The council tonight, at Mayor Scott McBrayer’s request, halted the imminent demolition of a derelict building on West Valley Avenue that is due to be leased to Brown-Mackie College for overflow parking, asking the council to take a second look at their decision in light of all the facts. Making his comments after adjournment, McBrayer alluded to documents and questions contained in an e-mail from Kevin Forsyth, a Homewood resident and frequent critic of council financial decisions. In the email, Forsyth had attached copies of the papers documenting the 2004 purchase of the building at 90 Bagby Drive, including a closing statementwith four other parcels, from seller Regions Financial. Included are papers showing details of the $1.8 million transaction, the purchase agreement, and drawings of a proposed police complex at the address, with Forsyth’s request to stop the demolition, scheduled at a cost of approximately $50,000. The parking lease for $550 per month, which had
been signed by the college and was due for council approval tonight, had already been carried over. It will now be referred back to the Finance Committee.
Forsyth argued in his email that the city was demolishing a valuable taxpayer asset in exchange for a poor use, which McBrayer emphatically denied. McBrayer and Finance Committee chairman Walter Jones said there was no connection between the city’s decision to demolish the west Homewood building and Brown-Mackie’s offer, which were coincidental. Jones said the college inquired about using the property and shortly thereafter the building was inspected and found to be unsafe. McBrayer, who was on the council in 2004, did not detail the city’s reasons for purchasing the building or the other parcels. However, he said he would provide council members any information they needed. Two council members, asked about the building in past weeks, said they thought the property had been donated to the city.
Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Heather Reid, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Mayor Scott McBrayer was also present.
Members absent: Richard Laws
Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, Scott Cook, city Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.
Audience attendance: 23
All votes were unanimous.
Approved: Minutes of the June 10, 2013 meeting.
Approved variance to “tent ordinance”: The council approved a variance allowing an annual bridal show by GoPro Event Solutions at Soho on Aug. 13. Last year’s event involved two 20′ x 20′ tents; one of the tents this year will be 40′ X 60′.
Approved ASO contract for $7,500: After many meetings, the council approved a contract with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra for a free concert in Homewood Park and several educational opportunities for Homewood students. The original plan was for $10,000 split equally among the city, the Homewood Board of Education and the Chamber of Commerce. The chamber was not included in the final contract, which was raised to $15,000 to be split equally between the city and school board. [Correction: This was previously reported as a total of $5,000 to be split three ways; the contract was also incorrectly reported as a purchase of publicity in exchange for a performance.] Click here to see the contract details, under Option #1.
Approved Ward 1 and Ward 2 appointments to Arts Advisory Council: Emily Evans was named as Ward 1 representative and Jeremy Kirkwood was appointed for Ward 2.
Approved the Consent Agenda: The agenda included dropping a request for sidewalks on Berry Road, as the request is already on the sidewalk project list, moderate priority; it added a request for wheelchair slopes on sidewalk crossings along Oxmoor Road between U.S. 31 and Palisades Boulevard.
Dropped two public nuisance cases: At staff request, the council dropped public nuisance proceedings against the former Wild Rock Cafe at 230 State Farm Parkway, and the former Lone Star Steakhouse at 180 State Farm Parkway. Both properties had been cleared of overgrowth.
Declared a public nuisance: The abandoned house, structures and six lots at 1106 Irving Road were declared a public nuisance after two neighbors spoke in a public hearing about abandoned cars left on the property for years, windows open to the elements, rats and mosquitoes breeding on the property. This was the third time the property has been declared a nuisance. After discussion, in which Mr. Cook said he’d reported conditions to the police over a year ago and had a hard time making contact with the owner, the council agreed to have city staff refer the property to the abatement board, which can order demolition if the property isn’t cleaned up and made safe. The owner has been negotiating with a developer, who recently boarded up the windows at the city’s request.
Carried over: Following a public hearing about overgrown property that was only partially cleared at 260 Goodwin Crest Drive, the council decided to have city staff talk to the owners before proceeding against them. Mr. Cook said he and a fire official visited the property and found the front had been cleared but not the rear. The property is a former hotel on a summit and fire officials said overgrowth behind the property was a more serious danger in case of a woods fire. The property was bought in a foreclosure by a group that won a rezoning to redevelop the building for an assisted living facility. Mr. Cook said the building wasn’t properly secured and transients were coming and going in some of the rooms.
Approved two additional sidewalk projects: On a recommendation from the Public Works Committee, the sidewalk completion on Lucerne Boulevard was added to the list as well as a new sidewalk on Valley Avenue in front of the Board of Education property.
Carried over: The Brown-Mackie parking lease (see introductory paragraph) was carried over due to a controversy over the demolition of the property to be leased.
Carried over: The council postponed any action on the questioned sale of property it owns in the Publix center for a car wash. The property was acquired for $320,000 in a condemnation proceeding years ago to complete the Publix development plan. In committee, Mr. Moody failed to get a second on his motions to sell it for $100,000, then for $150,000 before he moved to refer the sale to the full council.
Approved a no parking area on Stuart Street: On the recommendation of the Public Safety Committee, the curb will be painted yellow on the south side of the street and a no parking sign erected.
Referred new questions to the following committees: To Finance – 1) To hear a presentation by the Shopping Center Group for marketing commercial property; 2) To consider a bridge over U.S. 280 in the Hollywood neighborhood, and 3) To consider amendments to the current budget. To Public Safety – 1) A request to put up stop signs at Laurel Place and Primrose Place, and 2) at Primrose Place and East Linwood Drive.
Set Aug. 12 public hearings: For a fence variance at 300 Windsor Drive; for a sign variance at an unnamed business at 208 Oxmoor Court; and for sign and building update to the McDonald’s at 818 Green Springs Highway; for nuisance overgrowth at 55 Bagby Drive; 65 Bagby Drive, 301 Goodwin Crest Drive; and 837 Grove Street.
Set an Aug. 26 public hearing before the West Homewood Village rezoning: On the advice of the city attorney, the council agreed to hold a public hearing before publishing the ordinance containing the proposed “Village” design codes that would be added to the city’s overall zoning ordinance. Mr. Kendrick said there would likely be changes when the public begins to consider the 40-page document and it didn’t make sense to start the long ordinance notification and advertising process, then have to re-do it. The new “form-based” building prototypes for village development had already been added to the city’s master plan by the Planning Commission. The council, however, must give final approval to the zoning changes.
Approved: Invoices were approved to be paid for July 8-July 19.
The meeting adjourned at a little after 7 p.m., followed by comments from the mayor.