraiser raised $12,000, nearly twice as much as last year;

The public is invited to a celebration marking the 75th anniversary of the Homewood library, on March 24, 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the auditorium.

City Council meeting, March 14, 2016

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.

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 six others were subjects of an annexation last summer.

A massive digital billboard that went up near Homewood on unincorporated county land led to an annexation drive to bring in six unincorporated properties into city jurisdiction. Now that it’s complete, one of those properties, San Miguel restaurant on Green Springs, is disputing the zoning process that will ban the familiar fireworks sales and trailer. It was pulled from a group of four properties that are in the process of being rezoned to Homewood regulations.

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

Members absent: Vance Moody, Bruce Limbaugh and Rich Laws (arriving midway through the meeting).

Staff present: City attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, and Greg Cobb, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience present:  17

Approved minutes of January 11, 2016, meeting.

OLD BUSINESS

The council, unhappy with utility company street repairs, is considering doing its own repairs and passing costs on to utility companies.

The council, unhappy with utility company street repairs, is considering doing its own repairs and passing costs on to utility companies.

Referred back to committee a discussion about a street excavation ordinance that would address poor street repairs by utility companies: In a work session last week it was discussed and carried over that the city should amend its ordinance to perform its own street repairs following utility work and pass the costs to the utility in question. It was also discussed that the city inspections office should have the permitting and inspections responsibility for this work and not, as the law is written now, have the clerk’s office issue permits. The matter was referred to the Finance Committee.

An undated real estate photo of the property at 1732 Wellington.

An undated real estate photo of the property at 1732 Wellington.

Kicked back to committee a request for a front fence on Wellington that has received neighborhood opposition: The owner at 1732 Wellington Road was present tonight for this hearing, which was continued from the last February meeting, when a neighbor spoke in opposition. From discussion is was learned the homeowner began building a knee-high fence behind a hedge in her front yard, when the city stopped work pending an approved fence variance from the council. That was not granted tonight, however. The homeowner said her justifying hardships include a steep cliff-like backyard that made the property unusable, and a circular drive that took up much of the front yard. She said the fence would provide a safer place to play for her children. One neighbor from 1907 Wellington spoke in support, but there was word that others had send emails in opposition. It was decided to explore the issue further before a vote and the matter was returned to the Special Issues Committee.

Carried over a request for a sign variance at a freestanding medical clinic on Lakeshore Drive: Med Help is trying to negotiate a change in signs while still needing special permission to waive certain regulations, which were not discussed tonight. The applicants aren’t prepared and the matter was carried over. 

Approved spending the remaining balance of the West Homewood street project to replace landscaping, repair or replace removed irrigation: An amount not to exceed $5,000 remaining in the balance of the street repair project was approved to be paid to the park and recreation departments to replace places and sprinkler lines that were removed to install sidewalks.

Approved certain maintenance equipment surplus and due to be sold: To be sold are 1) a Champion/Gardner Denver Shop Air compressor; Air Dryer and Air Reservoir Tank.

Mr. Laws arrived.

Approved a change to the current HVAC maintenance agreement: the contract with Trane Building Services for City Hall was renewed with a $374 increase that fell within the current amount budgeted.

Approved a bus shelter on city right-of-way at Barber Court: Barber Companies have paid the required 20% share of the costs to have a covered bus shelter at a stop near their company at 36 Barber Court. Company representatives said the shared-cost program is responsible for four other such shelters in Homewood. Tonight’s vote allowed the shelter to be placed in the city right-of-way contingent on the transit authority signing a hold-harmless agreement with the city.

Voted in support of a state beer and wine retail license for the Hometown Supermarket at 808 Green Springs Highway:  The license applies to the Mr. Chen’s restaurant and supermarket.

Voted in support of a state ABC Beer and Wine off-premises only license for two convenience stores on Green Springs Highway: The former Kangaroo Express stores at 821 and 400 Green Springs Highway were sold to Circle K and require new licenses.

Postponed a vote in support of a state Package Store and Retail Beer and Wine licenses for Homewood Fuel/liquor store on West Valley: The businesses located at 317A West Valley Avenue include a package store, which is requesting a Lounge Retail Liquor Class II license, and a convenience store, both now owned by AAMR, Inc. A new license is required because the business changed hands. Tonight, Public Safety chair Mr. McClusky asked for a postponement while they figure out issues having to do with the actual addresses of the two locations.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider 1) Amendments to the current budget; 2) Finding funds to hire an environmental consultant; 3) An agreement benefiting the fire department to join the Birmingham Emergency Communication District/Jefferson County 800 MHz/SmartX Radio System; 4) Leasing public safety communications equipment for police and fire; 5) Amending the current E911 budget; 6) Traffic issues and a street light on Manhattan Street (also considered in Public Safety); and 7) Hiring an insurance consultant.

To Planning and Development – To consider 1) A zoning application from JC Commercial to Homewood GURD on behalf of the property at 201 Green Springs Highway (San Miguel restaurant owned by Rivas Justo & Cesar Gonzales), annexed last year; 2) A zoning application from Circle K on Columbiana (BP Station), annexed last year, from JC Commercial to Homewood C-2 (Neighborhood Shopping); 3) A zoning application on behalf of One West Associates, Inc. to zone property at #1 West Lakeshore Drive from JC C-1 to Homewood C-2 (Neighborhood Shopping); and 4) A zoning application on behalf of Southeast Medical Homewood LLC at 35 West Lakeshore Drive, which was annexed last year, from JC Preferred Commercial to Homewood C-1 Office Building District; and 5) An annexation petition from Matthew and Shana Klein for residential property at 1601 Shades Glen Circle in Forest Brook, unincorporated Jefferson County to Homewood.

To Public Safety – To consider traffic concerns on Central Avenue and a street light on Manhattan.

To Public Works – To consider allowing work in the city right-of-way adjacent to 12 West Lakeshore Drive.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Properties annexed in the wake of the March 2015 digital billboard conflagration.

Properties annexed in the wake of the March 2015 digital billboard conflagration. San Miguel restaurant owners are disputing that Homewood’s annexation puts the fireworks trailer out of business.

Set April 11 public hearings before enacting Homewood zoning on three of four properties annexed in 2015 from unincorporated Jefferson County: The San Miguel restaurant property, whose adjacent empty lot is the seasonal home of a now contested fireworks trailer, will not be processed for the new Homewood zoning until a dispute is cleared up over the trailer and business. City Attorney Mike Kendrick said after the meeting that the owners contend the trailer — and the fireworks sales, which are outlawed in Homewood–were grandfathered in when the property was annexed to the city. They have asked for a meeting and Mr. Kendrick advised that the agenda item go back to the Planning Commission until the issue is cleared to the owner’s satisfaction. Without zoning, there can be no business license issued. The annexation was done by act of the state legislature on a second attempt, and after state Sen. Jabo Waggonner refused to sponsor it until Buffalo Rock’s Citation Court property was removed from the list. That done, the annexations were completed last summer, but the city observed a waiting period and didn’t start the rezoning until the March 2016 Planning Commission meeting. For more on the annexation click here.

Dropped an item to have a public hearing for a residential annexation, above: The property in question at 1601 Shades Glen Circle, being surrounded by Homewood jurisdiction already, can be annexed without a public hearing, which was dropped. It was unclear whether the annexation was automatically approved or will be approved at a later vote.

Approved support of an ABC Board retail Beer and Wine license application for Holler and Dash: Like beer with your biscuits? The vote of support is for an application for the Cracker Barrel concept diner open at 2801 18th Street South.

Closed out the final payment of the West Homewood Oak Grove Project: Except for approximately $5,000, which was approved later in the meeting to be paid to the Park and Recreation department for repairs, the $400,000 project is complete. Surplus funds from some cost cutting measures were spent on tables and chairs for outdoor dining, and a children’s’ safety barrier around the outdoor curb/eating area.

Rescheduled the next City Council meeting from March 28 to March 21 (next week). The change is to accommodate Spring Break. 

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period Feb. 22-March 11, 2016 were approved to be paid.