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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

They had not.

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

JEFFCOZONEPIC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City Council, June 22, 2015

Alex Wyatt was appointed by the council as the Ward 4 replacement for resigning member Heather Reid. His swearing in will come in July.

Alex Wyatt was appointed by the council as the Ward 4 replacement for resigning member Heather Reid. His swearing in will come in July.

With few people present, including the selected candidate, the council tonight named Alex Wyatt to the Ward 4 council post vacated recently by Heather Reid’s resignation. Mr. Wyatt is a 14-year resident of Homewood and Ward 4 who lists board membership on the Homewood City Schools Foundation and the anti-drug group, Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Homewood, as his most prominent civic duties. A graduate of Spring Hill College, ’96, he is a shareholder in the Parsons, Lee and Juliano law firm, focusing his practice on medical malpractice, environmental litigation, product liability, and mediation. Click here for Mr. Wyatt’s and other applicants’ resumes and cover letters.

In other business, the council agreed to spend $128,000 for a new street sweeper from carryover capital fund balance, and set public hearings on a series of overgrown properties, mainly in West Homewood.

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

Members absent:
Council president Bruce Limbaugh and Richard Laws. President pro tem Peter Wright led the meeting.

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

Audience attendance: 17

OLD BUSINESS AGENDA

Approved minutes of the May 11, 2015, meeting.

Carried over a maintenance program for city streets, pending funding: Volkert Engineering had pitched a $40,000 plan to inspect 125 miles of city streets and recommend a schedule of maintenance involving a spectrum of sealants, repaving, resurfacing and other treatments, to prolong their life. The maintenance program ultimately will save money on road maintenance.  In committee it was learned that the project would qualify for a federal grant with the usual 20% local contribution, or only $8,000. Tonight the matter was carried over.

The project has been held over for successive meetings since April, while the city awaits an okay on a federal shared funding from the state highway department. A decision is expected by the July 13 meeting.

Houses proposed on Broadway, backing up to "short" Saulter Road, required substantial size and setback variances to go forward.

Houses proposed on Broadway, backing up to “short” Saulter Road, required substantial size and setback variances to go forward.

Approved, in part, a variance to fence in a housing development on the Broadway “triangle.” Real estate agent and investor Chris Tucker asked for code exemptions to allow his 5-house development planned at 902 Broadway to be enclosed back and front by picket fences. So-called “front yard” fences–or fences enclosing a house on any side exposed to a street– are one of the few variances the city has consistently denied, and tonight’s request sparked a lot of conversation, revealing that the city had built part of its Saulter Street sidewalk on Mr. Tucker’s property, while at the same time, Mr. Tuckers’ proposed fences would cross city right-of-way. The dual encroachment issue was put off until further study; meanwhile, Mr. Jones led the discussion in opposing the fences, saying Homewood was a community where neighbors were generally welcomed into each others’ front yards, not fenced out. Very few exceptions have been granted and Mr. Williams was asked to state the hardships that would justify the exemption.

A row of houses and a variance from front yard fences is slated for the Broadway "triangle."

A row of houses and a variance from front yard fences is slated for the Broadway “triangle.” The developer says traffic and the houses’ proximity to the road makes front and back fences necessarily. The council disagreed.

Mr. Tucker was then put in the uncomfortable position of describing his development as unsafe* from surrounding traffic on three streets (Broadway, “short” Saulter, and Carr Avenue), a city-built parallel parking spaces on short Saulter, which are used almost exclusively by GianMarco’s valet customers, and a nearby bus stop. In discussion, the hardships were dismissed except that the “triangle” is an island unlike other residential developments. The council agreed to allow fences along the rear of the houses, on Saulter, and on the sides of the two end lots.

The development has received significant lot area and setback variances prior to tonight’s request.

*In an email the day after publishing, Mr. Tucker complained that he didn’t mean the development was “unsafe” because of traffic on three sides, but meant the street exposure called for more privacy, and therefore a fences on all sides.

Approved a the parking requirement on a mixed-use development plan: Amendments to the MXD development plan at 1659 28th Avenue South moved the structure slightly on the lot and reduced parking from 4 spaces to 3 since the use had changed from retail to primarily office space.

Denied on a 6-2 split vote a variance to build a front yard parking pad on Roxbury Road: David Siegel of Twin Construction requested a variance to allow construction of a flagstone-covered parallel parking space built into the front yard off the street at 3104 Roxbury Road. Discussion showed the council favored widening the existing driveway for more room instead.

Voting in favor of the request: Fred Hawkins and Peter Wright.

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

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

Continued two public hearings for driveway and front fence variances on Oakmoor Drive: Neither party was present tonight. The fence and driveway issues are near or on the property line at 605 Oakmoor Drive, contested by a neighbor.

Agreed to request $160,000 in next year’s budget for a downtown revitalization project. The vote was in support of the project and intent to fund it; it does not guarantee the project will be budgeted.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider 1) Amending the current General, Capital and Special Revenue budgets; 2) Setting a bid opening for July 6 at 5:30 p.m. for construction in the West Homewood District street and parking improvements; 3) An easement at 108 Woodmont Drive; and 4) Retiree benefits.

To Public Safety – To consider 1) Amending an ordinance prohibiting paring within 50 feet of the Roseland Drive and East Edgewood intersection.

To Public Works – To consider solving problems with an alley near Sutherland Place and Parkridge Drive.

To Special Issues – To consider 1) A sign ordinance for 579 Brookwood Village; and 2) A fence variance at 1424 Melrose Place.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Set a July 6 bid opening for West Homewood improvements: A bid opening is set for July 6 at 5:30 p.m. for construction of streetscapes and parking improvements near Patriot Park.

Set July 13 public hearings for sign and fence variances, see above.

Approved the city’s role in pursuing a federal grant to identify and help at-risk athletes stay in school: The school system is seeking $50,000 for a Department of Justice grant that would be used on school staff and programming to help disadvantaged high school athletes succeed in school. The funds would pay for tutors, counselors and regular staff overtime to implement the assistance program. Federal funds are awarded through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to city police departments in partnership with schools. The grant request is being supported by the school-based anti-drug organization, Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Homewood.

Voted in support of a state retail liquor license for DoDiyo’s restaurant: Due to a change of ownership, the restaurant must reapply for its liquor license at 1831  28th Avenue South.

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The now-vacant America’s Best Value Inn on Oxmoor Road was cited for overgrown vegetation.

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This house across from Hall-Kent school is a repeat public nuisance offender for overgrown grass and vegetation.

Set July 13 public nuisance hearings for several overgrown properties: The properties are at 416 Raleigh Avenue; 112 Knoll Crest Drive; 260 Oxmoor Road, and 1602 Ridge Road.

Paid the bills: Approved invoices to be paid for June 8-19, 2015.

What, no theater? Brookwood owners think twice about the dine-in facility announced four months ago

Brookwood Village's front entrance following a massive renovation to transform the enclosed mall into a lifestyle center, with restaurants, outdoor seating and a real "village" look. New owners had planned another transformation, with a dine-in theater, but are thinking twice about including entertainment facility.

Brookwood Village’s front entrance following a massive renovation years ago to transform the enclosed mall into a lifestyle center, with restaurants, outdoor seating and a real “village” look. New owners Cypress Equities had planned another transformation, with a dine-in theater, but are thinking twice about including the entertainment facility.

Was it so long ago that Brookwood Mall owners announced their plans to build a luxurious dine-in movie theater that no one remembered to ask about it when they rolled out their renovation plan this week? And the movie theater — the centerpiece of the redevelopment–was not mentioned?

So it seems.

At least for now, the mall’s $20 million metamorphosis will go forward beginning July 6 without the theater plan unveiled at a Feb. 3 Planning Commission meeting. Asked about the missing theater yesterday, Homewood’s Inspection Services Director Jim Wyatt said Cypress Equities put the project on hold while it conducted further demographic studies. The theater may eventually be built into the underground parking location of the main building as originally conceived, or may be built elsewhere on the property, he said. No reason was given for the canceled project.

A movie theater is planned for Brookwood Village mall.

A movie theater is planned for Brookwood Village mall. Click to enlarge.

And none was requested, at least according to published accounts, including an al.com announcement this week detailing each of the four construction phases. Both al.com and the Homewood Star quoted Cypress’ CIO Todd Minnis’s statement from a news release: “Our fresh slant on the redesign of Brookwood Village is to convert it to a boutique shopping and entertainment destination.”

But, at least for the immediate future, if it’s entertainment you’re looking for at Brookwood, mall owners expect you will find it in the decorative chandeliers and sconces to be added in the atrium, or the warm wood tones of new porcelain tile flooring, broad-loom carpeting and exposed wood beams, as provided in descriptions sent to local news agencies. For the Homewood Star’s report: http://thehomewoodstar.com/news/brookwood-village-interior-renovations-to-start-in-july-0617/

A call placed yesterday to Mr. Minnis has not yet been returned.

From the Feb. 3, 2015, Planning Commission report:

Approved, with some fanfare, an amended development plan to allow a movie theatre and other changes to Brookwood Village. Kirk Williams, managing director of a Brookwood ownership entity, Cypress Equities, presented a plan to build a 550-seat, 40,000 square foot theater and entertainment complex in the west-center portion of the mall, relocating tenants such as Jason’s Deli, Victoria Secret, the Loft, etc., as well as 225 underground parking spaces. Parking will be redistributed to sections to the east of the main mall, and in front. Mr. Williams said the decision was made after careful analysis of the market, and would deliver to the area a “sophisticated shopping and entertainment boutique.” The theater will face north, providing a central design focus to the mall but its profile will not rise above the roof lines of restaurants across the private drive due to building the theater down into the mall’s basement.

Mr. Williams was careful not to reveal the name of the theater operator, saying only that it was familiar to the area. The interior of the mall will be redeveloped as well, Ms. McGrath said. 

The owners have been criticized for closing down the Applebee’s restaurant to make way for a cell phone retailer. All the mall tenants displaced by the theater will be relocated elsewhere on the property, Mr. Williams said.

Ward 4 Applicants, the Who, What, When and Where

Heather Reid hears a resolution in praise of her council work after resigning the seat recently, to move from the city. Her ward mate Jenifer Wallis also resigned in 2014, replaced by appointee Barry Smith. Ms. Reid's immediate successor, to be appointed from a field of 11 applicants, will serve out the unexpired term until next year'municipal elections

Ward 4 council member Heather Reid hears a resolution in praise of her council work after resigning the seat recently to move from the city. Her ward mate Jenifer Wallis also resigned in 2014, replaced by appointee Barry Smith. Ms. Reid’s immediate successor, to be appointed from a field of 11 applicants, will serve out the unexpired term until next year’municipal elections

The following pdf file contains the cover letters and resumes submitted by 11 applicants seeking an appointment to the Ward 4 council seat vacated by Heather Reid.

Applicants will be invited to public interviews June 17 and 18, with a council vote set for the following regular meeting. The candidate appointed from this field of 11 applicants will serve out Ms. Reid’s unexpired term, through next year, when all seats will be open to municipal elections.

Click here to see the applicants, their cover letters and resumes.

City Council meeting, June 8, 2015

There being nothing much else of interest tonight, here is the list of 11 applicants to the Ward 4 place vacated by Heather Reid, who is moving from Homewood.  Interviews will be held next week, schedule and details to be announced here. Billy Beers (applicant for the Jenifer Wallis Ward 4 vacancy last year); Clara Creel, Donald Hinds II (Duke), John Holley, Christopher J. McCaghren, Chris Meeks (Park Board chairman), Rhonda Rush (Homewood High School teacher and applicant for Ms. Wallis’s ward 4 vacancy), Joe Stephens (who lost against Ms. Reid in the council election and was also an applicant for Ms. Wallis’s seat), Mark Whiteside, Alex Wyatt, and Jason Zaharis.

GENFUNDEXPAlso of note was the vote accepting the mid-year budget report, presented at a May 26 special called Finance Committee meeting. Sparse bulleted details of that presentation are provided below. Here are the charts that accompanied it and a copy of the mid-year cash balances as of March 31, 2015:

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Walter Jones, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, and Richard Laws. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent:
Walter Jones, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Mr. Moody was elected to chair the meeting in the absence of the president and president pro tem.

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

Audience attendance: 6

Approved minutes of the April 27, 2015, meeting.

Opened an at-large seat for the Homewood Environmental Commission: Applications will be taken until the last council meeting in July.

CONSENT AGENDA

Dropped a resolution censuring the Birmingham Water Works for poor quality street repair. The matter was dropped after water works board executives once again made personal appearances at a council committee and promised to do better.

OLD BUSINESS AGENDA

Carried over a proposed contract to inspect city streets and recommend a maintenance program. This $40,000 contract with Volkert Engineers is perennially carried over while the city awaits approval on a federal grant to cover 80% of the cost, or $32,000.

DoDiYo's is stripped of signage now, but will soon replace worn signs with new banners and an entrance awning. The business will announce a new tenant in the Salsarita's space.

DoDiYo’s is stripped of signage now, but will soon replace worn signs with new banners and an entrance awning. The business will announce a new tenant in the Salsarita’s space.

Approved a sign variance for Do Di Yo’s:  The SoHo restaurant at 1831 28th Avenue South, and largest retailer in the development, is replacing worn banners and building signs and is preparing to lease the Salsarita’s space around the corner to a new restaurant, TBA. DoDiYo’s request is for a variance to the number of signs allowed in the SoHo district, specifically three horizontal banners on the plaza level. The entrance awning is also being replaced.

Carried over a front yard fence variance for a small housing development on Broadway: The applicant for five small houses at 902 Broadway Street, the “triangle” property, asked that his request be postponed to the next meeting. The Board of Zoning Adjustment earlier this week granted four variances on second floor side setbacks.

Approved a stop sign at Gatsby Court and Shadesview Terrace: The city will install a stop sign near where an existing sign was installed by the developer years ago. The measure carries with it a parking prohibition for 50 feet in either direction of the intersection.

Close on the 2012 Park Construction Fund warrants: This item has been on the agenda for over a year. Tonight, the council closed out reporting on the bond issue, as required, and moved $3,500 from the Debt Service Fund to pay for legal services with Balch & Bingham. The vote authorizes the mayor to sign the relevant papers and pay the bill.

Approved the 2015 “Back-to-School” Sales Tax Holiday in August: – The city will once again participate with other Alabama municipalities in an annual tax holiday, Aug. 7-9, 2015, in which certain items related to education are exempt from local sales and use taxes.

GENFUNDSALESREVAccepted the finance director’s presentation of the mid-year budget review: The mid-year review was presented in a poorly attended specially called Finance Committee meeting and accepted tonight by the full council.

GENFUNDREVSThe full spreadsheet report distributed to the council mayor and other officials calculates where each department stands at mid-year compared to 50% of the budgeted projection adopted Sept. 30, 2014. The 50% mark, however, is only a guide, as most property taxes are collected by March, but sales taxes come in all year and can fluctuate. Presented here is only the summary, charts and notes discussed at the committee meeting.

Finance director Melody Salter said revenues were up by 1.5% compared to the same period a year ago.

  • She said the city needs help with its Capital Fund balance.
  • Mr. Wright, council liaison to the school system, said the Board of Education is experiencing significant financial trouble, but due to state funding.
  • Approximately 40% – 50% of the budget is attributable to payroll, and the municipal contribution to the Retirement Systems of Alabama is expected to increase. Employee health insurance premiums are unknown until later in the year.
  • The city had collected $4.47 million in business licenses fees by the end of May. The city is expecting two large building projects for the current fiscal year.

Approved an 18th Street Revitalization project: A comprehensive plan affecting parking and zoning downtown was approved and simultaneously referred to the Finance Committee for discussion.

Set a June 22 public hearing for a new parking plan on on 28th Avenue South: The hearing will address changes to the development plan of a lot at 1659 28th Avenue South rezoned to Mixed Use District zoning. f

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance -To consider 1) A request to switch from American Express purchasing card to Iberia Bank Visa cards; and 2) Accepting an $8,044 federal Homeland Security grant for the fire department.

To Planning and Development – To consider 1) Creating an ad hoc committee to look at parking solutions; and 2) A request for rezoning to accommodate a $51 million project of the Brookwood Medical Center, building a Neuro-Orthopedics center and parking deck on the site originally planned for the woman’s health center, heard and approved by the Planning Commission.

To Public Works – To consider 1) An unspecified easement at 108 Woodmont, requested by Scott Dean; and 2) Re-paving an alley on East Edgewood Boulevard.

To Public Safety – To consider supporting a state liquor license application for La Sabrosita restaurant at 191 West Valley Avenue, Suite 100.

To Special Issues – To consider 1) A driveway variance at 3104 Roxbury Road; and 2) A driveway and fence variance at 605 Oakmoor Drive.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Set June 22 public hearings on the variances requested on Oakmoor Drive and Roxbury Road, above.

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

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

Set a July 13 public hearing for a Brookwood hospital rezoning and building project: The hearing is held before the council votes whether to rezone a site at 525 Brookwood Boulevard from commercial to institutional for a $51 million private orthopedic practice and parking deck. See Planning Commission decision here.

Paid the bills – The council voted to pay invoices for the May 18-June 5, 2015 period.

Board of Zoning Adjustments, June 4, 2015

BZAThe board on Thursday called for a rare re-vote after misunderstanding a rebuilding project on Overton Road. Of special note was William Tucker’s BZA request for second-story setback variances on a row of five houses planned for the Broadway “triangle.” This visit represents the fourth appearance before city review boards — and the second before the BZA– for various building exemptions. But it is not his last. A public hearing is set June 8 before the City Council votes whether to allow front-yard fences for the project.

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

Members absent: Hope Cannon.

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

Audience attendance: 11

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

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3120 Overton Road

Voted, and revoted to grant variances allowing an addition on Overton Drive: In an unusual case, the applicant at 3120 Overton Drive was denied variances (a .6-foot right building setback and a 4.4-foot left building setback, both for a planned second floor) for this addition. When the first vote was 3-2, however, it became clear that members misunderstood the owner’s intention to keep a basement and first floor intact. That vote was rescinded and a second vote taken, 4-1,allowing the variances. (Approval requires a super majority.)

Of concern during initial discussion were the location of the neighbor’s driveway on the property line, drainage issues, which would be resolved by new gutters, less than the 20-foot clear space between houses for fire safety, requiring automatic sprinklers, and the concern that there was no hardship justifying the variances, since the house was being rebuilt from scratch. The house, however, was not being rebuilt from the ground up, as board members learned.

Voting no both times: Jeffrey Foster.

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303 Ascott Road

Approved variances allowing a playhouse near the property line on Ascott Road: The homeowners asked for and received a 3-foot side setback and 1.5- rear setback variance for an accessory structure at 303 Ascott Road. Board discussion revealed that the back yard was cut into a steep hillside and the owner already had built a 6-foot X 12-foot deck. He wanted to tear down the existing playhouse to increase lawn space, and put the new playhouse on the deck.  The roof, therefore, may be visible 2-3 feet above a 6-foot privacy fence.

Houses proposed on Broadway, backing up to "short" Saulter Road, required substantial size and setback variances to go forward.

Houses proposed on Broadway, backing up to “short” Saulter Road, required substantial size and setback variances to go forward.

Approved a series of side setback variances for a row of houses on the Broadway “triangle” property: This case arrived with plenty of baggage — The Planning Commission in April approved parcel subdivisions to accommodate a row of five houses requested by investor William Tucker at 909 Broadway, after the BZA allowed substantial setback and lot size variances at its meeting, also in April.  In this visit, Mr. Tucker brought samples of fire-rated housing siding as he was requesting variances to allow the second stories of the houses to be closer than the city code allows for fire safety. Mr. Tucker also explained that the fire department would have access to houses from both Short Saulter and Broadway sides of the development. The proposed houses will be 1 1/2 stories high and each sitting on a 39-foot deep lot.

This was not the last of the special conditions being requested for the Broadway project. On June 8, the City Council has set a public hearing for Mr. Tucker’s request to fence the houses’ front (or exposed side) yards.

Reason/Purpose: New Residences Variance Request (variances affect only four houses):
1′ Left Bldg. Setback Variance – Lot 1
5′ Left Bldg. Setback Variance – Lot 2
5’ Left Bldg. Setback Variance – Lot 3
1’ Left Bldg. Setback Variance – Lot 4

In the public hearing, a neighbor voiced concerns if driveways would be open from both Saulter and Broadway sides. This isn’t the case; the houses face Broadway and driveways are not through.

The board was concerned about the second floors being too close for fire safety if used as living space. Instead, the board voted to allow 1-foot variances on second floors if used for living space, and the requested 5-foot variances if unfinished attic space only.

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304 English Circle

Approved a variance allowing an addition on English Circle: Homeowners at 304 English Circle requested and won an 8.4-foot right building setback variance (already existing) to enclose a screened back porch. The house received variances for other work in 1997 and in 2010.

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116 Bonita Drive

Allowed variances for a major renovation of a house on Bonita Drive: The homeowner at 116 Bonita Drive asked for a 2-foot left building setback variance, presenting a letter of support from the left-side neighbor and arguing that the irregular lot shape created a hardship to build within the code. (The required variance was actually only 1.8-feet off code.) The renovation will require removing multiple trees.

In the public hearing, a neighbor approved of improvements to what she called the “eyesore house,” and was happy to learn it was a renovation, not a rebuild.

Park Board, June 4, 2015

The basketball courts are full at the new Community Center. The building's final bills will be closed out in June.

Park activities and capital expenses for next year will top $4 million, according to an initial budget request.

The board accepted a director’s budget request for FY2015-16 that is a $59,500 increase over last year, details below. The board’s budget, divided into capital and operational expenses, is submitted to the mayor in June, discussed in late July, and submitted to the city council’s Finance Committee for review, along with the rest of the city’s budget, in September. The budget does not include a $200,000 added in last year’s budget for the design and installation of a gateway to the new rec center, which was denied. This year, Mr. Squires and Mr. Meeks are discussing fundraisers to pay for the final touch to the expanded center.

Members present: Tom Blake, Jody Brant, Chris Meeks, chairman, Keith Stansell, Marjorie Trimm and Michael Murray.

Members absent: Becky Morton and Paula Smalley. Also absent was council liaison Richard Laws.

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

Approved minutes of the May 7, 2015, meeting.

Approved a charity event at Central Park: The board approved a second annual Mothers Walk and fun run with live music, children’s activities and other entertainment benefiting ovarian cancer research for Saturday, May 14, 2016.

Approved the July 2015 Exceptional Foundation calendar: The board is receiving advance notice of Exceptional Foundation’s events in order to assure adequate parking.

Awaits a signature on the Exceptional Foundation shared use agreement: Foundation CEO Trisha Kirk has been ill with complications of appendicitis and has not yet signed the agreement.

The rec center's new pool. Cool, wet weather kept numbers down this Memorial Day compared to last year, when the center opened.

The rec center’s new pool. Cool, wet weather kept numbers down this Memorial Day compared to last year, when the center opened.

Accepted without change the department head’s FY2015-16 budget proposal:

PROPOSED 2015-16 OPERATING EXPENSES –   $3,960,241

Actual council-approved budget for current fy2014-15 – $3,900,729

Salaries, benefits, insurance, other personnel costs: $2,649,702 cf. last year’s $2.7 million.

As Mr. Squires said last year at this time, the parks department is asking for an arborist and will ask to fill another laborer position. It also wants to fill, in the current budget year, two laborer positions left vacant for two years. He said the department has been down six employees since 2009.

Salaries account for $858,539 of the total–the same requested last year–while wages are $1,177,668

Professional Services— $142,539, up from last year’s request of  $128,709, which was reduced to $124,319 in the current budget.

Professional services include items such as pest control, personnel time keeping systems, storage, air handling, television and tree removal. The big ticket items are as follows:

    • $38,000 to Trugreen for athletic field maintenance–same as last year.
    • $28,000 Kellis Vegetation Management (herbicide applications), which was added for spraying the Greenway, Patriot Park, West Homewood and Central parks.
    • $17,000 for “tree removal,” cf. $20,000 last year
    • $8,570 for copier maintenance

Utilities – $461,000–This represents increases for natural gas (from $21,000 to $23,000), electricity (from $243,291 to $255,000), and water/sewer service ($150,000 to $160,000) per year.

Building and maintenance contractual services – $118,000, up $1,000 over last year, and includes $80,000 for building and grounds, and $20,000 for pool maintenance, up $2,000 from last year plus $9,000 each for vehicle maintenance and equipment repair.

Miscellaneous – $282,000, mainly for “Park Activity” expenses, up $10,000 over last year and reflecting added insurance, and ($200,000) and “Senior Citizen Activity” expenses, which were level this year, at $45,000.

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Tree removal, herbicides and and other turf maintenance products cost the parks nearly $85,000 yearly.

CAPITAL EXPENSES-$296,700 requested compared to $177,122 in current budget

Building improvements– $101,400 including the following top expenses:

  • Fencing for field #2 in West Homewood – $46,800
  • Lee Center gym lights, complete interior repainting and new hallway flooring – $39,300
  • Bleachers with safety sides – $21,000
  • Batting cage nets – $10,000
  • Senior Center flooring – $10,000

Park Landscape Equipment – $66,000, including:”

  • $35,000 Vicon spreader
  • $25,000 72-inch Zero Turn mower
  • $6,000 tire changer

Recreation equipment –

  • $60,000 – Park equipment for Overton Park, including new swings, playground equipment and ground cover
  • $30,000 Ram truck with lift gate.

A hefty request of $200,000 added last year to the budget for design and installation of a Central Park gateway was not only denied, apparently, but has become an expense the park board will have to raise its own funds to pay for. Discussion over last year’s request revealed that Mr. Squires and some members had already seen several designs submitted from Chuck Kelly and Davis Architecture; Mr. Meeks pledged that the board would show the designs publicly some time in the future.

Mr. Meeks also said he would ask the city to provide the board with revenue statements on which to base their requests–revenues produced by park activities go directly to the city’s treasury and are allocated back to the park board each year by the City Council.