Monthly Archives: November 2013

City Council, Nov. 25, 2013

Homewood City CouncilPending a public hearing, the council tonight agreed to offer the struggling Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins development a cool $88,000 in tax abatements to build on the long-vacant Oxmoor Road/Green Springs Highway corner. The franchise had been unable to connect via the old Checkers sewer tap, which Jefferson County had capped more than 20 years ago as “illegal” access. The tax deal will offset the developer’s cost to access a sewer main across Green Springs Highway, while a separate vote approved a $114,690

The city is offering a tax abatement of $88,000 or five years, whichever comes first to help the franchise pay for sewer access on Green Springs Highway. Mayor McBrayer said doubted more than two years would elapse before the popular franchise hits the target amount.

The city is offering a sales tax abatement of $88,000 or five years, whichever comes first, to help a dual Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins franchise pay for sewer access on Green Springs Highway. Mayor McBrayer said he doubted more than two years would elapse before the popular snack food franchise hits the target amount.

expense toward the planned widening of Oxmoor Road with an additional lane, including the busy intersection by the donut and ice cream shot.  Meanwhile, developers of a proposed preschool a block away were not so lucky. The council denied a request to allow an access road from Columbiana Road to the property adjacent to Publix for Covenant Classical School traffic, leaving a deed restriction intact.

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

Members absent: Peter Wright

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

Audience attendance:  10, including other city staffers.

Approved:   Minutes of the Oct. 14, 2013 meeting.

Dropped a driveway variance: A request for a wider driveway at 504 Hambaugh Avenue was dropped because the entire driveway ordinance is being rewritten, see below.

Denied a preschool’s request for access from Columbiana Road to Publix The council listened sympathetically but didn’t yield to a request from Covenant Classical School to open a road from Columbiana to its proposed campus on a Publix outparcel.  The property was part of the tract sold by the city to Bayer Properties in 2002 for the Publix center, a transaction that included  pages of deed restrictions to limit the types of developments that could be built. One of those restrictions was a neighborhood protection clause limiting access to the center from Columbiana. Bayer, now wanting to sell the long- undeveloped land, gave its approval to the development and request for more access, but Ward 3 councilman Walter Jones said the access restriction was meant to protect the residential neighborhood from commercial traffic and deliveries into the shopping center.

Covenant CEO John LaBreche offered to build a gated drive with limited access or access only to school traffic, which Mr. Jones at first said would be an acceptable compromise. However, he amended that to say his first choice was to keep the property closed and revisit the matter after the school had been open a year, to which the council unanimously agreed. The development will need other restrictions lifted, such as one limiting development to retail; Mr. LeBreche also mentioned the possibility of building a pediatrician’s office on the outparcel.

Approved, with one abstention, $114,690 for Oxmoor Road widening: The vote authorized the mayor to enter an agreement with Gonzalez-Strength engineering firm for a traffic study and other preliminaries to adding an additional lane from Barber Court to Columbiana Road.

Abstaining:  Mr. Hallman routinely abstains from measures involving the state highway department, a former employer.

Authorized, with one abstention, starting work on the Shades Creek Greenway, Phase II: The vote authorizes the mayor to enter a Construction Agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation on the westward extension of the Greenway Trail. There was some delay while “conflicting language” was re-worded in the document.

Abstaining:  Mr. Hallman routinely abstains from measures involving the state highway department, a former employer.

Carried over a mayor’s request for an $88,000 tax abatement for Dunkin’ Donuts: This matter was carried over to give the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise time to review the legal agreement. The matter is subject to a final vote after the terms are published, and following a public hearing, to be held in January, at the earliest.

Approved lighting expense for parking lots in Edgewood: The city will pay $538 yearly for two street lights at city-owned lots on Stuart Street and St. Charles Street.

Approved year-end budget transfers: The council approved unspecified transfers of funds for FY2012-13 amounting to approximately $5,000. Mr. Jones explained that such transfers are part of the routine business of closing out a budget year.

Approved a circular driveway on Oxmoor Road: The council passed a variance allowing a circular drive at 1512 Oxmoor Road to prevent cars from backing out on the busy street.

First reading of relaxed rules for driveways: The city attorney read an amendment to the driveway ordinance that will allow circular driveways (or multiple access points) on smaller lots than were previously allowed.  At a  request to pass the measure on the first reading, Mr. Moody asked to wait until the next meeting to allow the public time to understand the changes.

Postponed changing setback rules on “accessory structures:” The council agreed to wait until a Dec. 16 public hearing to vote on a zoning amendment, as follows: Rear yard accessory structures shall not be closer than five feet to any side or rear lot line, except that rear yard accessory structures of two (2) or more floors and exceeding 750 total square feet shall not be closer than ten (10) feet to any side or rear lot line. The current rule requires the same setback as the main building.

Issues referred to different committees, as follows:  To Finance – 1) A request to put a decorative street light at Mayfair Circle and split the cost with residents; 2) A request to enter an agreement with Revenue Discovery Systems; a request to fund Clastran (Clastran was funded in the last budget year over the objections of several council members); and 3) To consider a contract with Birmingham Engineering and Construction Consultants, a firm specializing in geotechnical and environmental engineering.  [Possibly a firm related to the city’s lawsuit to recoup money spent in cleaning a former dry cleaners spill site. This contract is to write a grant requesting funds for sidewalks.]

To Public Safety – A request to support a state wine, beer and liquor license application for Dupont Public House at 1830 29th Avenue South, formerly Lovoy’s in SoHo.

Rescheduled December meeting times: The holiday meeting schedule will be Monday, Dec. 9, and Monday, Dec. 16.

Paid the bills: The council approved payment of invoices for Nov. 9-22, 2013.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at approximately 7 p.m.


City Council work session, sidewalks IV, Nov. 25, 2013

Homewood City CouncilThe council held a 45-minute work session Monday in which a costly sidewalk project from the Homewood Middle School to Oxmoor Road along much of Mecca Avenue was whittled down to a more affordable build-out into the streets. The approved route from the school follows Mecca, on the east side, south to Highland Road, where it jogs east, then south again to Oxmoor along already existing sidewalks on Peerless Avenue. The council also addressed

A roughly drawn route of the Mecca sidewalk connector between the Middle School and existing sidewalk on Peerless.

A roughly drawn route of the Mecca sidewalk connector between the Middle School and existing sidewalk on Peerless.

thorny sidewalk issues in Ward 5 and Ward 4, where some Roseland Drive dwellers will be happy to learn that the sidewalk will be built in the street, not their yards. 

Members present:  Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Heather Reid, with Richard Laws arriving late.

Staff attendance:  City clerk Linda Cook, Building, Engineering and Zoning planner Vanessa McGrath, and mayor’s chief of staff J.J. Bischoff. City attorney Mike Kendrick and Melody Salter, city finance director, arrived closer to 5 p.m.

Audience attendance:  2, plus a local TV news crew.

Approved a less costly sidewalk plan along Mecca Avenue: The high-priority sidewalk project for Mecca Avenue, which had been originally priced as high as $125,000 due to removing trees and building steps, retaining walls and handrails, was pared down to a $95,000 project (engineering-$45,000/construction-$50,000) of 646 feet. The approved plan will connect the Homewood Middle School to Oxmoor Road via Highland and Peerless for student walkers and calls for building out the sidewalk 4 feet onto Mecca, and a short portion of Highland and Peerless.   Peerless, which at 24 feet is already narrow, would have two 10-foot vehicle lanes.

There had been previous discussions about funding a traffic study to determine options for better traffic flow in the neighborhood near the school- options such as closing Mecca, or making certain streets like Highland Road one-way only. Closing a street could take two to three years, and would add time and cost to the process of addressing traffic.  A traffic study with options for traffic calming measures could be taken up in the future.   The council voted unanimously for the new sidewalk plan on a motion from Fred Hawkins authorizing the mayor to bid the engineering job to Gresham Smith Partners.

Approved a survey for sidewalks on Rumson Road: The council discussed ways to address a costly but high-priority sidewalk plan for Rumson Road in Ward 5. The original proposal would have completed a connection between Shades Cahaba Elementary School and the YMCA via Windsor Drive and Rumson.  However, the entire project has been revised to include 465 feet  from Windsor to Yorkshire Drive, providing a possible solution for pedestrians on another blind hill on that street. One Ward 5 resident spoke out about a 10-year effort by the neighborhood to get the city council and mayor’s office to improve neighborhood traffic safety, and her personal advocacy for much of that time for a sidewalk on Rumson. The resident said the mayor’s “Walk to School Day” was not an option for her children and others.

This sidewalk project is still predicted to be very expensive because of the terrain and on-street parking, with no estimates available yet for engineering and build-out. The council therefore approved a request by Mr. Cobb for a street survey at less than $1,000 to determine a likely cost range for the sidewalks.

Approved an on-street sidewalk for Roseland Drive: This proposal replaces an earlier plan–approved over the objections of several residents–to build a sidewalk on city right-of-way through residential yards. Mr. Cobb said further information had been obtained, including a written bid for $45,000 for construction of a sidewalk into the street. One of the city’s primary objections to an on-street walkway had been drainage, which Mr. Cobb said was actually only a small issue in one place on the north side of the street where it connects to Ridge Road. He added that sidewalks built out onto broad streets (encouraging speed) like Roseland could be combined with other traffic-calming measures in the future to improve safety.

On-street sidewalks and narrowing street width are strategies commonly used by urban planners to slow traffic and encourage walkable neighborhoods, according to a representative on hand from the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham.

Put Columbiana Road sidewalk project on hold:  A sidewalk project and cross walk on Columbiana Road was effectively put on hold due to a preschool development going forward on the Publix outparcel, and which would face Columbiana. Another project on South Forest will take priority.  See the Nov. 25 council report for  more information.

The council also discussed, but took no action on, interest in sidewalks and calming traffic on Lucerne Boulevard.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:15.

Park Board work session-rec center rates, Nov. 14, 2013

PARKSThis three-hour work session of the full board continued previous committee work to update and streamline policies for the new recreation center.

Homewood Parks and Recreation Superintendent Rusty Holley presided, offering for discussion a slate of proposed new rates and other policy changes. The board for the most part accepted those proposals, but emphatically overruled or questioned where former rates seemed too low.  Chris Meeks said the center had to generate more revenue to make up for the increased operating costs–about $100,000 yearly according to Don Little, although the board didn’t consult any membership or budget figures at this meeting.

A stark rendering of the new rec center. Will membership increase to cover operating expenses?

A stark rendering of the new rec center. Will membership increase to help cover increased operating expenses? Most park board members think it will.

In one exchange, board member Tim Baggett called for much higher rates, saying he was “perplexed” why the board and staff expected a compensatory “spike” in membership. Chris Mason said he was worried about inadequate parking for increased numbers, and Berkley Squires and other board members said the new building itself would bring new members, as did the new centers that opened in Opelika, Cullman and Trussville. Paula Smalley and Mr. Squires pointed to growing school and basketball league enrollments–the new rec center has more basketball courts. But Baggett dismissed those reasons, adding that the Opelika [and Cullman] facilities also offered new indoor pools, and there was nothing new programmatically in the Homewood center. Basketball enrollments did not translate into new memberships, either, he said. “What will attract new members?”

A summary of the new rates is presented below; all are preliminary and subject to a final vote of the board.

Members present:  Chris Mason, chair, Chris Meeks, vice chair, Becky Morton, Paula Smalley, Don Little and Tim Baggett; arriving 30 minutes late were Keith Stansell and Tom Walker.

Members absent:  Tom Blake. Also absent was council liaison Richard Laws.

Staff attendance:  Berkley Squires, director of public services, Rusty Holley, parks and recreation superintendent, and Jakob Stephens, athletic director. Absent was board secretary Dianne Rice, who records minutes.

Audience attendance:  1


Summary of proposed (yearly) rate and policy changes:

  • The new definition of “household” for all membership classes is two adults age 23 and over and dependent children age 22 years and under. A  “Senior” household consists of two adults age 55 and older.
  • Total Access Membership (former All Purpose memberships) – $175 for the first person and $25 for each additional household member, to a limit of $300. This represents a $50 increase per family of four.
  • Except for rare exceptions, the board has eliminated non-resident memberships for Total Access memberships.
  • Memberships can be financed over 12 months for an additional fee. The fee will likely be between 5-10%.
  • Facility rentals will be offered in two set time blocks per day.

Discounts offered, as follows:

  • Full time park employees – no charge for employee or immediate family.
  • Part-time park employees – no charge for employee; $25 for additional family members
  • Other city employees, FT/PT & school board employees – No charge for employee; $25 for add’l family members. A provision to charge more for non-resident school employees was discussed and removed.
  • Senior households –  Senior rates currently represent an 80% discount; The new rate will reflect a 60% discount tied to the regular Total Access rate, or $70 for the first person and $10 for add’l household member. Senior Center-only memberships are unchanged.

Pool-only memberships:

  • Residents – $150 + $25/add’l household member for Central and West pools. Guest passes remain at $5.
  • Non-residents – The new rate will be $150 plus $25 for each additional family member for the West pool only. Since 2007, non-residents could pay $200 for membership + $50 add’l to both pools. For the first summer only, non-residents will be limited to the West pool only.

Summertime Caregiver memberships – $50, mainly used for children’s babysitters, and expanded from a pools-only membership to allow access to the gym.

Gym guest access – Limited to three guest passes per member per event (mainly basketball games). The board overruled the proposal to prohibit such passes.

Facility rentals:

  • Event rooms – The event room in the new rec center will hold about 75 people and will rent for $300/resident, $600/nonresident in the set block periods. The board may offer extended after-hours rental and seemed to dismiss the idea of allowing alcohol for late-night events. Alcohol is allowed at the Senior Center event room.
  • Central pool and party room –  $200 for members only, including 15 non-member guest wristbands and rented in 90-minute time blocks during normal pool hours.
  • After hours pool parties – From 7-9 p.m.; $400 residents/$800 non-residents.
  • Instructional rooms-These two spaces will be used to continue classes in karate, belly dancing, Kindermusik, etc. at a rate of $15/hour for the larger room and $10/hour for the smaller. There was a good deal of discussion about the low rate, which allows instructors to profit personally and gives access to non-member. However, this allows the center to offer classes without having to hire the staff.
  • Senior Center auditorium + kitchen –  Rates raised from $250/$500 for residents/non-residents to $400/$800.
  • Park pavilions– Rentable pavilions will be available in the two set time blocks for $75/$125 resident/nonresident at Patriot, Overton, Spring and West Homewood parks. Central pavilions #6 and #7 must rent together for $125/$175.

Summer Camp

One location, earlier start, rate and age groups changed – Rate provisionally raised from $200 to $350. The 8-week day camps at Lee and Central facilities will be consolidated into one camp to be held at Central, with the beginning time moved to 8 a.m. (from 9 a.m.) to serve working parents, and eliminating the 4-year-old class. Age groupings are proposed from ages 5-12, with boys- and girls-only classes in the 7-8, and 9-10 age groups. Much discussion surrounded raising the current rate, which doesn’t include aftercare, at $200, for 2-5 p.m.  The new rate takes a first step at adequately covering actual camp operating costs, which, for 300 children, costs roughly $132,000, but brought in only $75,000.

Three hours having elapsed, the meeting broke up at around 8:30 p.m.


City Council work session, Nov. 12, 2013

Homewood City Council

Two engineering firms on Tuesday pitched new plans — and new vocabulary — for relieving Lakeshore traffic problems. Called a “Divergent Diamond,” the interchange  configuration would keep traffic moving in multiple directions and eliminate the number of stop and turn signals that allow traffic to stack up during rush hours. The idea isn’t a brand new one, as this 2009 NPR story illustrates, but if adopted here, it would be new in Alabama, engineers say. See a YouTube video, below.

Divergent Diamond is the name. Moving traffic is the game.

Divergent Diamond is the name. Moving traffic is the game.

Members present:  Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh.

Members absent: Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Heather Reid. Richard Laws arrived an hour into the meeting. The mayor was not present.

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

The session:

The 1 1/2 hour work session was to be devoted to three topics, options for relieving traffic congestion at Wal-Mart, sidewalk projects, and an Alabama Power Co. tree-trimming plan. Instead, attending members barely made a quorum and dwelt on a presentation by Gonzalez-Strength engineering firm, then struggled to give equal time to competing firms Volkert, and MBA Engineers. As introduced, a traffic capacity study of the Lakeshore corridor — paid for by Walmart–had gone to Gonzalez-Strength in 2001 and an improvement project was even scheduled for federal funding when it lost priority status to other projects–namely, the current West Oxmoor Road improvement project and the Shades Creek Greenway extension.

A representative of the Regional Planning Commission showed that $4.1 million authorized in 2003 for Lakeshore improvements and an additional lane was still on the books, but now pushed forward to 2016 (an “out” year, since funding is planned only through 2015). Of those millions,  Homewood has already spent $50,000 and used $203,585 in federal matching dollars for preliminary engineering.

The council feels the plan should be put back in play now that traffic congestion west of I-65 threatens business at Sam’s Club, Walmart, and a North Wildwood shopping district in desperate need of redevelopment. Reclaiming that money will not be without extra costs, however, in the form of new traffic studies and additional engineering funds.

Ten years are the limit for projects to stay on the books and the RPC rep said the city runs a chance — although a small one — of having to pay the federal government back if it doesn’t move on the project.

The following is a very brief summary of three firms’ detailed multi-media presentations for alleviating traffic congestion west of I-65. With some differences, Gonzalez-Strength and Volkert firms both pitched plans eliminating the current looped ramps at the I-65 interchange and constructing a “Divergent Diamond” lane configuration on the I-65 bridge in which signaled traffic stops are eliminated and replaced with crossing through-lanes that take traffic directly to different destinations.  This screen shot from a 2009 YouTube video shows what such a pattern looks like. Click on the image to see the traffic in motion.


The “Divergent Diamond” is an interchange pattern that reduces or eliminates traffic stops and turns by using through lanes that carry traffic directly to its destination. Two firms have proposed this to reduce congestion on the Lakeshore/Interstate 65 interchange.

All three firms suggested adding a direct ramp to southbound I-65 from near the Sam’s parking lot, and council members asked about “flyovers” directly to Sam’s/Walmart, an idea quickly dismissed.

Alternatively, MBA’s presentation focused on Lakeshore U-turn lanes, a series of low-cost ways to re-route traffic at access points to Walmart and inside the Wildwood parking areas. The firm also suggested building an additional connector road from Lakeshore to Oxmoor Road via from a point near the Lowe’s parking lot, to reduce the traffic on Lakeshore.

The price tag on Gonzalez-Strength’s recommended Divergent Diamond project is $4.3 million. Volkert estimated the cost of its Divergent Diamond plan in the $2-$3 million range. MBA didn’t provide a cost estimate.

There being no time for other business, Mr. Limbaugh asked the council to take up the sidewalks discussion following the council meeting.

City Council meeting, Nov. 12, 2013 – updated with ADEM information

Homewood City CouncilThe city council tonight agreed to file suit against a company in a case involving property the city calls the “Yuppie Puppy”/Mayfield Cleaners site (see below for more). All we know –and we’ve asked–is that the council authorized the city attorney to file an unspecified application with the ADEM-logostate department of environmental management for the property, a former dry-cleaners site, and to file suit against a BBB Enterprises related to the same property.  Although answers haven’t been forthcoming from others, councilman Britt Thames provided this explanation:

This piece of property had been a dry cleaners in the past.  The city needed the land for the development of SOHO.  The city bought the property and the title was held in escrow with an agreement that the owners would remediate the land to the satisfaction of ADEM before we would take full possession.  Well the soil was removed etc etc and ADEM requires a ground water monitoring phase for several years until satisfactory levels are met.  The property owners did not do this and dissolved the LLC without notifying the city.  Now we are having to finish out the monitoring process.  We are filing suit for breach of contract.  I do not have the exact address but it is the old Mayfield Cleaners site.  I believe it would be on the North West corner of the SOHO property in the parking lot.

Also worth noting–Santa arrives at Brookwood Village Nov. 15.  Tonight’s meeting was opened with 40 scouts from Boy Scout Troop 97, Trinity United Methodist Church, leading the council and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Members Present:  Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, council president Bruce Limbaugh, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Richard Laws and Peter Wright.  Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent:  Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, and Heather Reid.

Staff present:  City Clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J.J. Bischoff, Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath of the Building, Engineering and Zoning Department, John Bresnan, fire chief.

Audience attendance:  12

Approved:  Minutes of the September 30, 2013, council meeting.

Sent a driveway variance back to committee:  The council wanted more information on the 504 Hambaugh Avenue case, and a specific design, before voting.

Approved a driveway variance: A circular driveway was approved for 907 Westover Drive on a 68-foot lot, where the ordinance requires a width of 75 feet. The reason given for the variance concerned easing Edgewood Elementary carpool traffic conditions.

Awarded the bid for thermal imaging camera: Approved  at the request of the fire chief, the council accepted a bid of $41,632 from E. D. Bullard to be paid from the capital funds budget for the purchase of (3?) thermal imaging cameras.  Bullard was the lowest “responsible” bidder, meeting all bid specifications. The amount was under budget.

Approved, on a split vote, an application to the state environmental agency (ADEM) and a resolution to file a lawsuit: In two related votes, the city council authorized the city attorney to apply for an “application” to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management in regard to a property at 2703 19th Place South in SoHo that was formerly Mayfield Cleaners and now is owned by the city of Homewood, according to one council member.  According to other council chat, unconfirmed, the city purchased this property subject to it either being cleaned up after a spill or that it be certified environmentally sound, with the purchase funds being placed in a trust until that occurred.  The owner then died and the city is acting on its own behalf to claim the property. The property was listed on one agenda as the Yuppie Puppy/Mayfield Cleaners site on 19th Place South, but it is apparently a different site, Creative Dog Training, which runs a grooming service by that name, says it isn’t the same property.

In a later vote, the council approved, also with one abstention, a resolution allowing the city attorney to file suit against BBB Enterprises–reason not given.

Abstaining:  Councilman Michael Hallman abstained, explaining that as a former ALDOT employee he was ethically prevented from voting on matters involving ALDOT or its jurisdiction, including ADEM.

Approved changes to employee healthcare plans to comply with new tax rules:  In accordance with new IRS requirements, the city council changed the amount of pre-tax dollars an employee can contribute to a Flexible Spending Account from $3,500 to $2,500. The limits have to do with unreimbursed medical/daycare expenses.

Approved the following committee referrals agenda, with one abstention: 

To Public Works – Permission to work in the city’s right-of-way at 4301 Independence Drive.  To Finance – 1. Request to authorize the mayor to enter into a contract with Gonzalez-Strength and Associates, engineering firm, for work on additional lanes on the Oxmoor Road Project, and 2. To enter into a construction agreement on the Shades Creek Greenway project, Phase II, with the state highway department; 3. To extend financial considerations for the proposed Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins development that stalled on Green Springs Highway; 4. To consider unspecified final amendments to the 2012-13 budget; 5. To consider the purchase of two “Cobra Street Lights” on Stuart Street for $538 and 6. Dropped a request–which had already been approved–to participate in the 2014 Severe Weather Preparedness Tax Holiday.

To Planning and Development – Request to consider deed restrictions on a Bayer Properties parcel adjacent to Publix (likely the Covenant preschool and daycare development reported earlier).

To Special Issues – A request for consideration of a driveway variance at 1510 Oxmoor Road.

Abstaining:  Mr. Hallman, a former ALDOT employee, routinely abstains from any measure involving his former employer.

Approved two mall street closures:  The council agreed to close 780 Brookwood Village Lane on November 15, 2013, from 3 – 7 p.m. for Santa’s arrival at Brookwood Village and to close it on November 28, 2013 from 3 – 8:30 p.m. for the Black Friday shopping event.

Carried over a zoning amendment for accessory structures:  The carry-over is an indefinite hold on this item.

Referred a driveway zoning amendment to committee:  The council had planned to request the Planning Commission to consider an amendment allowing more circular driveways. The question was referred to the Special Issues Committee.

Approved with a contingency:  A request for the city to re-survey two lots on Grace Street/Irving Road and to vacate (surrender possession of) an alley was approved contingent on the owner signing a “declaration of vacation” so that part can be donated to the Homewood Board of Education. The issue had been before the Public Works Committee, which discharged it to the council with no action after the 5-member committee failed a quorum due to two absences (Moody and Laws) followed by the unannounced departure of Hallman because the meeting was running nearly a half-hour late. Rumors have circulated freely about this incident.

Paid the bills:  Payment of invoices for the period of October 28-Nov. 8, 2013.

Board of Zoning Adjustments, Nov. 7, 2013

BZAThe most time-consuming case tonight involved residential new-construction on Woodland Drive.  The architect and property owner had planned on a second story that had the same setback as the first story, not realizing that a second story without an additional setback needed a sprinkler system.  They had been working with the fire marshal to come up with a less expensive alternative, but the fire marshal had not yet signed off on the homeowner’s proposal.

Although the board ultimately allowed a variance (see below), it was over the objections of a neighbor who stated the board’s recent grant of four or five setback variances on Woodland had diminished green space on the street and created an atmosphere of garden homes.

Members present:  Hope Cannon, Sandy Eichelberger, Lauren Gwaltney, Ross McCain, and Trey Schaefer.

Members absent:  Valerie Askew and Jeffrey Foster.

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

Audience attendance:  15

Approved:  The minutes of the October 3, 2013, meeting were approved.

All votes were unanimous unless otherwise stated.

Approved: The board approved a 10-foot rear setback variance at 411 Edgewood Boulevard to allow the homeowner to replace a shed that had been removed during sewer line replacement.  Part of the parcel is in a flood plain and the variance will allow the homeowner to place the shed on an elevated portion of the lot.

Approved:  A 2.2-foot left setback variance was approved to allow a small one-story addition at 1908 Mayfair Drive.  The homeowner plans to use the same type of siding and roofing materials for the addition that have been used on the rest of the house.

Approved:  The board approved a 1.5-foot left side setback variance (first floor) and 12.5-left side setback variance (second floor) to allow an addition at 3114 Overton Drive.   The addition, which has the same depth as the existing structure, will be located 36 feet from the house next door. A representative of the contractor spoke and provided a letter from the neighbors saying they had no objection to the variance.

Approved:  The homeowner at 512 Woodland Drive, who is building a new house, received two variances.  The first variance was a 5-foot left side structure setback variance (second floor), which allows the second story of his new house to have the same setback as the first story without the installation of sprinklers.  The variance is contingent on the homeowner’s agreeing to meet any restrictions imposed by the fire marshal, because the fire marshal had not formally approved the homeowner’s plan to use a water curtain to make the two upper story windows fire rated.

When asked what hardship justified grant of the variance, the homeowner said his architect had called the city to ask about setbacks, but didn’t mention that the house would have two stories.  A board member pointed out that complete information about setbacks, and different requirements for first and second stories, is available online.  Another board member also said that new construction should be expected to conform to zoning requirements.

During this discussion, a Woodland resident also objected, saying the street is losing green space because of the board has freely granted four or five setback variances that have allowed homes to overwhelm the lots, giving them the appearance of garden homes.

At this same address, the Board also allowed a 4-foot variance to put a garage on the property. The homeowner cited the placement of a power pole along the alley as the hardship that required him to shift the location of his driveway and garage.  Although the city council is considering a change to the zoning ordinance that would have made this variance unnecessary, the homeowner decided to go forward with the request just to make sure.

Approved:  A 2.95-foot left side variance was approved to allow a kitchen and screened porch addition to 11 Pamona Avenue.  The architect for the project explained that the lot is pie-shaped; although the addition will fit within the normal setback at the front of the house, a variance was needed at the back of the house.  With the variance, the addition would still be 11 feet from the property line.

Approved: The Board approved two variances for 710 Morris Boulevard; a 3-foot left side setback variance for an accessory structure, and a 10-foot right side variance to allow a carport at the end of her driveway, alongside her house, and a shed.

Approved:  Wayne Harris, one of the owners of the property occupied by Dreamcakes at 960 Oxmoor Rd, had requested an 18-foot rear setback variance to allow expansion of the building to the rear.  The board approved the variance subject to the property owner’s proffer to use masonry for the expansion and to have no opening facing 1015 Stuart Street.

Approved:  The Board approved the following variances for additions to 3127 Overton Drive, which is located at the corner of Overton and Mayfair Drive: A 10.7-foot front building setback variance (Mayfair),
A 4-foot left building setback variance (Overton), 2nd floor
A 7.2-foot left building setback variance (Overton).  Architect Eric Dale and the homeowner both spoke, citing as hardships the corner lot and the deep angle of the property.  They plan to add living space (including expansion of the upper story) and a porch with a carport below, maintaining the spirit of the existing home.  The homeowner stated that his immediate neighbors are in favor of the proposed changes.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:10 p.m.

Park Board, November 7, 2013

PARKSIn a total of 16 minutes tonight the park board concluded its business and adjourned until a Nov. 14 work session to write updated policies and procedures for the new rec center.  Earlier committee  sessions have been devoted to setting rates, which haven’t yet been disclosed. Although brief, tonight’s meeting was better attended than any in the last 12 months, with only two absences and an appearance by council liaison Richard Laws.

Members present:  Chris Meeks, vice chairman, Tom Walker, Becky Morton, Don Little, Paula Smalley, Keith Stansell and Tim Baggett. Also, councilman Richard Laws.

Members absent:  Tom Blake and Chris Mason, park board chairman.

Staff present:  Dianne Rice, board secretary, Rusty Holley, park and recreation superintendent, and Berkley Squires, director of public services.

Audience attendance:  2

Approved minutes: Minutes of the Oct. 3, 2013, meeting were approved.

Director’s report:  Mr. Squires announced the city’s Christmas parade would be Dec. 10, at 6:30 p.m., followed by a tree lighting at City Hall.  Mr. Holley said there were 28 places left to fill out of 50 total. Registration is being taken online.

Annual reports from city athletic clubs will be delivered to the board beginning with soccer in December, football and cheerleading clubs in January, baseball in February, and lacrosse in March.

Programs report: Ms. Smalley, the new committee chair set the next meeting — a full board work session– for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14, at the home of Becky Morton, 108 Hanover Road. The meeting is open to the public.

Approved an event: Dr. Stansell, new facilities committee chair, recommended approval of a fun run and 5K race benefitting Impact Family Counseling at Central Park on Aug. 23, 2104, from 6 a.m.-noon.

Approved holiday facilities hours: Thanksgiving–Close at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 27; closed Thanksgiving Day; Open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 29.

Christmas –Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; Open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Dec. 26.

New Year’s –Close at 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve; Closed New Year’s Day.

Rec Center status: Mr. Squires said the rec center construction is 40% complete, on time and within budget.

Approved vehicle purchases:  The board voted to approve purchasing two 2014 Dodge Ram trucks for $47,948 to replace a 1998 Ford F-150 with 139,375 miles and a 2001 Chevrolet truck with a broken transmission. The trucks are being bought from the state bid list (a list of products that have already been acquired through the state-approved bid process).

Set committee meetings: The Facilities Committee will meet Dec. 3, 6 p.m., at the Senior Center. The Programs Committee will meet Dec. 14 at 5:30 p.m., also at the senior center.

There being no further business, the board adjourned at 5:48 p.m.