City Council meeting, Feb. 24, 2014

Homewood City CouncilSeveral issues on the agenda tonight related to sign and fence variances, design and appearances–including tough words to a property owner about the looks of a Green Springs shopping center.  The popular Hollywood Boulevard Pedestrian Bridge project has resurfaced, with plans for a connecting sidewalk, and Brookwood Medical Center gets an unspecified incentive check for $139,000.

Council 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. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

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

Audience attendance:  10

Approved minutes:  Minutes of the Dec. 16, 2013, meeting were approved.

Appointed a new Park Board member: Tyler Vail was elected to the Park Board’s Ward 4 vacancy on the recommendation of ward representatives Heather Reid and Jenifer Champ Wallis.

Approved a fence variance:  The council approved a fence variance at 206 West Linwood Drive in which the applicant asked to put a decorative 36 iron fence next to a vacant lot to keep children out of a water feature she is having built. The approved request is to build the fence 5-7 feet closer to the property line than the required 15-foot setback. Mr. Cobb, a city Building, Engineering and Zoning staffer and neighbor of the applicant, said he and his neighbors are in favor of the request.

Postponed the Wallace-Burke sign request again: A request for a sign variance at the jeweler’s new location at the Monty Stabler Gallery 1811 29th Avenue South building was postponed, again, this time due to the applicant’s absence. The council also wanted more information about a modified pole sign. Mr. Hawkins, who chairs the Special Issues Committee, said he met with co-owner Preston Foy, who had removed his pole sign to put it on top of an extended brick wall nearby the new location. The council asked for drawings before proceeding with the request.

This al.com picture  shows the now-defunct Food World in a sea of parked cars. Turnover due to two failing businesses prompted the council to comment on the aging center's appearance.

This al.com picture shows the now-defunct Food World in a sea of parked cars. Turnover due to two failing businesses prompted the council to comment on the aging center’s appearance.

Approved a sign variance–with disapproving remarks. A public hearing was held for a sign variance for Lux Beauty, a new tenant moving into the former BlockBuster building at 248 Green Springs Highway. Mr. Jones and Mr. Wright told shopping center owner Park Grimmer they would like to see some more money invested into improving the look of the center’s facades and general appearance. Mr. Grimmer said he was making some improvements.

Approved a fence variance:  The council approved a variance at 325 Westover Drive.  The homeowner had completed 85% of the construction when Mr. Cobb discovered it and stopped work pending a variance for the side setback. No further details.

March 31 hearing set for Exceptional Foundation rezoning: A public hearing before the council considers rezoning two residential properties on Oxmoor Road for the Exceptional Foundation expansion was set for the March 31, 2014, council meeting. The Planning Commission has already voted 7-1 (Mark Woods voting no) to recommend rezoning two residences from NPD (neighborhood preservation district) to I-2 (institutional district) for the project. However, rezoning cases must get final approval by the city council, and following a public hearing. The hearing had been set for tonight at one point, but extended to meet the public notice requirement.

Approved a draft financial audit:  The council accepted the FY2013 audit report draft, which had been presented at last week’s Finance Committee meeting, and referred to the full council. The auditor will present the final audit report to the full council at a March council meeting, possibly within one week. A surplus for the year is expected to be noted in the report.

Approved a new municipal court program: Although details weren’t presented, the council gave its unanimous consent to pass into law on the first reading a revision to its Pre-Trial Diversion Program. Mr. Thames gave the following summary:  The pre-trial diversion program is a voluntary option the city prosecutor can offer to offenders charged with certain crimes to have their charges reduced or dismissed if  and involve requirements such as community service and restitution. The change enacted by the council, under a new state law, will pass the costs on to the offender. Charges for which the program applies are theft, marijuana possession, 3rd degree domestic violence, moving traffic violations, public intoxication and writing worthless checks. Municipal court handles only misdemeanor cases.

Declared old IT equipment surplus: Scores of old computers, printers, etc., were declared surplus, to be auctioned to the highest bidder.

Approved unspecific FY2013 budget amendments: The amendments had been reviewed by the Finance Committee, which recommended approval.

Referred one item to committee:  To Finance – A request to install sidewalks along Hollywood Boulevard leading to the proposed pedestrian bridge across U.S. 31. It was mentioned that the sidewalks will be built on Birmingham city property.

Approved expense to “frost” jail windows.  Mr. Thames reported a cost estimate from one vendor was $2,690, with two more estimates sought before the police chief picks a vendor. The matter was referred to the Finance Committee.

Paid the bills:  The council approved invoices for Feb. 10-Feb 21, 2014. Among the bills was a $139,000 “incentive payment” as part of a warranty agreement with Brookwood Medical Center on its expansion. [Further details are being requested.]

The meeting was adjourned at 7:00.

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