Planning Commission, July 12, 2016

The lot at 818 Columbiana Road has been cleared for a 6-unit condo development in the works since last fall. Four more units are being added in a separate, but adjacent, parcel owned by one of the Edgewood Place developers.

The lot at 818 Columbiana Road has been cleared for a 4-unit condo development in the works since last fall. Four more units are being added in a separate, but adjacent, parcel owned by one of the Edgewood Place developers.

Not in Edgewood at all, Twin Properties’ 6-unit Edgewood Place condo development off Columbiana Road will be increased by four units, to be developed by the Edgewood Place development partner, Eric Rogers. For those who haven’t followed, the development group has been before the city four times to prepare for the first 6 units: 1) To the Planning Commission on Oct. 6, which recommended rezoning from mixed use to residential; 2) Before the BZA on Nov. 5 to receive three variances allowing shallower setbacks and lot areas; 3) To the City Council Nov. 9 for approval of the rezoning, which was granted with concerns expressed about drainage; and 4) Again on Dec. 1 before the Planning Commission, which substantially waived subdivision requirements to allow decreased road width, sidewalk width, and a smaller turn-around that will require a fire engine to back out of the street. The return engagement plans to add more units to the final development.

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

Members absent: None.

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 Goodman, a city planner, Vanessa McGrath and Greg Cobb, city Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience attendance:  8

NEW BUSINESS

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

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

Voted to recommend rezoning property on Columbiana Road to expand a condominium project:  The city council must approve the rezoning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

124 Oxmoor Road

124 Oxmoor Road

Approved a resurvey at 124 Oxmoor Road for an additional house: Owners representing the Betty Smith Trust were granted a resurvey that divides a corner parcel into two lots along a line that preserves a house existing on the property but creates a smaller-than-allowed lot for a second house, which would be built facing Edgeknoll Lane. The BZA had previously granted a 1,458.7 square foot variance for lot size and a narrower lot width if the commission allowed the redrawing, which it did tonight for applicant Willow Homes. 

 

 

City Council, July 11, 2016

Homewood City CouncilA bid opening is set in September for a multi-million street paving and preservation project, and a bevy of sign variance requests takes up much of tonight’s business.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames (arriving mid-meeting), Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, and Alex Wyatt. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Absent: Britt Thames (arriving mid-meeting) Richard Laws, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh.

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

Audience attendance: 17

Approved the June 27, 2016, meeting minutes.

Reappointed Jonathan Wayne Thompson to the Ward 1 seat on the Historical Preservation Committee.

Opened a 30-day application period for the Ward 2 Park Board seat: Marjorie Davis Trimm currently has the position.

Dropped, by consent agenda, several items, including a matter to paint curb addresses in residential areas.

OLD BUSINESS

Allowed a business to clear and pave a dirt alley behind 1817 Oxmoor Road.

Approved a street light at 2726 16th Place South.

Voted support for a state retail off-premise beer and wine license at the Chevron station at 197 Oxmoor Road.

Reported receipt of a $1,571 debt to clear a 32-year-old lien at 2516 17th Street South.

Approved an additional $750 expenditure for Skipper consulting to complete traffic counts on Reese Street.

An example not in Homewood of a flattened second story roofline used to gain space. Builders are suggesting homeowners and builders will resort to unattractive flattened rooflines to gain space needed to justify the expense of rising Homewood land values.

An example not in Homewood of a flattened second story roofline used to gain space. Builders are suggesting homeowners and builders will resort to unattractive flattened rooflines to gain space needed to justify the expense of rising Homewood land values.

Continued a controversial bid by zoning staff to limit residential building height and make other zoning changes: These proposed changes to the zoning book would have the effect of limiting single family housing height, contested by many builders and embraced by many residents. The matter was proposed at the Planning Commission on April 5, and discussed in committees before a council hearing June 13 drew complaints from two builders, and was carried over.  A Planning Commission sub-committee will hold a public forum for all concerned on the matter on July 19 at 6 p.m. in council chambers. 

Awarded a contract for 7 or 8 police rifles to Clyde Armory: The $18,000 price was negotiated by the police chief after the company was the only bidder.

Dropped an item related to mosquito prevention: The city’s attempt to obtain free mosquito larvacide disks to distribute was dropped. Residents of Jefferson County may still pick them up for free at the Jefferson County Department of Health.  

Dropped a sign variance request on behalf of applicant: The applicant, an antique store, withdrew a request for more signage at 2700 19th Place South.

Britt Thames arrived.

135 West Valley Avenue

135 West Valley Avenue

Granted an extra sign for a West Valley Avenue business: The business at 135 West Valley Avenue can’t put up a freestanding sign for reasons of space and expense and asked for an additional building sign instead, which was granted.

 

An ice cream shop is planned next to Jersey Mike's.

An ice cream shop is planned next to Jersey Mike’s.

Approved an additional internal sign for an ice cream shop downtown: The business will be adjacent to the Jersey Mike’s sub shop in the former Four Seasons gallery. Regulations allow for only two internal signs; the approved request allows a third.

 

929 OXMOOR ROAD

929 Oxmoor Road (bike frames are removed)

 

Granted a variance to all 929  sign on Oxmoor Road: Owners of Sprout Flower Market are moving into the vacant bike shop at 929 Oxmoor Road and requested a secondary, two-sided blade sign to project out from the corner of the adjacent spa building (on the left in the Google picture, bike frames have been removed) to be visible from north and south traffic.

Hand-drawn sketch of a wall mural by 929 Oxmoor Road. The council will consider the request in committee.

Hand-drawn sketch of a wall mural by 929 Oxmoor Road. The council will consider the request in committee.

The business partners also want to display the message “Home Sweet Homewood” or something similar, with a wooden flower design on the spa building’s wall. That request, however, will be studied in committee. The partners submitted a hand-drawn picture of their sign and concept, as well as a photo of the completed sign on a cell phone. The blade sign was approved.

Awarded a bid for 22 police tasers: The low bidder, Gulf States Distributors, bid $1,724 per taser. 

Voted support for a state retail liquor license application for Red Clay Bar & Event Services, at Rosewood Hall.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider 1) Setting a bid opening to buy license plate readers for the police department; and 2) Amending the current parks budget.

To Public Safety – To consider speeding and traffic concerns on Saulter Road.

To Public Works – To consider 1) Granting a right-of-way easement at 2908 18th Street to allow a level entrance way to be built for better handicap accessibility; and 2) Hear an update on the bad smell from the Barbers/Buffalo Rock plants on West Oxmoor Road.

1717 Shades Park Drive

1717 Shades Park Drive

To Special Issues – To consider 1) Allowing a variance to the sign ordinance at 3450 Manor Drive; and 2) Allowing a variance to the fence ordinance at 1717 Shades Park Drive.

 

 

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Set July 25 public hearings for sign and fence ordinance variances. See Special Issues cases, above.

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period June 27-July 10, 2016, were approved to be paid.

Almost renewed a copier lease: A last minute appearance by the city’s IT director to change the name of the lease contract from Konica Minolta to Ameritek Document Solutions led to confusing discussion about the actual lease (Ameritek), and the procedure for approving contracts. While the lease will return to the Finance Committee before a vote July 25, Mr. Yates pointed out that the equipment could possibly be picked up by Xerox without a more timely renewal.

Entered an agreement with the state transportation department that allows ServisFirst to make landscaping improvements that the city will have to maintain: ServisFirst will be making improvements on ALDOT right-of-way for its new headquarters building in Rosedale, but it will be the city, not ServisFirst, responsible if the company fails to maintain those improvements. The measure was approved. It was explained that ALDOT only enters into contracts with municipalities, not private businesses, and the city’s tax abatement agreement with ServisFirst includes such maintenance agreement anyway.

Set a September 19, bid opening for a multi-million paving and road treatment plan: The mayor’s initiative to spend $2.3 million or more of a $4 million, 8-year plan by Volkert Engineering to address poor streets was approved and now moves to competitive bids. Bids will be opened at 5 p.m., September 19th. 

Park Board meeting, July 7, 2016

POOL2016

Pool membership is “steady” this year, the second since the rec center renovation in 2014

SUMMARY: Two years ago, in June 2014, the park board added a last-minute $200,000 to its budget request to the city for a “Gateway Project,” a structure of some sort to mark the presence of the park and newly built rec center. Several people had asked to informally submit design idea, including Davis Architecture and Homewood landscape architect Chuck Kelly. The mayor ultimately rejected that expense and suggested the board raise its own funds, as reported during the board’s budget meeting in June 2015,  On Thursday, the board announced it would revisit those plans, mentioning the Kelly submission in particular, at its Aug. 2 Facilities Committee meeting. See below.

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

Members absent: Paula Smalley, Becky Morton, Keith Stansell, and Tyler Vail.

Staff present: Berkley Squires, public service superintendent, Stephen Jakobson, athletic director, and board secretary.

Audience attendance: 1

Approved the June 2016 meeting minutes.

Approved the Exceptional Foundation August calendar, with comments: The foundation’s events calendar, which is now subject to Park Board approval to prevent parking conflicts, was approved with the comment that the foundation’s Aug. 27 Knight’s of Columbus meeting from 6-11 p.m. would conflict with the park’s Back to School Bash, which begins an hour earlier, and will probably take up all the spaces. After the meeting, the chairman answered a question about the status of the contentious shared parking agreement between the two entities. The board has signed off on a version but not heard back from the foundation. The foundation has said the matter is being handled by its lawyer. 

Approved a Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Walk/Run for next spring: The ninth annual event at Central park will take place on April 29, 2017, from noon to 8 p.m., with kids activities, music, food, etc., expecting 300.

The next scheduled meeting is Aug. 4, with Facilities and Programs committees meeting on Aug. 2. The Facilities committee will be meeting at 6 p.m. to look at 2-year-old plans from landscape architect Chuck Kelly for an “entrance way” or welcome sign or something to denote the park and recreation center area. The elements of the design would be over the site of the former Jiffy Lube, which was demolished years ago and subject to some environmental monitoring.

Board of Zoning Adjustments, July 7, 2016

wheelhouse

Parking is definitely an issue at the Wheelhouse Salon. The owner’s plan to build a second story hit a roadblock tonight when the BZA denied a request to waive requirements for additional parking.

The popular Wheelhouse salon on Linden can’t expand as planned unless it finds 15 additional parking spaces for increased space (and presumably customers). At long last, the homeowners at 222 Devon received a variance to allow repair and expansion of a rear patio, at the same time re-routing a city sidewalk on Hampton to improve visibility exiting their garage.

Members present: Hope Cannon (through the first three cases), Lauren Gwaltney, chair, Jeffrey Foster, vice-chair (S),* Beverly LeBoeuf, and Stuart Roberts (S).*

Members absent:  Ty Cole. Hope Cannon left after the third case.

Note: Hope Cannon’s term has expired but she continues to serve until the council appoints another member from Ward 5.

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

Audience attendance:  24

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

Approved minutes of the XXXX meeting.

410 Kenilworth Drive

410 Kenilworth Drive

Granted variances for an addition on Kenilworth:  410 Kenilworth Drive The owners had built a deck on the left rear corner of the house, infringing into the setback, which wasn’t noticed because the city didn’t require a foundation survey before inspecting it. However, in view of the relatively low height of the deck, the circumstances leading up to request, and the  proffer from Twin Construction that no roof would ever be added, the variance for a 3-foot left building setback (two feet already in use) was granted unanimously with little discussion.

2904 Linden Ave

2904 Linden Avenue

Denied a variances to waive additional parking for a commercial addition on Linden:  2904 Linden Avenue  Second floor for hair salon  Johnny Grimes owner. Johnny Grimes, owner of the Wheelhouse Salon at 2904 Linden Avenue, wanted to double the size of his building by adding a second story, but hoped to receive a variance waiving the requirement to provide 15 more parking spaces. The building now has 15 parking spaces, 10 of which are located in the back, accessible via an alley not visible from the front of the building. By code, the increased size would require 15 additional spaces. The board, with one exception, voted against this waiver.

Owners of the neighboring businesses–Fretted Instruments and Inside Out–both objected to the request, stating they already had problems with Wheelhouse customers parking on their property.

After an extended discussion of the current parking situation and despite the philosophy behind less stringent parking requirements in the West Homewood Village district and the owner’s attempts to prevent customers from parking on neighboring properties, his plans for future expansion persuaded the board to deny the request.

Voting in favor of the variance: Lauren Gwaltney

1209 Grace Street

1209 Grace Street

Granted a variance to allow an addition on Grace Street, across from the Community Garden: The owner of the house at 1209 Grace Street was granted a 1-foot variance to allow an addition on the back of her house. The left side already protrudes 10 inches into the lot line setback on that side. The builder explained that the hardship supporting the variance was being able to extend the left side of the house straight back, with no inset towards the rear. (He does plan an inset on the right side, which is less visible from the street.) In response to questions from the board, he explained that the roof line of the house would remain unchanged. The request was therefore approved.

1538 Somerset Dr

1538 Somerset Drive

Granted a variance for an addition on Somerset:  An architect representing the owners of 1538 Somerset Drive requested a 2-foot left setback variance to allow a master bathroom addition on the left rear of the house. The hardship justifying the exemption was the pie shape of the lot and the fact that fire safety code requires a 3-foot escape window in the master bedroom, which necessitated more space. The architect plans no changes to the roof line on that side of the house, but does intend to make some additions to the right side of the house (requiring no variance). The variance request was granted unanimously, based on the submitted drawings.

124 Oxmoor Road

124 Oxmoor Road

On a split vote, granted lot size variances for a new house on Oxmoor:

Jason Hale of Willow Homes presented a case for allowing a 5-foot narrower lot width than required in connection with his plan to purchase the property, owned by the estate of Betty Smith, at 124 Oxmoor Road in West Homewood, refurbish the existing house on the left side of the property, and build a new house on the right side.

Hale explained that no variance would be needed if he tore down the existing house and split the property evenly, but he wished to preserve the existing house to make the project financially profitable. There were also issues with an irregular lot shape and the existence of a ditch/creek on the property, but board members said the desire to preserve the existing house was the most compelling hardship in support of the request.

Neighbors on Edgeknoll Lane spoke during the public hearing to request more information, specifically how close the house would be to their lot line, but after examining a survey and hearing more details, expressed no objection. After a lengthy discussion of the size of the proposed new house (approximately 1500 square feet, but this is not binding) and its proposed orientation on the property (facing Edgeknoll), the Bboard approved the request, subject to a proffer that the size of the new house would not exceed 48 feet by 33 feet.

Voting no: Jeffrey Foster.

222 Devon Drive Google shot from sie.

222 Devon Drive
[Google image showing house from Hampton side, position of sidewalk and retaining wall, and rear porch.]

(Finally) granted a variance on a third request for a complicated addition on Devon Drive: The board  a 5-foot right setback variance to allow construction of a screened-in porch at 222 Devon Drive. The homewowners have been before city boards multiple times concerning the raised patio on the side of their house facing Hampton Drive. In October 2014 they received a 4-foot variance to completely enclose the patio, but allowed it to expire without applying for a permit during the 180-day period. In April 2016 they returned seeking a 9-foot variance, again with the hope of completely enclosing the space, but that request was denied. Tonight they were back with a new plan to screen in the patio, requesting a variance to allow room for the roof supports to be placed on new footings outside the existing patio. The plan involves a separate proposal — approved in August 2015 by the city council, with no expiration date–to relocate the sidewalk on Hampton closer to the street for better visibility as they back out of the garage. The view of the street is blocked somewhat by a retaining wall.

The Board approved their variance request unanimously.

City Council, June 27, 2016

Homewood City CouncilA routine meeting in which an issue over limiting height of Homewood houses seems to be gathering steam from both sides. A Planning Commission subcommittee will hear from residents, builders and other affected parties at a 5 p.m. meeting, Tuesday, July 19, in the council chambers.

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

Absent: Richard Laws

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

Audience present: 12

Addressed several board vacancies: The council voted to appoint sole applicant John Krontiras to the Ward 3 library board seat. Vacant Ward 1, Ward 2 and one at-large seat were announced open on the Arts Advisory Council. Applicants can submit a resume and letter of interest to the city clerk.

CONSENT AGENDA

The council dropped the following items from committee agendas: 1) A Request to fence an open ditch at 1542 and 1544 Somerset Drive; 2) A request to consider problems related to contractor practices, such as parking and waste containers; and 3) A request to consider a feasibility study for a new public safety building, because the council was in agreement to go forward without studying funding mechanisms.

OLD BUSINESS

Two of five planned houses on the Broadway "triangle." Developer Chris Tucker joined another builder tonight to object to height restrictions on new houses. Tucker says his houses aren't "towering."

Two of five planned houses on the Broadway “triangle.” Triangle developer Chris Tucker joined another builder two weeks ago to object to height restrictions on new houses. Tonight, a larger group of contractors, architects and residents met to discuss the matter of height limits for Homewood houses. The matter will go back to the Planning Commission for reconsideration.

Carried over changes to the single family residential code that limits building height, and other changes: Click here for the original April 5 Planning Commission background on these amendments, which seek to simplify some building calculations and also place height limits on houses. The council tonight voted for a second time to carry over any decision after builders got wind of the proposed limits at the June 13 meeting and complained they would encourage flattened roof lines so owners could create enough square footage to justify their investments. Those concerns prompted the council to call a formal committee hearing earlier tonight, where general contractors, architects, designers and residents weigh in, sometimes emotionally, on whether the city needed limits on house size, given the increasing land value in parts of Homewood and complaints about tear-down fever, and second floors are being added to tiny cottages.

After discussion, the committee favored a minimum 1,200 square footage requirement and requested a Planning Commission subcommittee work session on July 19 at 5 p.m. to receive suggestions, questions and information from builders and architects along with samples of houses they have done with various roof lines in order to determine a new building height. Such suggestions and information should be funneled through Vanessa McGrath in the zoning office.

Approved the rezoning of five Citation Court properties annexed last year from Jefferson County. The details of this long-running were reported in the April 5 Planning Commission meeting.

Agreed to let the police chief negotiate a price on patrol rifles with the single bidder. Without naming the vendor, the chief asked to reject the bid and negotiate a price.

Carried over consideration of mosquito control options: Staff are trying to find out a source for mosquito larvicide donuts or “dunks” that can be distributed to residents and parks employees to place where water collects. The conversation is being carried over to keep it alive on the agenda.

Continued setting a July 11 hearing for several sign variance requests: The variances are requested at 2700 19th Place South; 135 West Valley Avenue; 929 Oxmoor Road; and 2910 18th Street South.

OLS

Our Lady of Sorrows will be allowed to cut the curb at its entrance and build a parallel parking section 7 feet off the street.

Approved work to be completed in the city right of way:  The council will allow Our Lady of Sorrows church to build a parallel parking area in front of the entrance at 1728 Oxmoor Road that is inset from the road by seven feet, and at a cost to itself. To do so, the church will demolish and then rebuild the city sidewalk around the inset parking area.

Denied a request to accept a donated parcel on Greenhill Drive: This matter involves a resident’s request to obtain a piece of vacant property adjacent to her residence at 628 Greenhill Drive, a lot at the dead-end of a street that was purchased for highway right-of-way in the mid 1960s. The owner of the vacant piece of land originally sought to donate it to the city, which was declined in order for the homeowner to acquire it for herself.

Approved city participation in the Back to School tax holiday: The city will participate in the statewide “Back-to- School” sales tax holiday on August 5-7, 2016.

Approved a franchise agreement for small cell phone technology: The 10 year agreement with Access Fiber Group, a telecommunications company allows small signal transmission equipment to be installed on city rights of way.

Approved moving money from one fund to another, as approved by the Finance Committee: No details were given.

Set a July 11 bid opening date to purchase tasers: Bid are due at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 8 and will be opened the following Monday at 5 p.m.

POPRENDER

The condominium/Post Office Pies proposal was rejected for the lot adjacent to Patriot Park. The council awaits a follow-up offer from the developers. Price was just one concern.

The council denied the purchase price offer for property by Patriot Park: The city-owned property at 165 Oxmoor Road has been for sale and in play for a commercial development since at least early 2014. A committee last week went into executive session to hear information from the city attorney regarding the latest offer. Tonight’s vote was the council’s formal vote to deny the offer. The city awaits a followup offer from the developer, which has proposed a three-story structure with condominiums and a restaurant, possibly a Post Office Pies. There are numerous links and reports. For the latest on a rival proposal that also covers the history of negotiations, all the documents from both parties, and the current prospective buyer, click here.

Approved a resolution in favor of appropriating $2.3 million to begin a roads repaving/preservation project: The $4 million/8-year roads repair/reclamation/preservation project was pitched by Volkert Engineering after it completed a $40,000 contract to inspect, grade and recommend plans for nearly 100 miles of city streets. This project has been in the works over the past 18 months. Click here for details of the plan.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance– To consider A) Waiving property lien of $87.67 for property located at 2516 17th Street South; B) Requesting janitorial services and setting a bid date; C) Requesting changes in the Nationwide 457 Plan Document to allow employees to borrow from their accounts; and D) Increasing funds to the Skipper Consulting traffic study on Reese Street.

To Public Safety – To consider A) Addressing speeding and traffic concerns on Saulter Road; and B) Funding a street light on 16th Place South (also added to Finance).

To Public Works – To consider A) Allowing work in the city right-of-way at 1817 Oxmoor Road.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Declared a police motorcycle surplus and due to be sold: 2007 Harley FLHP.

Paid the bills: Invoice for the period June 11-26 were approved to be paid.

Authorized a an Emergency Services Contract with Red Clay Bar & Event Services LLC: The vote authorized the mayor to enter into a contract to manage and operate the city’s Rosewood Hall facility.

Declared vehicles surplus and due to be sold: Declared surplus were a 2001 Chevy Truck with 187,000 miles; and a 2003 Ford Windstar with 83,515 miles, belonging to the public services department.

Voted support of a state liquor license application for Red Clay Bar & Event Services. 

The Grove.4

Courtyard rendering from The Grove's last submission.

Rendering from the fourth, and last, commercial development proposal for 185 Oxmoor Road, called The Grove. The council is pursuing a different project.

Homewood development partners seek exposure for rejected project; say they’re not sore losers
POPRENDER

Concept proposed by the Hunter Lake group in February for 165 Oxmoor Road. The building would house a Post Office Pies on the ground floor, topped by two-story condos. A second condo phase would be built in the rear. An update to be discussed June 20, might reflect changes.

On the day the council will get a status report on a  commercial proposal for a lot by West Homewood’s Patriot Park, two home-grown developers say they’re bewildered their idea for a restaurant/event space at 165 Oxmoor Road was rejected in favor of the rival proposal from Avondale investor Hunter Lake. Today, the Finance Committee meets at 6:15 to hear the status of negotiations with Lake, who is known for the brewery and other Avondale ventures, including Post Office Pies, and which have been ongoing since March 7. The Lake project was the only official submission to a second Request for Proposals to build on the city-owned lot. When unveiled months ago, it included a three-story building layout with a Post Office Pies restaurant on the ground floor and condominiums on the upper floors, and a second phase of condos in the rear. An updated concept may look entirely different.

Business partners Sonya DiCarlo and Paula Harris of Homewood, meanwhile, had been back to the table with their plans multiple times over the course of nearly three years, with little encouragement or guidance on the council’s expectations, they say. The concept pictured here, called The Grove, is

The Grove, a proposed restaurant and tenant space designed to showcase the new West Homewood "Village" building code, is still a work-in-progress. The council is following a rival development plan for the vacant lot at 185 Oxmoor Road.

The Grove, a proposed restaurant and tenant space designed to showcase the new West Homewood “Village” building code at 165 Oxmoor Road, is still a work-in-progress. This latest version, which wasn’t considered by the council, more closely resembles the city’s own model (below) than did earlier versions.

the fourth and scarcely-seen final version presented in February. One rendition was rejected with little explanation on Dec. 7, and two prior submissions died from inaction on the city’s part going back two years, they say. Whatever the news at tonight’s committee meeting, the business partners they will support it, but want residents to know how their own plan evolved, what it included, and the details leading to its rejection.

Some background: In early 2014, DiCarlo and Harris were the first developers to pitch a plan for a model building that would showcase new village-style zoning codes adopted in parts of West

A dream concept of a West Homewood commercial district built to specified "village" forms. The first building to be redeveloped under the new district will test how well the concept is realized.

The Regional Planning Commission included this dream concept of a West Homewood commercial space built to new “village” forms. The first building to be redeveloped under the new district will test how well the concept is realized.

Homewood. By March of this year they had submitted four plans, reflecting an evolving commercial concept,  two they initiated themselves, one submitted as a response to an RFP (and rejected along with a rival plan for a food truck park), and a final plan, pictured, submitted in February. It is that most recent plan that they say wasn’t fully considered, while the council, impressed by the Lake name and resume, voted March 7 to pursue his proposal (click here for .

DiCarlo and Harris say their project was overlooked because they asked for it to be considered outside the RFP, whose terms were problematic. The drawings, for instance, hadn’t been updated to reflect new city sidewalks that encroached on the lot; the documents had a clause for the city to buy back the property at 60% of the purchase price, and they wanted 100%. Those were the kinds of points they could reach agreement on if given a chance, but they were not, they said.

“After we submitted our first proposal, we were never given a response of yes, no, or let’s talk,” DiCarlo said. “There was nothing other than acknowledgement that they received it. We explained that we were interested in meeting with the city attorney and/or council members to talk about any concerns they may have about either the project, the timeline or the price. We were never asked to a meeting.”

The Grove proposal has undergone several aesthetic changes in the last two years. This is the latest.

The Grove proposal has undergone several aesthetic changes in the last two years. This is the concept rejected in December.

There were other matters that might have been negotiated: The city apparently objected to their initial “low-ball” offer of $50,000 on a $135,000 asking price, a fact they learned much later at a Spring 2015 Finance Committee meeting. The lot is a former gas station, the site of a fuel tank spill that had undergone substantial monitoring and was only cleared by regulators for commercial use. See the RFP documents here. DiCarlo said the $50,000 offer accounted for costs associated with additional testing. Nevertheless, she said they resubmitted an offer at the full asking price in exchange for tax abatements and other discounts, but were ignored again. Their most recent offer was set back to $50,000 — considerably higher than the Hunter offer of $35,000.

Then there was the Corky Bell complication. By fall of last year, talk was circulating that any redevelopment would benefit by the addition of the adjacent Corky Bell property, whose owners weren’t interested in selling. Coincidentally, the owners in September received a letter from the city attorney citing complaints about an odor from the business’s septic tank. The property is co-owned by Jim Terry, an architect, and his sister, West Homewood resident Marcia Steedman, who is the long-time operator of the dance studio. Following a site visit by the attorney, a ward councilman and park director, in which no problems were detected, the owners were drawn into further discussions about selling their property for The Grove proposal. Terry listened, but his reluctance to commit immediately, which he made clear at the Dec. 7 work session, may have played a role in the project’s rejection, DiCarlo said.

Proposed layout of The Grove's first floor. Developers said the city wanted names of prospective tenants.

Latest plan–proposed layout of The Grove’s first floor.

That was when DiCarlo and Harris said they decided to sidestep the RFP process altogether and submit a new rendition directly to council on the next deadline, set for Feb. 15. But the council, citing the Presidents Day holiday, extended the deadline another seven days, allowing the Lake team additional time to turn in their proposal. This is the only plan officially pursued in the years the property has been available.

 

The Grove's second floor could include a roof-top garden and enclosed event space.

The Grove’s second floor could include a roof-top garden and enclosed event space.

 

Experience or in-experience?

Council members seemed relieved to find a name-brand developer for the West Homewood site. Harris is a pharmacist. DiCarlo, who is a former TV reporter and part owner of a family-run restaurant in New Orleans, said their proposal never seemed to carry weight with the council despite the work they put into the business plan and having a well known local architect’s name on the drawings. Was the council uncomfortable negotiating with women? Was it the offer price? What? DiCarlo asks. ‘“They kept asking, ‘Are you ready to go?’ Would you be ready to start right now? Do you have tenants?’ And we kept saying yes, yes, yes. We aren’t sore losers. We’ll support whatever is built there,” Harris said. “We just want to fill in the blanks about what happened.”

City Council meeting, June 13, 2016

2004 drawings for a Homewood "Justice Center" at 90 Bagby Drive.

2004 drawings for a Homewood “Justice Center” at 90 Bagby Drive.

Tonight’s meeting began with a work session to consider a West Valley Avenue site for a new police headquarters. The meeting was finished with a dramatic request by the mayor for a $2.3 million appropriation to launch an upgrade of city streets. Also on the agenda were settings for the municipal elections, runoffs, if needed, and voting equipment.

Work session – 5:30 p.m.

Members present: Fred Hawkins, Patrick McClusky, Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, and Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Absent: Vance Moody, Alex Wyatt, Richard Laws and Peter Wright.

Police Chief Ross addressed the work session, called to decide whether to commission a feasibility study for funding a new police headquarters/jail/court complex in West Homewood. Chief Ross prefaced his remarks by saying the police headquarters had been downtown since the city’s founding and the

The building at 90 Bagby Drive was declared unsafe earlier this year and slated for demolition.

The building at 90 Bagby Drive was declared unsafe and demolished. The site has been eyed for a police headquarters for more than a decade. Tonight that idea took another step forward.

current building was constructed in the mid-1980s. He had looked over plans drawn up 5 years ago for a two-story building at the corner of Bagby Drive and West Valley Avenue. Much of that plan is still useful today, he said. Although he didn’t think the location was ideal, it was more important to have personnel consolidated under one roof rather than across the city as they are now–downtown, Citation Court, the Bagby shop, and a substation on Oxmoor Road. Nevertheless, even with a move for that purpose, he still wanted to retain a strong precinct downtown by the merchants.

After some discussion Mr. Thames asked what would be done with the current property. The mayor commented that he would look into all options, including a ground lease that produced some income, or even using the property for parking. With the council being united to go forward with a relocation, it was decided to dispense with spending money on a feasibility study. The session was adjourned and the regular session called to order at 6 p.m.

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

Members absent: Vance Moody, Alex Wyatt and Peter Wright.

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

Audience present: 15

Board vacancies addressed:

  • Opened application period for Ward 5 and supernumerary BZA seats.
  • Re-opened the Ward 3 library board seat, with applications taken until June 24 at 5 p.m.

OLD BUSINESS

Approved rezoning certain commercial properties annexed from Jefferson County last year: This vote finalizes the annexation and rezoning of 3 of 9 parcels on the city’s corporate limits that were under county jurisdiction and zoning, as follows: Circle K store at 1250 Columbiana Road, from the county’s C1 to HW Neighborhood Shopping District; Southeast Medical Homewood LLC, 35 West Lakeshore Drive, from county Preferred Commercial to HW C1, Office Building District; One West Associates, #1 West Lakeshore Drive from JC C1 to HW Neighborhood Shopping District. A fourth property in this package, the site of the fireworks trailer on Green Springs Highway, has been put on hold while a dispute with the owner is resolved.

Two of five planned houses on the Broadway "triangle." Developer Chris Tucker joined another builder tonight to object to height restrictions on new houses. Tucker says his houses aren't "towering."

Two of five planned houses on the Broadway “triangle.” Developer Chris Tucker joined another builder tonight to object to height restrictions on new houses. Tucker says his houses aren’t “towering.”

Carried over staff-recommended amendments to the zoning book/set a June 27 work session, due to objections raised by two builders: The residential zoning recommendations discussed in detail in the April 5 Planning Commission meeting, were to be finalized by the council tonight until two builders raised identical objections that a limit on building height would adversely affect their business and possibly encourage homeowners to build ugly, flat-topped houses to maximize their square footage at the expense of aesthetics. The height restrictions are 25 feet from the front door to the top of the roof for houses on lots up to 55-feet wide, and 35 feet for lots over 55 feet, with the purpose of containing the trend toward taller and taller houses on small lots. A builder living on Dixon said, however, that the restriction would have disqualified 23 of the last 25 houses he built; that due to rising costs of land, it didn’t pay to build small houses and the regulations would force home builders to flatten the pitch of roofs to get more living space into new houses.

Also opposing was the investor for the houses on the Broadway triangle, saying three of the five houses he is building would be non-compliant; he did not think his houses were “towering.” Also speaking in favor of giving the matter more thought was BZA chairwoman Lauren Gwaltney, who said tree removal and houses that were too tall were the two most common complaints the board received, and members had no recourse in the law to rely on. The work session will invite builders, regulators and residents to weigh in on the subject in a public forum.

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

Bobby Ward objected to the city’s annexation of four Citation Court office warehouse properties, but let the matter drop last month.

Continued setting June 27 public hearing to rezone five recently annexed Citation Court parcels: The properties were annexed a year ago with four others (see above) and have been  recommended by the Planning Commission to be rezoned from the county’s Light Industrial classification to Homewood’s Light Manufacturing. The cases in April were heard in the Planning Commission in more detail, disputed and carried over by the owner of four, Bobby Ward, who did not return to object the following month’s meeting. To be rezoned:

129 Citation Court – Bobby Ward

137 Citation Court – Universal Development Corp., Bobby Ward, owner

159 Citation Court – Bobby Ward

167 Citation Court – Bobby Ward

209 Citation Court – Henry Tyler

600HambaughAVE

The council will allow a side yard fence on the side facing Dixon.

Granted permission to erect a front yard fence at 600 Hambaugh Avenue: The council approved a side-yard fence facing Dixon despite some reluctance from Mr. Jones, who felt the Dixon street neighbors wouldn’t like to face a fence. That said, there were no objections filed and he voted with the majority in favor.

Scheduled a June 20 bid opening to purchase patrol rifles.

Declared a 2003 Ford Expedition police vehicle surplus and due to be sold.

Declared certain city right-of-way property surplus and granted easements for use by ServisFirst: The vote authorized the mayor to enter into easement agreements for ServisFirst to build across three city alleyways at the new building site.

Carried over consideration of mosquito control options: It was decided in committee to refer the question of spraying to the Homewood Environmental Commission, which was to issue a statement for the city website, and to acquire as many as possible mosquito larvicide cakes, called “dunks” from the county health department to give to residents and the parks department. The discussion will be left open, or continued, as other options are considered.

Approved new informational signs for downtown: The council approved an expenditure of no more than $3,500 for downtown directional and informational signs.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider A) Setting a bid opening date to purchase tasers for the police department; B) Amending the current budget, by request of the Finance Director; C) Entering a franchise agreement with Access Fiber Group, Inc. to install small cell phone transmission equipment in city right of ways; D)  Consider participating in the Aug. 5, 2016, “Back to School” sales tax holiday; and E) The purchase of the city-owned vacant lot at 165 Oxmoor Road.

To Planning and Development – To consider updating the city’s Master Plan for the downtown area.

SOMERSETDRIVEDITCH

Homeowners are asking for a fence around an open drainage ditch on Somerset Drive. Google maps.

To Public Safety – To consider A) A stop sign on Saulter Road and Lake Wood Drive; B) Supporting a state ABC retail beer off-premises license for Fred’s on Green Springs Highway; C) Fencing an open drainage ditch at 1542 and 1544 Somerset Drive.

To Special Issues – To consider A) Allowing work in the city right-of-way to paint addresses on curbs; B) Granting variances (exceptions) for signs at 2700 19th Place South, 135 West Valley Avenue, 929 Oxmoor Road, and 2910 18th Street South; C) Discuss parking and garbage container locations; and D) Ways to resolve sanitation, speeding and paving problems on Ashwood Lane (Mr. Jones asked for clarification that only the 100 block of Ashwood is in Homewood city limits).

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Set the date for a general city election on Aug. 23, 2016, and runoff election (if needed) on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016.

Passed a resolution to obtain certain voting equipment compliant with state law.

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period May 14-June 10, 2016, were approved to be paid.

Set a July 11 public hearing for three sign variance requests: See Committee Referral, above.

POLICEMOTORCYCLEDeclared police property surplus and due to be sold:

  • 2010 FLHP Road King motorcycle
  • 2007 FLHP Road King
  • 2007 FLHP Road King, as a trade-in on a 2016 Road King
The council refused to be hurried on OLS's request to build an inset in front of the church for several parallel parking spaces, citing driver side safety.

The council refused to be hurried on OLS’s request to build an inset in front of the church to move parallel parking spaces closer to the church by 7 feet.

Carried over a last-minute request to construct a parking pad in front of Our Lady of Sorrows Church: The church, without observing the usual procedures, asked permission to cut into the city sidewalk in front of the church to move parallel parking spaces 7 feet toward the building and away from Oxmoor Road. The church would assume all the costs, including re-routing the sidewalk. Mr. Jones asked why the church wasn’t following the usual agenda process, and Mr. Cobb said the contractor was “ready to build.” Mr. Laws made a rare comment, asking why the church should be allowed to basically cut a unappealing parking pad in front of its building when homeowners were rarely allowed to do the same thing. The rest of the council agreed to his motion to carry the question over to a Public Safety Committee meeting.

This al.com photograph shows a deteriorating section of Valley Avenue with a patched utility cut in the near lane. The city is considering an engineering contract to better plan road maintenance and funding. [Valley Avenue is set for re-paving and other changes.]

This al.com photograph shows a deteriorating section of Valley Avenue with a patched utility cut in the near lane. The city is considering an engineering contract to better plan road maintenance and funding. [Valley Avenue is set for re-paving and other changes.]

In post meeting comments, Mayor McBrayer pitched an $2.2 million appropriation to take action on Volkert Engineering’s recommendations to preserve, pave and repair 125 miles of city streets.  The council in March 2015 approved the $40,000 consultation to study city streets and recommend a plan to begin to repair, preserve and pave them in a sustainable way. That done, Volkert reappeared in a March 2016 work session to report the results and request a $4 million project to fix and preserve city streets. Tonight, the mayor asked the council to consider an appropriation for more than half that amount to get the project under way.