City Council Meeting October 28, 2013

Homewood City Council

Tricia Ford and Steve Preston of the Homewood Chamber of Commerce opened the meeting with an announcement about the Nov. 7 Holiday Open House, in which downtown businesses stay open in the evening. The main business items included the pending purchase of a $1.1 million ladder truck, an

The city council rearranged its downtown sign district boundaries to give Rosenberger's more visibility.

The city council rearranged its downtown sign district boundaries to give Rosenberger’s more visibility.

extension of an expiring moratorium on “pole signs,” and a series of maneuvers to allow Rosenberger’s Trunk to have a tall, free-standing sign not otherwise allowed at its downtown location.

Members present:  Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Bruce Limbaugh, Walter Jones, Heather Reid, Rich Laws, Peter Wright. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent:  Patrick McClusky and Jenifer Champ Wallis.

Staff present:  City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff.

Audience attendance:  14

Approved: Minutes of the Sept. 16 council meeting.

Park Board vacancies announced: Council President Bruce Limbaugh announced that two Park Board members’ terms expire Dec. 31, leaving one at-large vacancy and one Ward 2 vacancy. Terms are five years. Applicants should send in a resume and letter of interest to city clerk Linda Cook. Nominations will be made in January with new members appointed in February.

The following items were dropped on one consenting vote: A) A traffic  study for speeding on Saulter Road was dropped because enforcement (tickets and warnings) have been effective; and B) Dropped was Fire Chief John Bresnan’s request to add certain safety amendments, particularly about fire sprinklers, to the fire code, which had been eliminated by the council to appease business interests. Bresnan and the Public Safety Committee agreed to wait until an upcoming evaluation is completed and pending a recommendation to adopt more recently issued fire codes, either 2012 or 2015.

The commercial area from U.S. 280 (top) to 28th Ave. and from 18th St. (left) to U.S. 31 was changed to a district with more relaxed sign regulations. Rosenberger's Trunk is marked at the top.

The commercial area from U.S. 280 (top) to 28th Ave. and from 18th St. (left) to U.S. 31 was changed to a district with more relaxed sign regulations. Rosenberger’s Trunk is marked at the top.

Agreed to re-draw the downtown sign district, easing certain restrictions for a business: On a recommendation from the Special Issues Committee, the area from 28th Avenue to U.S. 280 and from 18th Street to U.S. 31 was removed from removed from the city’s most stringent commercial sign district, District 5, which prohibited any free-standing signs.  The change was made to accommodate a request from Rosenberger’s Trunk, which recently moved from The Summit to a small warehouse space at 2712 19th Street South it owned, and refitted as a retail store.  The store lacked visibility without a sign and the owners’ request at the last meeting was met with a promise to somehow alter the district’s rules. That store, and all others in the altered area, are now part of District 1.

Granted Rosenberger’s a sign height variance: With the zoning district redrawn to exclude Rosenberger’s from District 5 and its sign prohibition, the council then considered and granted a request for a sign that is higher than normally allowed under the rules of District 1.

Passed on a split vote an extended moratorium on “pole signs” 

The council extended a six-month moratorium on pole signs as it considers banning them altogether in the city. Existing signs, like this one, are not affected.

The council extended a six-month moratorium on pole signs as it considers banning them altogether in the city. Existing signs, like this one, are not affected.

The council continued its city-wide ban on processing applications for new pole signs, which are signs held aloft on poles and considered unsightly compared to monument signs, which are built up from the ground and usually not as tall. The extension was passed with some modifications–not clearly explained–from the original moratorium.

Voting no – Mr. Hallman voted no on the extension, as he had on the original moratorium, because the measure hinders business.

Approved a driveway variance – A homeowner at 332 Kenilworth Drive was granted a variance for a second driveway, which is shared with a neighbor to keep cars off the street.

Approved, with one abstention, a sidewalk/crosswalk in front of McDonald’s: McDonald’s restaurant at 818 Green Springs Highway has agreed, with the Alabama Department of Transportation, to fund a sidewalk and crosswalk in front of the store. It is unclear where the crosswalk will be, across Green Springs or across the driveway from the sidewalk to the store.

Abstaining: Mr. Hallman abstained as a former employee of ALDOT.

Approved a $1.1 million purchase/financing deal for a new ladder truck: The council granted a request by the fire department to purchase for $1.1 million a new ladder truck with financing offered by HGAC (Houston-Galveston Area Council, a planning and purchasing entity for small  governments) and Regions Bank. Further details/explanation requested.

Approved (unexplained) 2012-13 year-end budget amendments: Further details/explanation requested.

Approved a change to employee vacation/sick leave policy: The council approved amending employee leave policy to allow accumulated vacation time over 320 hours to transfer to sick time at the end of the calendar year.

Items referred to committees, as follows:  To Finance – A  request by Mr. Jones, chairman, to hire a  consultant to review and recommend software and hardware or City Hall; and a request by the city attorney to “authorize an application to be filed” with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for the former Mayfield Cleaner’s site near City Hall.  Awaiting explanation.   The following explanation came several days later from Councilman Hallman:  The city had an agreement with the owner, now deceased, to purchase the property pending an letter from ADEM that the property wasn’t contaminated from a drycleaning solvent spill.  Pending that clearance–which never came–the purchase funds were put into a trust. The city is now seeking the clearance letter itself to complete the sale. 

Rescheduled the next meeting: Due to Veterans Day, the next meeting and work session are rescheduled to Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Set Nov. 12 hearings for driveway variances: For more than one driveway entrance, and additional width at 504 Hambaugh Avenue; and unspecified issues on a driveway at Westover Drive.

Paid the bills:  The council approved payment of invoices for Oct. 14-25, 2013.

The meeting adjourned at 6:50 p.m.

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