City Council, July 8, 2013

Homewood City CouncilThere were more than 30 items on tonight’s agenda, but none weightier than steps taken toward adopting a new fire code. A public hearing is set before a vote Aug. 12, and before that will be a public “line by line” presentation of the proposed changes–date to be announced. Why the concern? On the table is a move to adopt the 2009 International Fire Code, a newer — but less stringent — set of fire regulations than what is in place now, according to Councilman Patrick McClusky, chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

There are two sides at least to the city's move to adopt the less stringent 2009 International Fire Code.

There are two sides at least to the city’s move to adopt the less stringent 2009 International Fire Code. Two upcoming public meetings will devoted to the issue before a vote.

Several businesses have complained that the current code requires them to install expensive sprinkling systems in buildings 10,000 square feet and over. For grandfathered businesses, even a superficial remodel may trigger a required fire safety upgrade.  On the other side are the fire fighters, whose lives are on the line. McClusky said it is fair to say that the city’s fire fighters “are not 100 percent in favor of the new code.”

Members present:  Michael Hallman, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Heather Reid, Peter Wright, and Bruce Limbaugh, council president.  Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent:  Britt Thames, Richard Laws

Staff present:  Mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, city clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, Greg Cobb and Scott Cook, city building, engineering and zoning staff,

Audience attendance:  18

All votes were unanimous unless noted otherwise.

Approved:  Minutes of the May 20, 2013 meeting.

Approved:  James Riddle was re-appointed to the Planning Commission at the motion and second by Ward 2 councilmen Mr. Moody and Mr. Hawkins.

Approved the Consent Agenda:  Three items were recommended to be dropped by committees:  1. A request for a front yard fence at 1504 Oxmoor Road; 2. A request to work in the city’s right-of-way at 1504 Berry Road, and a cross walk and signal request on Oxmoor at Hallman Hill condominiums.

Approved:  Following a public hearing in which one person commented, the council voted to allow two more distributorship signs on buildings at Big #1 MotorSports at 505 and 511 Cobb Street.  The signs had already been erected before the meeting. The business had complied with a council request to clean up its property on West Valley Avenue. Liz Ellaby of Cobb Street said the company violated other regulations by parking vehicles on the grass. Mr. Cobb said that restriction only applied to residences.

Set an Aug. 8 public hearing:  The council set a public hearing before it votes whether to adopt the 2009 International Fire Code. Discussion after the meeting revealed the code is less stringent than the older code now in place, to which the city has added extra fire safety measures. Some businesses have asked for the change.

Dropped:  A homeowner dropped a request for a fence variance at 1546 Saulter Road. 

Approved: A request for entry walls at the intersection of South Lakeshore Drive and Murray Hill Road–recommended by the Public Works Committee.

Added to the list of sidewalk projects:  A sidewalk from Edgewood Boulevard to South Forest Drive–recommended by the Public Works Committee.   

Approved:  The council approved two items related to a new Hillside Circle apartment development of Valley Avenue – 1.  It allowed the developer to do landscaping and sidewalk work inside the city’s right-of-way; and approved a name change to Moretti Circle. The name refers to sculptor Guiseppe Moretti, whose masterwork, Vulcan, overlooks the development.

Approved:  The city agreed to let the Homewood Board of Education mill and repave Dale Avenue and connect it with the planned central office building–recommended by the Public Works Committee.

Approved:  The council approved a 15-foot fence setback variance at along Hawthorne Road at 1500 Grove Place after the homeowners agreed to move the fence back to allow cars to see pedestrians on the sidewalk–recommended by the Special Issues Committee.

Approved:  With unanimous consent to vote after only one reading, the council approved an ordinance putting a stop sign at Kenilworth Drive and Melrose Place.

Approved:  With unanimous consent to vote after only one reading, the council approved an ordinance putting a stop sign at Hall Avenue and Grove Street.

Approved a beer license:  The council passed its support of a state Alcoholic Beverage Control board retail beer sales license for Super Ofertas, at 406 West Valley Avenue.

Sent back to Finance Committee:  Finance Committee chairman Walter Jones asked that a proposed parking lease for Brown-Mackie College at a city-owned building on West Valley Avenue be reconsidered since the city attorney had added another change to the lease. The city has plans to first demolish the building at 90 Bagby Dr. at a cost of approximately $50,000.

Postponed:  Some discussion preceded this postponement of a deal to spend $5,000 for publicity in an Alabama Symphony Orchestra publication in exchange for fall performances [corrected. The contract is for performances and activities in the school for a total of $10,000 split three ways with the school system and Chamber of Commerce and to come from next year’s budget.] The Chamber has not given its approval, however, and budget hearings have been moved to September, too late to withhold payment. Mr. Limbaugh asked Ms. Champ Wallis to contact the chamber staff for answers.

Approved on an 8-1 split vote:  The mayor’s request to waive business license fees for certain small business vendors earning less than $1,500 annually in the city was approved, but not wholeheartedly. The amendment to the business license fee schedule was a measure to cut down on red tape and expense that would hinder vendors from working at festivals, street fairs, charitable fundraisers and city-sponsored events.

Voting no:  Michael Hallman, who favored a reduced fee rather than a waiver, cast a second no vote tonight. His no vote for unanimous consent at the last meeting pushed the vote forward by two weeks.

Approved:  In a measure that moves decisions about tuition reimbursement from the council to the mayor’s office, the council voted to set a single budget amount for school reimbursements and let department heads make their requests directly to the mayor.

Approved:  The council authorized the mayor to sign a substantial city-wide copier replacement contract with Xerox Corp. [Amount to be announced.]

Approved with one abstention:  A budget amendment passed transferring $25,000+ among more than a dozen separate funds in amounts ranging from $150 to $10,000. Details to follow.

Abstaining:  Mr. Hallman abstained because he hadn’t had time to review the amendments.

Approved:  After a vote of unanimous consent, the council declared city vehicles and traffic lights and poles surplus property to be auctioned.

Approved with one abstention:  After some explanation from the mayor, the council voted to waive any claims against the state highway department – funded sidewalks with steeper-than-allowed slopes. The sidewalks in question were in Ward 5, mainly on the steep side of Windsor Drive, primarily at driveways.  The areas in question add about 1 inch or so of slope across the width of the sidewalk. Sidewalks should be flat, not match the slope of driveways, but ALDOT will allow it with a letter waiving that requirement. Mr. Wright asked if there had been any complaints from residents. The mayor said no, the sidewalks in question had been completed two years ago.

The ordinance was passed after a vote of unanimous consent to vote on the first reading.

Abstaining:  Mr. Hallman abstained as a technical matter because he was formerly employed with ALDOT.

Referred to committee:  To Public Works – A request to complete a sidewalk in the 200 block of Lucerne Boulevard; and 2. A request to add a new sidewalk project on Valley Avenue.  To Public Safety – 1. A request to paint a curb yellow on south Stuart Street from St. Charles Street to Evergreen Avenue; and 2. A request to include wheelchair ramps to sidewalks on Oxmoor Road from U.S. 31 to Palisades Boulevard.

Set four July 22 public nuisance hearings:  For overgrown vegetation at 230 State Farm Parkway and 180 State Farm Parkway, the Wild Rock Cafe and Long Horn Steakhouse buildings;   For overgrown vegetation at 1106 Irving Road; and for overgrown at 260 Goodwin Drive–a commercial property recently rezoned for redevelopment as an assisted living facility.

Approved:  A last-minute request to fund the Homewood Arts Advisory Council with $2,070 toward paid performances at five city coffee shops and for business cards and other administrative expenses for the rejuvenated arts board.

Approved:  Alabama Power Company was given permission to erect an additional power pole at 816 Oak Grove Road to raise sagging power lines.

Approved:  Payment of invoices for June 24-July 5, 2013.

The meeting adjourned at approximately 7:15 p.m.

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