City Council, Feb. 8, 2016

Homewood City Council

It was a 28-minute meeting start to finish, whose most interesting votes surrounded the street improvement project in West Homewood.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, presiding for the absent Bruce Limbaugh, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, and Richard Laws. Also present was Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Britt Thames, Peter Wright, and Bruce Limbaugh.

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

Audience attendance: 14

CONSENT AGENDA

Dropped two items on recommendations from committees, as follows: 1) Consideration of how to address coyotes in city limits, by the Public Safety Committee; and 2) Consideration of change orders to the West Homewood street improvement project, by the Planning and Development Committee.

OLD BUSINESS

Carried over for the third straight meeting a request for a monument sign at the redeveloped Mazer property: The developers aren’t ready with the sign at 800, 804 and 808 Green Springs Highway, for which they are asking special exemptions to the sign ordinance. The Special Issues Committee recommended the approval. 

The little green building is the subject of a sign variance request for a soon-to-be opened restaurant.

The little green building is the subject of a sign variance request for a soon-to-be opened restaurant. [Google]

Approved a sign variance for a restaurant on 29th Avenue South: The request from the planned “Real and Rosemary” restaurant is for an additional blade sign  that will project from the entrance at 1922 29th Avenue South. The restaurant wanted more visibility. Mr. Laws, alluding to the to-do over a Cracker Barrel cafe sign that would be painted on the side of another downtown building, asked if there would also be murals painted on this building, and the answer was yes. The restaurant will feature salads and sandwiches and cater to families.

Set a Feb. 22 public hearing for a sign ordinance on Old Montgomery Highway:  The address is 4100 Old Montgomery Highway, or Southern Progress property, now owned by Samford University.

Approved a street light at or near 209 Clermont Drive. Street lights are paid out of the 7-cent gas tax fund. 

Approved a 4-way stop at the intersection of 28th Avenue South and Montessori Way/Woodfern Court: The stop-sign was passed without discussion.

The commercial building, Patriot Park and a playground before a $400,000 project to fix the streets, stripe parking places and add sidewalk enhancements around the building. The city is using savings from the project to add tables and chairs and safety rails. An Italian ice shop and sandwich shop have recently opened in the commercial building.

The commercial building, Patriot Park and a playground before a $400,000 project to fix the West Homewood intersection and add sidewalk enhancements around the building. The city is using savings from the project to add tables and chairs and safety rails to the building and to replace bushes, trees and irrigation equipment removed during construction. [Google]

Approved spending up to $8,000 for seating and tables at the West Homewood street improvement project: The original decision to allocate $3,000 for seating and safety fencing, was amended when the price of fencing alone consumed most of the allocation. Tonight the council allocated another $8,000 from budgeted money not spent on the project, which is nearing completion. Remaining saved funds are being considered to replace trees, shrubs and irrigation removed when the sidewalks were redone. See Committee Referral Agenda, below.


COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider 1) Approving a fiber optic franchise agreement for Windstream KDL, LLC, to serve Samford University; 2) Receiving audit results for FY2015 from Carr Riggs and Ingram, CPA ; 3) Further fiscal year-end transfers per fiscal policy; and 4) Spending money budgeted but not spent on street improvements in West Homewood to replace bushes, trees and irrigation removed during construction.

To Public Safety – To consider 1) Paying for a street light on St. Charles Street between Stuart and Highland.

To Special Issues – To consider 1) Allowing a front yard fence at 1732 Wellington Road.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Set a Feb. 22 public hearing for a front yard fence variance request on Wellington: See above.

Approved a restaurant retail liquor application for Taco Mama: The restaurant could open in the next two weeks at 1014 and 1016 Oxmoor Road, the former Hart & Soul cafe.

Adopted a resolution accepting the Jefferson County EMA Hazard Mitigation Plan: The plan itself wasn’t discussed.

Voted to accept a Public Safety Foundation Grant for the fire department from the Firehouse Subs Corporation: The amount is $34,221 and will be used to purchase equipment planned to be purchased in the next budget year.

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period Jan. 25-Feb. 5, 2016 were approved to be paid.

Park Board, Feb. 4, 2016

A board member’s enthusiastic pitch for a pop-up skate rink comes with a pretty hefty price tag. The board listened and carried over discussion on the attraction promoted by Ms. Smalley, as they did a request by the private company Urban Cookhouse to host its 11 summertime Farmers’ Markets on Central Park property. Meanwhile, a final, final, final, final …. draft of a shared parking agreement is approved to be shown to Exceptional Foundation. But will they sign it?

Finally, after approving a routine list of nonprofit event requests, the board decided to charge a higher fee for private businesses than the $500 charged to non-profits.

Members present: All- Chris Meeks, chair, Jody Brant, Gary Isenhower, Becky Morton, Michael Murray, Paula Smalley, Keith Stansell, Marjorie Trimm, and Tyler Vail.

Members absent: None.

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

Audience attendance: 1

Approved minutes of the Jan. 7, 2016, meeting.

PICKIN

The Arts Council plans to combine the Pickin’ in the Park and the Handmade festivals into one event, at Central Park.

Approved the following requests:

    • The Exceptional Foundation‘s March event calendar included three events that would challenge parking–the March 1 State Primary election with polls open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; The Kiwanis Club‘s Pancake Breakfast fundraiser for EF, Sat., March 19, 6 a.m.-noon; and a dance March 20, 6-9 p.m., drop-off only.
    • Overflow parking at the Senior Center for Trinity Church’s new campus at the former Oakmont UMC on Oak Grove Road, opening Sunday, Feb. 14 and thereafter.
    • Ninja Fun Run by North Star Martial Arts, at Central Park, for Sat., Oct. 22, 5 a.m.-noon.
    • Creative Montessori School‘s 5K and Fun Run at Central Park, Sat., Oct. 8, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
    • Memory Walk/Fundraiser for the Community Grief Support nonprofit in Homewood, at Central Park, Sat., June 18, 1-8:30 p.m.
    • 5K run by InVision Opthalmology at Central Park, Sat., Sept. 25, 6 a.m.-12:30 p.m. InVision, a private company, will pay a $750 fee to use the park. On Ms. Morton’s suggestion, it was decided to set fees for private companies on a case-by-case basis.
    • The Homewood Arts Council jazz concert/spring concert at Central Park, Sun., April 10, 3-10 p.m. This will include the middle school’s 8th grade jazz band, food trucks, etc. Also from the Arts Council was a request for a music festival at Central that combines the Pickin’ in the Park event and the Handmade Art Fair, usually held at Patriot Park, Sun., Oct. 16, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

Postponed a request to hold a recurring Saturday morning farmer’s market, sponsored by Urban Cookhouse, a private restaurant in Homewood: The request was to reserve the park for 11 Saturdays from June 4- Aug. 13, from 8 a.m.-noon. Applicant Andrea Snyder, owner of the restaurant, said the proposal was open to other days and times, and would pay all costs. Parking was an issue for festival-goers as well as vendors. The matter will be discussed in the Facilities Committee meeting and brought back to the full board. 

OLD BUSINESS

EFWINDOW

View from the new addition at the Exceptional Foundation.

The latest version of the perennially-unsigned parking agreement with the Exceptional Foundation was distributed tonight, noting 8 points of agreement the board is seeking from the Foundation. The latest draft establishes a “Joint Resolution Committee” of 7 members, with two each coming from the Foundation, the Park Board and the City Council, and the mayor to settle any ties. Either party could call a hearing. With no further discussion, the park board approved the agreement as presented.

 

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

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

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

Discussed, and continued a pop-up Ice Rink for the holiday season, Dec. 4-Jan. 4: Ms. Smalley’s idea last month for arranging a temporary skate rink at Central Park was discussed in more detail. Ms. Smalley investigated a company in Texas that has operated a rink for Tuscaloosa’s park system over the past five years, and cited a $90,000-$100,000 installation cost, not counting a $40,000 payroll, of which the majority would be repaid through user fees–at perhaps $10 per visit. She cited an 85% break-even rate from the Tuscaloosa rink over the four years preceding the 2015 season, which was unseasonably warm. She mentioned that company sponsors could be recruited to offset costs. 

Board members’ concern focused on the cost, which will be investigated further. Ms. Smalley’s enthusiasm wasn’t dampened by the costs, and she asked the board to do the same.

Adjournment: The Board was adjourned at 7 p.m.

 

Board of Zoning Adjustments, Feb. 4, 2016

Will the Waffle House be the first West Homewood development in the new "Village" district? If so, that sign will have to go.

The Waffle House postponed a case after learning its rebuilding plans mean the end to its iconic, but offending, sign on Oxmoor Road. The company may alter its plans to keep the sign, or come back to the BZA in March with a variance for the sign as well.

The BZA’s tough questioning to Verizon and Waffle House sent both companies back to the drawing board tonight. But homeowners on Westover left with a 5-foot variance to build a carport.

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

Members absent: None

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

Audience attendance: 10

*Note on procedure: By state law, zoning variances granted by the 5-member board require a super majority of 4 members voting in the affirmative. To keep business moving in case of absences, the law also allows two substitutes, or “supernumeraries” (S) to sit in and vote if needed. There is one suchvacancy remaining. Variances expire in 180 days if a building permit isn’t obtained.

OLD BUSINESS

Carried over once again, to March, cases at 141 East Hawthorne Road, to divide a lot, and 305 Woodland Drive, for a second floor addition.
NEW BUSINESS
BZA member Ty Cole said he was "shocked" not to see neighbors protesting Verizon's request to mount cell panels on top of the parking deck. The case was continued to March after hard questioning from the board--a variance to Verizon means more carriers would follow.

BZA member Ty Cole said he was “shocked” not to see neighbors protesting Verizon’s request to mount cell panels on top of the parking deck. The case was continued to March after hard questioning from the board–a variance to Verizon means more carriers would follow.

Carried over a request for a 15-foot height variance for a series of Verizon cell phone antenna panels:  Surprisingly, there was no resident objection in writing or in person to Verizon’s request for a variance allowing the company to install solar cell panels atop Dawson’s parking deck, which is already 7.5 feet higher than regulations, due to an earlier variance. Dawson itself is in support of the paid lease at 1019 Oxmoor Road, which is already written pending approval of the variance. But that didn’t come tonight. The objections raised were entirely from the BZA, which in dialog revealed that Verizon wanted better 4G LTE coverage in a very small, specific area of Oxmoor Road, on which the Dawson deck is the highest structure. The Verizon rep., pitching an argument that the building was a better choice than a stand-alone tower, didn’t win any adherents. Questions from the board showed that cell tower permissions are much harder for a utility company to obtain and more expensive to build, that once Verizon won any variances the door would be opened to competing cell companies wanting to install equipment in the same area; that electric power and fiber optic apparatus planned on the building would be exposed and unattractive; and that the representative had no data on what other sites were considered, how many customers would benefit, or by how much. After lengthy discussion, Verizon chose to continue the case to March and return with the requested information.

Rear or 323 Westover from a Google shot. The homeowners plan a rear carport on the alley.

Rear of 323 Westover from a Google shot. The homeowners plan a rear carport on the alley.

Approved a setback variance to allow a carport to be sited near an alley behind 323 Westover Drive: The homeowners said they wanted to locate a carport closer than allowed to the property line in order to access it from an alley and leave a bigger back yard. The matter was approved with a proffer not to enclose the carport and advice that the couple make sure a car could make the turn into a carport in such confined space.

One of West Homewood's oldest surviving businesses may be the first to redevelop under the new West Homewood District code. It's retro glass encased diner already meets the code's glass/glazing requirements.

One of West Homewood’s oldest surviving businesses (1972) could be the first to redevelop under the new West Homewood District “village” code. Or not.

Continued a case for a new Waffle House building after the applicant learned it could not include the existing sign: After months of postponing this case and long discussions with the city’s zoning administrator/engineer, Waffle House apparently didn’t understand zoning regulations prohibited retaining the tall, brightly lit (but iconic) 1972 sign at 185 Oxmoor Road. The restaurant chain had asked instead for variances to allow it to sit 6.5 feet further from the street than regulations allow due to a “chamfered” corner lot line, and to allow the ceiling to be dropped for better cleaning–West Homewood village zoning requires a higher ceiling, ground floors and front entrances. The lowered ceiling, if granted, would also require exemptions from door height. The building’s signature narrow profile would also require a variance from the amount of glass required by the new code. Those requests had just been made when a resident spoke in favor of the development, but against the sign, and a second resident spoke against allowing the ceiling variance.

In discussion it was explained that the new zoning regulations included specific sign prototypes to retain a uniform, “village” look. The sign is currently grandfathered, but compliance would be triggered if remodeled at 50% or more, and Waffle House had planned a total rebuild. With this new information, the representative said the company wanted to keep the sign, and perhaps would consider a less substantial remodel. It was his opinion that the business’s success in the neighborhood was due to the sign’s visibility from the Interstate exit.

The meeting was adjourned.

Planning Commission, Feb. 2, 2016

A tap-room venture eyeing property near Dawson.

A tap-room venture is eyeing property near Dawson.

The most interesting discussion tonight came in the pre-commission meeting and touched on a possible brewery/tap-room business being considered for the Edgewood Repair Shop building next to Dawson’s parking deck. (Also being considered for Dawson’s parking deck are a series of 8 foot cell phone antenna panels, but that’s for another meeting.) Unfortunately for this venture, the Edgewood Urban Renewal District–which stretches along Oxmoor Road from the parking deck to Edgewood Presbyterian Church–prohibits any bar or tavern, defined as businesses taking more than 50% of revenue from alcohol sales. Ms. McGrath said the new West Homewood (Village) District is less restrictive, and asked if the Edgewood zoning might be changed to allow a tap room. There is no case set yet.

Will the Waffle House be the first West Homewood development in the new "Village" district? If so, that sign will have to go.

Will the Waffle House be the first West Homewood development in the new “Village” district? If so, that sign will have to go.

Also of note was an upcoming meeting of the BZA this Thursday in which the Waffle House on Oxmoor Road is asking for variances, with plans to remodel the building in compliance with the new West Homewood village zoning. The restaurant chain objected to the imposition of the new zoning in 2014 and has delayed its BZA presentation for several months. Important to some in the area, if the Waffle House rebuilds in the village zone, it will have to take down its tall, but brightly lit, yellow sign.

There was one case tonight, with a scheduled rezoning presentation for the Lakeshore Foundation carried over by the applicant to the March meeting, where the zoning staff said 4-5 complex rezoning issues will be taken up.

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

Members absent: Jeffrey Foster and Mark Woods.

Vacancy: Jamie Ponseti resigned following the November meeting. Mr. Ponseti was the “mayor’s designee” on the commission, and the mayor can take the seat himself or find a replacement.

Staff attendance: Donna Bridges, commission secretary, Greg Cobb, city Building, Engineering and Zoning Department, and Vanessa McGrath, city engineer/zoning.

Audience attendance: 3

818Columbiana

Boundaries of a 6-unit townhouse development between Columbiana Road and Green Springs.

Approved a final plat, with some hesitation, for the townhouse development planned on Columbiana Road. The proposed development, now called Edgewood Place, passed the second-to-last hurdle before construction can begin on the 6-unit townhouse development and street in what is a small wooded area on Columbiana Road. The developers have been before the council and Planning Commission for a rezone,  the BZA for variances and back to the commission for waivers to the subdivision rules, including a narrower road with no turnaround, reduced lot areas, and restricted size of the right-of-way. Developers had also previously agreed to install special curb ramps to allow a fire engine to turn into the street without breaking or eroding the corner. In describing the project, staff said the developers ultimately want the road to become public.

The townhouses would look something like this, according to the architect.

The Edgewood Place townhouses would look something like this, according to the architect.

Before voting to approve, Mr. Hawkins asked why a drainage pipe didn’t connect to a concrete ditch, or flume, that ran close by and emptied into the creek. The engineer said the concrete ditch was on private property just over the property line, was not within an easement, and was protected by a low retaining wall that would have to be cut into. His plan was to let water drain into a depression that ran parallel to the ditch. The estimated amount of drainage from the property was 1 cfs or 1 cubic foot of water per second, he said. Mr. Hawkins asked the developers nevertheless to investigate tying into the existing drainage or risk problems later, such as eroding the ground support around the wall. In either case, the plan was approved with no further change.

Minority Report 2015-Dissents of record

Longstanding Homewood merchants opposed to the rezoning of the Linden Avenue property hear the 6-3 vote in favor. Expecting a loss, some have talked of appealing the decision to circuit court.

Longstanding Homewood merchants opposed to the rezoning of the Linden Avenue property heard the 6-3 vote in favor. Expecting a loss, some had talked of appealing the decision to circuit court.

The Homewood City Council has 11 members who met 30 times in the past year and ruled on an average of 17 items in each meeting–for about 500 votes total in 2015, conservatively speaking. So it may come as a surprise that only 12 of those votes were contested in any way, with only two of those being remotely close: 1) The vote to partially fund public transit for three months instead of six, split 6-4, with Moody and Limbaugh absent; and 2) With Hawkins and McClusky absent, a 6-3 vote to rezone a Linden Avenue building for a church, in the face of overwhelming merchant opposition.

On April 27, four absences combined with two dissenting votes to allow a minority of the council to pass a tax incentive of “historic” proportions, as one council member put it, to move ServisFirst’s banking headquarters to Homewood from Mt. Brook. Laws and Wright voted no in the absence of Hallman, Moody, McClusky or Smith.

In the "Elephant in the Room" category, councilman Peter Wright's final remarks tonight thanked the community for working together to relocate an electronic billboard at the Circle K property on Lakeshore and Columbiana Road.

Councilman Peter Wright thanked the community for working together to remove an electronic billboard erected on the Lakeshore Drive Circle K property in Jefferson County. But the council and mayor worked in  secrecy to relocate the sign to West Homewood.

Finally, it was a unanimous but undercover vote on March 23 that approved the relocation an offending electronic billboard from Lakeshore Drive to a site behind K-Mart in West Homewood. The billboard’s installation in unincorporated Jefferson County near Lakeshore houses sparked such public fury that the city privately negotiated its relocation to a site deemed less offensive–in West Homewood. Without comment, and following closed-door sessions, council members tacitly approved the new site March 23 through a vote to amend the sign ordinance (Moody absent).

Below are the contested votes in 2015, by member, of the City Council, Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Adjustments and Park Board. Here’s the 2014 report.

City Council

COUNCILMINORITY2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hallman—voted against:

  • Allowing a vote on zoning ordinance changes on the first reading;
  • Funding 21 decorative street signs on Oak Grove Road;
  • Allowing a vote on rezoning a Linden Avenue building for a church on first reading;
  • (With Wright and Limbaugh) Rezoning the Linden Avenue building for a church;
  • Funding the $55,000 replacement of a wrecked police car in the current budget year;
  • Adopting the FY2016 General Fund budget because of disagreement with how employee increases were paid;
  • Funding the $25,000 price tag on the new city website;
  • Pursuing two federal grants for 18th Street pedestrian and parking improvements (north of Central Avenue) that required a 20% city contribution. Two separate votes at same meeting.

*Michael Hallman’s nine votes in minority positions don’t include 5 abstentions to avoid conflict-of-interest voting, mainly for measures involving projects as he works for one of the engineering contractors. Abstentions rarely affect a vote’s outcome but can disclose important relationships.

Britt Thames – Mr. Thames always voted with the majority.

Fred Hawkins — voted in the minority:

  • (With McClusky, Smith and Jones) Against a 3-month extension of MAX transit funding, preferring to extend it for 6 months;
  • (With Wright) To allow a parking pad in the right-of-way for a Roxbury residence. The majority voted no.

Vance Moody — voted against:

  • (With Smith) Dropping an effort to seek funds for more police cars including immediate replacement of a wrecked cruiser.
  • (With McClusky) Abolishing the Community Design Review Committee, a panel set up to govern special zoning in the new West Homewood District. The CDRC was abolished and the district placed under control of already-existing Planning Commission and BZA.

Patrick McClusky — voted against:

  • (With Moody) Abolishing the Community Design Review Committee, a panel set up to govern special zoning in the new West Homewood District. The CDRC was abolished and the district placed under control of the city’s Planning Commission and BZA;
  • (With Hawkins, Smith and Jones) Passage of a 3-month extension of MAX transit funding, preferring to extend it for 6 months.

Walter Jones —voted against:

  • (With Hawkins, McClusky, and Smith) Passage of a 3-month extension of MAX transit funding, preferring to extend it for 6 months.

Barry Smith — voted against:

  • (With Moody) Dropping an effort to seek funds for more police cars, including immediate replacement of a wrecked cruiser.
  • (With Jones, McClusky and Hawkins) Passage of a 3-month extension of MAX transit funding, preferring to extend it for 6 months.

Alex Wyatt — The newly appointed replacement for Heather Reid has so far always voted with the majority.

Richard Laws — voted against:

  • (With Wright) Offering a substantial tax abatement for ServisFirst to build a new headquarters in Homewood. Given the unusual number of absences, this measure was passed by a MINORITY of the whole 11-member council, with Hallman, Moody, McClusky and Smith not present.

Peter Wright — voted in the minority:

  • (With Hawkins) To allow a parking pad in the right-of-way for a Roxbury residence. The majority voted no.
  • (With Hallman and Limbaugh) Against rezoning a Linden Avenue building for a church; Wright said he wasn’t opposed to the rezoning but wanted the vote delayed to resolve merchant opposition.
  • (With Laws) Against offering a substantial tax abatement for ServisFirst to build a new headquarters building in Homewood. Given the unusual number of absences, this measure was passed by a MINORITY of the whole 11-member council. Hallman, Moody, McClusky, and Smith not present.

Bruce Limbaugh — voted against:

  • (With Hallman and Wright) Rezoning a Linden Avenue building for a church.

Planning Commission

Planningcommissionminority2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning Commission members serve 6-year terms by mayoral appointment and do not represent any ward. The commission governs development plans and the city’s Master Plan. For rezoning cases, its votes are influential but advisory only to the City Council, which has the final say.

Fred Azbik – voted in the minority:

  • (With Foster) Against approving an amended Creative Montessori School plan to expand parking.
  • (With Foster) Against recommending the rezoning a building on Linden Avenue for a church.
  • To allow All Saints to rezone adjacent property for a parking lot. The commission voted not to recommend and the church didn’t appeal to the council.

*Jeffrey Foster – voted in the minority:

  • (With Azbik) Against approving an amended Creative Montessori School plan to expand parking.
  • (With Azbik) Against recommending the rezoning of a building on Linden Avenue for a church.

* Foster also has a seat as an alternate, or supernumerary, on the BZA.

James Ponseti – voted in the minority:

  • (With Woods) Not to recommend rezoning a building on Bagby Drive for a storage facility.

Mark Woods – voted in the minority:

  • (With Ponseti) Not to recommend rezoning a building on Bagby Drive for a storage facility.

Board of Zoning Adjustments

BZAMINORITY2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Board of Zoning Adjustments hears appeals from zoning administration decisions and decides property owner requests for minor exceptions to zoning regulations, such as setbacks, lot area, etc. BZA rules require a majority of at least 4 votes to grant a variance, meaning the minority often prevails in denying requests.

Lauren Gwaltney – voted in the minority:

  • Against variances at 111 Broadway, 307 Broadway and 407 Clermont (with Cole), all in the same meeting.

Beverly LeBoeuf – voted in the minority:

  • Against allowing Samford to have an above-ground fuel storage tank;
  • To allow work to continue on a deck at 209 Clermont that was in violation;
  • To allow a variance at 111 Crest;
  • Against variances at 513 Devon, and the Broadway “triangle” houses.

Ty Cole – voted in the minority:

  • To grant variances at 1007 Melrose Place;
  • Against variances at 407 Clermont; 111 Crest Drive, and 410 St. Charles Street;
  • Abstained from one vote due to employment conflict of interest with applicant ServisFirst bank.

Brian Jarmon – voted in the minority:

  • To grant variances at 1007 Melrose Place;
  • To allow work to continue on a covered deck at 209 Clermont that was in violation;
  • To allow a variance at 111 Crest;
  • Against a variance for dividing a lot at 909 Irving Road;

Hope Cannon:

  • Abstained from one vote due to possible conflict of interest with applicant Samford University.

*Jeffrey Foster – voted in the minority:

  • Twice against variances at 3120 Overton;
  • Against variances at 1416 Ardsley Place, 403 Edgewood Blvd., and 1211 Irving Road.

*Foster also serves on the Planning Commission and is a “supernumerary,” member of the BZA, voting only when there are absences of the regular board.

Park board

There’s no need to chart the harmonious park board, whose Ward 1 rep Becky Morton cast the only dissenting vote last year. Calling it an abstention, Morton objected to punitive language in a parking contract the board was presenting to the the Exceptional Foundation. That was on May 7. The board’s conflicts with the Foundation are still ongoing.

 

City Council, Jan. 25, 2016

HOLLERANDDASH

These graphics, which made the rounds on social media, show ideas for displaying the trademark for Cracker Barrel’s new “Holler and Dash” country cooking restaurant opening soon in the space next to SoHo Retro. Opinion was mixed. The diagonal stripes have been removed and the sign reduced from 8 feet to about 3 feet on the exposed side of the building.

The council moved a half million dollars into a Capital Projects Fund to shore up future capital projects, expanded outsourced probation services, and griped about paying the transit authority bill. But by far the most interest was paid to an outlandish wall sign proposed for a new “Holler and Dash” country concept restaurant by Cracker Barrel, on a prominent downtown corner.

Members present: Britt Thames, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Richard Laws, and Peter Wright, presiding for council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Vance Moody

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

Audience attendance: 19

Appointed two members to the BZA: Ward 2 member Beverly LeBoeuf was reappointed with no objection to the Board of Zoning Adjustments and Stuart Roberts of Ward 3 was selected from two applications for the supernumerary spot on that board. Supernumeraries vote in case of absences by regular members.

Approved minutes of the Dec. 7, 2015, meeting.

Voted to drop three items: The consent agenda dropped consideration of 1) a telecommunications franchise called Southern Light; 2) an Alabama Power Co. economic development plan; and 3) A city communications plan. 

OLD BUSINESS AGENDA

Carried over a request by Dunn Real Estate for special exceptions on a monument sign at the Ollie’s/Pep Boys center: The matter was carried over a second time tonight because the applicant isn’t ready.

Rejected bids opened in December for the city’s landfill contract, will negotiate a renewal with Adamsville facility: The city currently has a three-year contract with the Adamsville Landfill Authority, the entity that governs the state’s largest landfill, owned by Big Sky, (which bought the former Green Mountain landfill out of bankruptcy late last year). Mayor McBrayer said the city stands to save $24,000 per year on household garbage tipping fees by staying with Big Sky over Santek, which was the low bidder on Dec. 7. For city construction and demolition debris, which is handled separately, the city stands to save $4,400 per year by renewing the current lease. 

HOLLERANDDASHWith conditions, granted controversial exceptions to the sign ordinance for a Cracker Barrel concept restaurant downtown: The company is opening a Holler and Dash country-style restaurant at 2801 18th Street and requested additional signs, one protruding from the front and a painted mural on the 28th Street exposed side of the building that would feature an 8-foot tall rooster ridden by a cowboy against a background of diagonal stripes. That design was revised substantially in committee to lose the stripes and reduce the size, and cowboy–although details were scarce at the public hearing and no graphics were distributed. At the hearing, a Watts Realty spokesman and a neighboring tenant spoke in favor of the mural, while three other speakers were opposed. One speaker specifically asked what the sign regulations allowed and what exemptions were being granted, and would that open the door for other businesses to follow–particularly with regard to outdoor murals/signs. Mr. Thames said regulations didn’t ban painting signs on buildings; the issue was simply the restaurant’s request for the additional signage. The council then voted to approve the additional front sign and conditionally to approve the mural pending final review by the council before the next meeting, apparently via email. 

Voting no: Michael Hallman

Approved an updated service contract with Freedom Probation Services: The company has the contract to handle probation services for the city’s court system and this vote accepts additional, but unspecified coverage, presumably at higher cost. The previous probation contractor was dropped in the midst of a national scandal.

Amended the budget to lease office equipment for the finance department: The vote allows the mayor to sign the lease for a mailer.

Approved up to $2,000 for an ad in the city’s Chamber of Commerce magazine.

Voting no:  Michael Hallman; Abstaining: Barry Smith

Set a Feb. 8 public hearing for a commercial sign variance at 1922 29th Avenue South.

Approved a front yard fence variance at 1527 Roseland Drive: The proposed wrought iron fence, which will cross the city right-of-way, is a safety barrier because of an 8-foot drop to the creek bottom. 

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider 1) Amending the current FY2016 General and Special Funds budgets; 2) The lease on a mailer for the Finance Department; 3) The cost of an ad for the Chamber of Commerce magazine; and 4) Change orders for the West Homewood street improvements by Patriot Park.

To Public Safety – To consider 1) Installing a street light near 209 Clermont Drive; and 2) Reviewing the noise ordinance; 3) A 4-way stop sign on 28th Street and Montessori Way; and 4) Traffic signs.

To Special Issues – To consider a 1) A sign ordinance variance at 4100 Old Montgomery Highway; and 2) A sign ordinance variance at #1 Lakeshore Drive; and 3) A sign ordinance at 1922 29th Avenue South (public hearing Feb. 8).

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

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 council’s 50% cut to fixed route transit in 2014-15 would have cut corresponding services for the elderly and disabled, had the authority followed through on the cuts. Incremental funding extensions prevented service disruption while talks dragged on; BJCTA’s nationally regarded transit chief ultimately was forced out of her job by the transit board.

Approved two of four quarterly payments for public transit: Although the amount has been budgeted, the bill for the whole year was presented and the city had asked to be billed quarterly. In discussion Mr. Wright asked if future payments could be withheld if ridership statistics weren’t supplied as requested. Mr. Kendrick said the contract doesn’t include any such conditions. Mr. Thames–alluding to last year’s slashing of the transit budget followed by a months-long feud with the Birmingham Jefferson Transit Authority and noted CEO, now gone–said the council should remember that the only way the transit authority would listen is if its money was withheld. Last year’s funds were ultimately reinstated with no disruption or change in service.

Transferred additional money from last year’s General Fund surplus to the Capital Projects Fund: City Finance Director Melody Salter asked for up to $500,000 from last year’s budget surplus to be moved into Capital Projects Fund to “shore up” finances for upcoming projects.

Paid the bills: Invoices were paid for the period Jan. 11-Jan. 22, 2016.

City Council meeting, Jan. 11, 2016

Tonight’s meeting ran smoothly under pressure of a 7 p.m. kickoff for the Alabama vs. Clemson national championship game. Of note tonight was the continued postponement of a landfill contract award despite a Dec. 7 bid opening that revealed Santek as low bidder. In other news, the city has reconfigured the seats on three independent development boards so that the same members can sit on all three, improving communication, according to one councilman. Another $40,000 is added to an offer on the Fox TV News property for Greenway trail extension, Phase II.

Members present: Britt Thames, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Richard Laws, and Peter Wright, presiding for council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Walter Jones and Bruce Limbaugh.

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

Audience attendance: 15

Approved minutes of the Nov. 16, 2015, meeting.

OLD BUSINESS AGENDA

Shrimp Basket owners won a variance to display extra signs, to advertise a menu that offers more than shrimp, a representative said.

Shrimp Basket owners won a variance to display extra signs, as illustrated, to advertise a menu that offers more than shrimp.

Granted sign variances to allow menu items to be printed on a new restaurant awning. The Shrimp Basket, a new chain restaurant at 801 Green Springs Highway appears to be doing well, so council members in committee last week were reluctant to grant more signage. Tonight, however, they passed variances allowing the greatest departure from regulations.

Voting no:  Michael Hallman

Carried over a case to have larger monument sign than regulations allow at businesses on Green Springs.  No one was present to represent the businesses at that redeveloping Mazer site. The matter and the public hearing were continued to the next meeting.

BIGSKY

Big Sky Environmental, of California, purchased the former Green Mountain landfill out of bankruptcy in September.

Postponed awarding a landfill contract from a Dec. 7 bid opening. The city currently hauls its household garbage to the former Green Mountain landfill in Adamsville, the largest landfill in the state and one recently purchased out of bankruptcy by Big Sky Environmental of California. Nevertheless, a Cleveland Tennessee-based waste firm, Santek, appeared to be the low-bidder at the Dec. 7 bid opening, as reported by the Homewood Star, and its representative was present tonight to ask why there is a delay in awarding the contract. Santek has managed Jefferson County’s landfill contract since 2006, according to the company’s website, and in December its subsidiary,  Waste Services of Alabama, won garbage collection contracts for the cities of Hoover and Gardendale–Homewood operates its own household garbage and trash collection.

Santek was the low-bidder on Dec. 7, but the city is still looking for the best deal, according to the mayor.

Santek was the low-bidder on Dec. 7, but the city is still looking for the best deal, according to the mayor.

Tonight, the mayor told a Santek representative that the city was still comparing numbers and looking at other bids before awarding a landfill contract. Following the meeting, the mayor said he wanted the best deal for the city. The award will be made most likely by the next meeting.

Authorized a request to increase the number of seats on two Homewood  Redevelopment boards: It’s complicated. Tonight’s vote increased to 13 the number of members on two independent city development boards — The Downtown Redevelopment Authority and the Industrial Development Board. The purpose is to make these two entities–and a third not identified — coordinate and communicate better by seating the identical membership on all three. Because the three entities have different responsibilities, members, and meeting times, it was decided to increase each to 13 seats and retain the same members on all the panels.

Set a Jan. 25, 2016, public hearing for variances to the sign regulations downtown: The hearing is for a proposed corner restaurant facing 18th Street to have a large wall mural and other sign variances. The mural prospect seemed dim when heard in committee last week.

Dropped a request from a cell phone provider to install up to 9 cell panel antennae on top of the Dawson parking deck. No details.

Approved a $6,300 solar-powered speed limit device, if money found, to slow traffic on West Oxmoor Road near Huntington Glen: This issue was debated in the Public Safety committee, where some members didn’t support the expense before a full traffic study and implementing other fixes at the dangerous hill where a truck ran off the road into a house, killing the driver. The vote tonight approves the expenditure, but sends the item to the Finance Committee to decide if the expense is feasible.

Approved with one dissent support for a state liquor license application for a new business on 29th Avenue: The business is Real and Rosemary, a casual restaurant planned at 1922 – 29th Avenue South.

Voting no: Michael Hallman

The Fox News TV property, (shaded in lavender to the left) lies perpendicular to the trail extension route and is a key acquisition for continuing the trail across Lakeshore Parkway to West Homewood Park, as planned.

The Fox News TV property, (shaded in lavender to the left) lies perpendicular to the trail extension route and is a key acquisition for continuing the trail across Lakeshore Parkway to West Homewood Park, as planned.

Raised by $40,000 the offer on acquiring the Fox News property for Phase II of the Greenway trail behind Wildwood: As discussed in committee last week, the city is bound by federal finance regulations to offer the appraised value of property it will use for the Greenway trail right-of-way, meaning it must raise its earlier offer of $240,000 to $280,000. A city councilman had erroneously thought the property wasn’t necessary for the Phase II expansion planned to carry the trail behind Wildwood along Shades Creek, and money was redirected to other projects last fall. The mistake was discovered, then the offering price was raised to match the appraisal.

Approved unspecified amendments to the current budget. 

Approved, in part, the purchase of seating and safety barriers at businesses on Oak Grove next to Patriot Park. A committee had earlier agreed to recommend spending up to $3,000 for safety barriers around an Italian ice business on Oak Grove Road and for outside dining tables and chairs for a new deli in the same building. Tonight Mr. Moody said the safety fencing  alone would cost $2,000 and tables and chairs cost another $5,000 or more. The $3,000 expenditure was approved, and the item sent back to the Finance Committee to look for the additional funds. The extra expense is conditioned on realizing enough savings from a $400,000 construction project that included asphalt paviang, a cross walk and sidewalks by Patriot Park.

Approved a Cost of Living raise for a city magistrate, due to an oversight in the current budget: This item is to correct an unspecified oversight in the budget, and approves a $1,1998 COLA for a magistrate.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider 1) An updated contract with Freedom Probation Services; 2) Paying for a decorate street sign at East Hawthorne and Oxmoor Road;  3) Amending the current budget to cover an office equipment lease; and 4) Purchasing an ad in the city’s Chamber of Commerce magazine.

To Special Issues – To consider 1) A Fence ordinance variance on Roseland; 2) A review of rules and requirements governing the city’s communications; and 3) A sign variance for a downtown business.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Set a Jan. 25 public hearing for a front yard fence at 1527 Roseland Drive. See above.

Approved purchasing a subscription to a software that predicts likely crime locations: The predictive software, called PredPol uses crime data to produce maps with detailed grids as small as 500-feet to illustrate where police should be more efficiently deployed. The cost, at just over $11,000, is reduced by a 20% discount, according to the contract. 

A screen shot from the opening page of the city's revamped website.

A screen shot from the opening page of the city’s revamped website.

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period Dec. 21, 2015-Jan. 8, 2016 were approved to be paid. One of the invoices paid for the construction of a new city website, screenshot above.