City Council meeting, March 3, 2014

The Homewood City Hall was the center of tonight's business in more ways than one as the council went into a rare private session to negotiate lease terms with a possible taker for the vacant third floor.

The Homewood City Hall was the center of tonight’s business in more ways than one as the council went into a rare private session to negotiate lease terms with a possible taker for the vacant third floor.

The council and city attorney tonight went behind closed doors for 15 minutes to discuss the terms of a lease to an undisclosed tenant interested in the third floor of city hall. The third floor was vacated “some time ago” by a healthcare company (Optimal IMX, Inc.) that moved out of state but still pays as agreed on its lease, which expires in the spring of 2015, according to council president Bruce Limbaugh. Among other sensitive information protected by the executive session was the name of the prospective tenant, the amount of space on the third floor to be leased, the rent, and whether the original tenants would be released from any or all of the lease terms if the space is rented.

The council, following the law, voted in public to convene the private session after city attorney Mike Kendrick cited the “leasing of real estate” as one of the permitted exceptions to the State’s 2005 Open Meetings Act:  “To discuss the consideration the governmental body is willing to offer or accept when considering the purchase, exchange, sale, lease or market value of real property. …”  Click here for a link to the law in its entirety.

Although the state’s sunshine law allows exceptions to open meetings, it does not ever require a government to meet behind closed doors. See the last item below for more details.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Richard Laws, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was the mayor, Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Jenifer Champ Wallis, and Heather Reid.

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

Audience attendance:  25, including a dozen members of Shades Valley Lutheran Church Boy Scout troop 95, which led the pledge and stayed to earn civics badges.

Approved:  Minutes of a previous meeting, date not shown.

Appointed three members to two separate boards: The council voted on a motion from Mr. Hallman to appoint Gail Harper Yielding and Mitch Stephens to two at-large seats on the 9-member Homewood Environmental Commission. Three members of the advisory commission have reached their term limits; On a motion from Mr. Thames, the council also appointed Blake Robinson to the Ward 1 seat on the Homewood Commercial Development Authority.

Approved a downtown sign variance: On his third visit before the council, Wallace-Burke Jewelry co-owner Preston Foy was granted a sign variance for the jeweler’s new location at the former Monty Stabler Gallery, 1811 29th Avenue South. Mr. Foy originally asked to use an abandoned pole sign on the property, which would have violated the moratorium on such signs. After discussion in committee, Foy presented a modified sign that extends out from an adjacent building wall — not a pole– to the right of the building.

Looking east on Oxmoor at two houses the Exceptional Foundation is seeking to buy and use to expand parking and facilities.

Looking east on Oxmoor at two houses the Exceptional Foundation is seeking to buy and use to expand parking and facilities.

Set the Exceptional Foundation rezoning hearing and other preliminaries to an expected facility expansion: The council will hold a March 31 public hearing before voting whether to rezone two residential lots next to the Exceptional Foundation, allowing it to expand its facility. Conditioned on that rezoning, the Foundation would buy and clear the two lots, then transfer the deed to the city in exchange for a long-term ground lease. The city already owns the ground under the current facility. The exact terms of this agreement will be discussed in the Planning and Development Committee mid-month and be reported at the March 31 council meeting when the rezoning is considered. The Planning Commission has already recommended the rezone in a 7-1 vote, with member Mark Woods voting no.

GULFSOUTHApproved a $5,000 advertising contract: The council agreed to spend $5,000 on advertising to support the Gulf South Conference Basketball Championship at Samford University. The event runs March 6-9.

Approved spending up to $50,000 for the Wal-Mart (Lakeshore Interchange) traffic study: The traffic study is required to renew an expiring road improvement project approved for federal funds a decade ago at Wal-Mart and the Interstate 65 interchange at Lakeshore Parkway. Although the city had –with difficulty — budgeted $23,000 for the project, the Finance Committee voted 3-0 to move an additional $27,000 from another fund to pay for the study, with Mr. Jones saying more may be necessary. To read more background, click here to read the Nov. 12 report and here to read the Jan. 27 discussion.

Set public hearings and referred several items to committees, as follows:  To Finance – To consider a contract with name inaudible [details to come). To Special Issues – 1) To consider a sign variance at the old Mazer facility, rear building, for the Sticks ‘N Stuff tenant before a public hearing set for March 31; and 2) To consider a sign variance at 2510 18th Street South before a March 31 public hearing.

Authorized the mayor to renew a $7,500 a/c contract: The contract is to maintain the City Hall air handling system, which will continue with Trane, the only manufacturer and supplier of the system’s spare parts.

Paid the bills: The council voted to pay bills for Feb. 24-March 1, 2014.

Entered into an executive session: The council voted unanimously to enter a legally allowed “executive session” or private session in order to negotiate a lease on the third floor of City Hall with an undisclosed prospective tenant, via a real estate representative. After concluding the session, the council returned to their seats and voted in public to authorize the city’s attorney to write the lease. Although the private negotiations were permissible under an exception to the state’s Open Meetings Act, the lease contract will be a public record and will be presented in a public committee meeting. Mr. Limbaugh explained after the meeting that the original third floor tenants had spent between $500,000 and $600,000 finishing out the space, which was only “studded in,” before moving in.  This expense has become part of the negotiations for closing out the lease before renting to new tenants.

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