City Council meeting, Jan. 27, 2014

Homewood City CouncilWhat happens to big box retail space once the original occupants have left town?  Sometimes absolutely nothing. But that’s apparently not the case with the shuttered Food Worlds and their successors–Mi Pueblo Supermarkets. Mi Pueblo #3 on Green Springs Highway has leased the empty Food World up the street, according to council business tonight.  A glance at Google shows it’s not the first time, as this Birmingham Business Journal story points out about Mi Pueblo #2’s move to the Pelham Food World last spring.

Along with a string of variance requests, the council tonight also authorized the mayor to enter into a traffic study contract — dollar amount unknown– with Volkert Engineers to precede a multi-million-dollar traffic enhancement of Lakeshore/I-65. More on Volkert’s and two other firms’ presentations at an earlier work session, here.

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

Members absent:  Council president Bruce Limbaugh.

Staff present:  J.J. Bischoff, Mayor’s Chief of Staff; Linda Cook, city clerk;  Mike Kendrick, city attorney. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Audience attendance:  Approximately 27 to start.

Approved minutes:  The minutes of the Nov. 25, 2013, meeting were approved.

Approved, with one dissenting vote, appointment of an at-large Park Board member:  Michael Murray was approved as an at large delegate to the Parks and Recreation Board following interviews last week. Marjorie Trimm Davis was appointed to the Ward 2 seat at the last meeting. Applications for the remaining opening–the Ward 4 seat vacated by the resignation of chairman Chris Mason in December–will be closed Feb. 3.

Voting no:  Ward 1 councilman Michael Hallman voted no, saying he supported the candidate from his own ward.

Approved a no parking zone:  The council passed an ordinance prohibiting parking on the newly developed residential area on Moretti Circle.

Carried over the DuPont Public House request: Once again the council pushed forward the liquor license request, absent any paperwork or an appearance by the business owner.

Mi Pueblo is moving on up Green Springs Highway to the vacated Food World.

Mi Pueblo is moving on up Green Springs Highway to the vacated Food World.

Carried over a sign variance request from Mi Pueblo Supermarket:
Following a public hearing for a new sign at the former Food World and Belle Foods, it was revealed that Mi Pueblo Supermarket will be leasing the larger space and moving from its current location a few blocks south on Green Springs Highway. The hearing was closed but the item carried over for a potential redesign to see if smaller signs could be created than were presented.

Approved a temporary leasing sign for the Moretti development:
Following a public hearing, the council allowed the Moretti owners to place a leasing sign on Valley Avenue, to expire Sept. 1, 2014.

Dropped a sign variance request: A public hearing for a sign variance at unspecified business at 3500 U.S. 31 was dropped, with no explanation.

 Carried over a driveway variance for wrong paperwork: The request was for a variance to allow a concrete parking pad and mailbox at 319 Laurel Place. The resolution must be drawn up to include the mailbox in the wording.

Sent a sign variance request back to committee: Following a public

The "Pastry Arts" building will have to re-think its sign request.

The “Pastry Arts” building will have to re-think its sign request.

hearing for a sign variance for the Pastry Arts building at 1927 29th Avenue South, the council asked the owner to reduce the number of signs. The case will be referred back to the Special Issues Committee, and presumably be presented again at a second public hearing.

Declared three motorcycles surplus: Three police motorcycles deemed surplus will be sold and replaced.

Approved $6,000 for an Eagle Scout project: The council appropriated $6,000 to supplement an Eagle Scout project to erect a flag pole, concrete platform and rock veterans memorial by the Senior Center. The park board has previously explained this expenditure is to install a concrete sidewalk leading to the memorial. The item had been included in the current budget.

Added an at-large seat to the Arts Advisory Council: There will now be five members and an additional two at-large positions.

Authorized the mayor to sign a traffic study contract: The mayor was given official go-ahead to sign a contract with Volkert Engineering–one of three firms making presentations back in November on a proposed multi-million-dollar fix for traffic woes at the Walmart and Lakeshore Parkway interchange with Interstate 65. This federal project has been on the local planning commission’s books for 10 years–the federal limit–while other Homewood projects have taken priority. Now the city must go ahead or risk paying back federal funds already spent on engineering work. Volkert and Gonzalez-Strength both made pitches for a “Divergent Diamond” configuration at that interchange. To read the November report and the neat animation, click here. Tonight’s vote was just to support the mayor’s selection of Volkert and the first expenditures will be a traffic study, although no one on the council mentioned a dollar figure or even a ballpark number to use as guidance.  [Councilman Hawkins later explained that the design engineering work and traffic study may cost 10% of the final construction. If that cost is $3 million, look for a $300,000 pricetag on the preliminary work.]

Referred these matters to committees, as follows: To Special Issues – 1. A request for a fence variance at 206 West Linwood Drive; 2. A request for a sign variance at 1811 29th Avenue South, and 3. A request for a fence ordinance variance at 11 Crest Drive. To Public Safety – 1. A request to examine traffic flow problems around Edgewood Elementary School.

Set Feb. 10, 2014, public hearings for variances listed above: These public hearings are set to FOLLOW the committee meeting discussions.

Approved a new location for the Homewood Farmer’s Market: The Homewood Farmer’s Market, held during the summer months each Saturday from 7 a.m.-1 p.m., will be held at the lower rear parking lot at City Hall, in SoHo.

Paid the bills:  The council approved payment of invoices for Jan. 13-24, 2014.

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