Homewood City Council, Jan. 14, 2013

Homewood City CouncilThe council tackled a hodge podge of issues, held three public hearings, heard a presentation against the Northern Beltline from the Southern Environmental Law Center and presented Homewood High School senior Rebecca Riley with a resolution of commendation for her leadership as Key Club International President for 2012-13. The council declared a property a public nuisance, passed a setback amendment to the zoning ordinance and left undone a controversial zoning amendment to limit garage apartment rentals in NPD districts. Votes are unanimous except where noted.

Council members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Walter Jones, Heather Reid, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Rich Laws, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh.

Absent:  Mayor Scott McBrayer, council member Patrick McClusky

Staff present:  City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, Mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff. Also present, city engineering staff Scott Cook, Vanessa McGrath, Greg Cobb.

Presented:  Sarah Stokes, Eva Dillard and Gil Rogers from the Southern Environmental Law Center asked the council to reconsider its official support of the 52-mile Northern Beltline project. Mr. Rogers said the newly passed federal transportation bill opened up the NB’s Appalachian highway funds, putting the NB in competition with other local road projects. The group said the 52-mile route, at a $4.7 billion pricetag, isn’t expected to relieve any traffic congestion.  They took several questions that challenged their information from Mr. Hawkins, Mr. Moody and Mr. Jones. Mr. Hawkins said all the I-65 projects from Bham to Alabaster already had dedicated funding, which Ms. Stokes disputed, saying some were only on the area’s long-range plan (8-13 years out, and not funded) .

Mr. Vance and Mr. Jones asked why the group has filed suit to stop the project (filed in April 2011). They said because the state highway department needed better environmental studies, and had not considered alternatives, as they are required to do. Mr. Wright asked why the first scheduled section is so far north, and the route won’t connect to I-459. Mr. Rogers said the entire route would be set if the first piece is allowed to be completed. The council then continued to its regular business agenda.

Approved:  Minutes of the Dec. 3, 2012 meeting.

Approved:  Re-appointment of Jane Lewis (ward 3) for the city’s Cable Commission.

Declared a public nuisance:  Property at 809 Columbiana Road, for litter and overgrown weeds. The owner had an unapproved accessory building on the property. The matter had been continued since a November public hearing. Mr. Cook said some things were fixed, not others.

Denied:  Unanimous consent of the council to vote on a change to the zoning ordinance that would bar a homeowner in single family districts from renting  garage apartments to non-relatives. Following a public hearing with one comment in opposition, Mr. Hallman, first on the roll call, voted no. (The matter had been unanimously recommended by the council Planning and Development Committee, but might not be taken up again.)  Ms. McGrath presented the new wording for renting detached structures, saying it had been dropped when the council amended the ordinance earlier to reduce the number of non-related people living in NPD from 4 to 3. Mr. Kendrick said that change already included detached structures. Discussion showed council members were not clear on the rule’s application. Ms. Champ-Wallis suggested the original ordinance and amendments be looked at again.

Voting no:  Michael Hallman.

Approved:   Changed side setbacks for NPD, following a 5-0 recommendation of the council planning committee. The changes include a minimum 20 ft. separation from the closest building for lots 56-65 feet wide. The council gave unanimous consent to vote on the change and approved it following a public hearing in which no one commented.

Approved:   Five-year fiber optics telecommunications franchise (company name not clear).

Approved:  Work completed by Colonial Properties on Brookwood Blvd. related to Target, pending submission of certain required documents and drawings to Mr. Cobb.

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