City Council, Feb. 10, 2014

Homewood City CouncilFor sheer financial impact, a $62,000 business license rebate to a Homewood-based software company took the honors at tonight’s council meeting. The rebate was part of a financial incentive struck by a previous council with Daxko, (a company, according to its website, that is a “manifesto of culture and camaraderie.”) Nevertheless, the agreement returned to the company all license fees over $15,000 paid to the city in the last three years. The expense will be absorbed in the current budget, but require some “belt tightening,” according to councilman Peter Wright. Among much interesting business–check out the committee referrals–the council quietly dropped further funding of Clastran, and set an

Click on image to open the Exceptional Foundation's expansion plan.

Click on image to open the Exceptional Foundation’s expansion plan

important March 31 public hearing on the Exceptional Foundation’s request to rezone residential property on Oxmoor Road for a building expansion. Also next month, meeting dates have been rescheduled to March 3 and March 31 (for council/staff to attend the National League of Cities meeting March 8-12 in Washington D.C.

Members present: All-Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Mayor Scott McBrayer arrived after the mid-point of the meeting.

Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Michael Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, Greg Cobb, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department and Fire Chief John Bresnan.

Audience attendance: 11.

Approved:  Minutes of Dec. 9, 2013.

Approved dropping the Clastran transit service: Clastran’s yearly $15,000 contract in Homewood subsidized a special service for elderly and  disabled passengers. Last year’s funding was approved on a split vote, with opponents saying there weren’t enough passengers to justify the expense. This year the opposition was unanimous.

Sent back the Dupont Public House liquor license request: The request will be sent back to the Public Safety Committee, ultimately to be tabled until the business materializes.

Approved a driveway variance: On a recommendation of the Special Issues Committee, a variance was granted for a driveway wider than the 20-foot limit to a homeowner at 319 Laurel Place. The homeowner had filled out the wrong permit and also had to sign an indemnification agreement with the city, hence the matter had been held over since January.

Approved sign variances for Mi Pueblo Supermarket: The Mexican market on south Green Springs Highway is moving into the vacant Food World space at 222 Green Springs, a few blocks north. The council approved this variance after asking the owners to consider reducing size of a first draft.

Approved, with conditions, Pastry Arts sign variances: The Special Issues Committee asked the business to drop one of the four signs requested at 1927 29th Avenue South; the council approved the variances if either the awning or side sign will be removed.

Postponed a fence variance hearing: The homeowner at 206 West Linwood Drive, who was not present, received variance approval over a year ago and now wants to expand on it. Case handler Greg Cobb, who lives across the street from the house, said he could re-date the public hearing notice in front of the property. The Special Issues Committee had referred the case back to the council with no recommendation.

Postponed a sign variance hearing: Wallace Burke Jewelers wants to move into more visible former Monty Stabler Galleries space at 1811 29th Avenue South, and put its name over the old (non-compliant) signs, including an abandoned pole sign. Mr. Thames reminded the council and Mr. Cobb that a moratorium on pole signs was still in effect, sending the case back to the drawing board. However, discussion followed on the need to get back to work on the ultimate purpose of the moratorium —  to re-write the city’s signage regulations phasing out pole signs for the lower profile “monument” signs.

Approved, with many cautions and conditions, a fence variance:  A homeowner at 11 Crest Drive asked to put a 34-inch high fence for his dog in a side yard as there is no useful backyard and rules prohibit a front yard fence. The house is angled on a wide curve at the Saulter Road intersection. The council, particularly Mr. Moody, was leery of approving the request until proven the fence wouldn’t cross the city right of way. The council finally approved the plan, conditioned on showing it didn’t cross city property. Later, Mr. Moody and the council also added wording that the fence could not exceed 36 inches in height.

Approved unspecified budget amendments. The Finance Committee has reviewed and recommended approval. No details.

Referred the following items to committees/hearings set:

To Finance – 1) Request to review audit draft for FY2013; 2) Request year-end cash transfers for FY2013; 3) Declare certain IT Department property surplus, for disposal; and 4) Set a March 3, 2014, 5 p.m. bid opening to purchase “personal protective equipment” for the Fire Department.

To Public Safety – 1) Request “frosting” jail windows; and 2) Consider an ordinance establishing a “Pretrial Diversion Program” with operating standards for the city’s municipal court.

To Special Issues – 1) Request to reduce the number of at-large positions on the Homewood Environmental Commission; 2) Consider a sign variance for a beauty supply store planning to move into the vacated BlockBuster building at 248 Green Springs Highway; and 3) Consider a fence variance at 325 Westover Drive.

To Planning and Development – 1) To consider the Planning Commission’s recommendation to rezone two residential lots on Oxmoor Road to Institutional for the purpose of demolishing the houses for the Exceptional Foundation expansion. The recommendation came on a split 7-1 vote, with Mark Woods voting against.

To Public Works –  To place a connecting sidewalk from the planned Hollywood Boulevard pedestrian bridge to the neighborhood sidewalk system.

Set Feb. 24 public hearings for the following requests: A sign variance at 248 Green Springs Highway; and the fence variance at 325 Westover Drive.

Set a March 31 public hearing for the Exceptional Foundation: The request is to rezone 1610 and 1612 Oxmoor Road from NPD (neighborhood preservation district) to I-2 (Institutional) to allow the Exceptional Foundation expansion room. The plan is to raze the existing houses, and donate the property to the city, which then will lease the ground to the Foundation.

Paid the bills:  The bills were approved to pay, including a $62,000 one-time rebate of business license fees to Daxko under an incentive arranged by a previous council, but now due. Mr. Wright said the amount justified special disclosure and also because a similar agreement existed for rebating sales use taxes to Brookwood Medical Center, which had recently made a substantial expansion that benefited the city financially. The details of that agreement and due date weren’t under discussion. After the meeting, Mr. Wright said Daxko employed about 120 people. The expenditure, although specifically set out in the city budget, could be absorbed although it would require some belt tightening, he said.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at about 7:15 p.m.

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