City Council meeting, April 14, 2014

The yellow segment shows the approximate size of the proposed Exceptional Foundation addition. The agency's architect has repeatedly said the expansion would "square up" the recreational activity area.

The yellow segment on this early view of the new Rec Center shows the approximate size of a proposed Exceptional Foundation expansion. The agency’s architect had repeatedly said the expansion would “square up the neighborhood activity area.” Tonight the council agreed, 9-1.

It took two separate votes, but the council finally approved the rezoning of two residential properties on Oxmoor Road that will be cleared to allow a second expansion of the Exceptional Foundation.  Two seemed to be the magic number on this request, which had been before the Planning Commission twice, the Planning & Development Committee twice, and tonight was making its second appearance in front of a council hesitant about approving an expansion without multiple conditions to appease neighbors and themselves. Although many residents had predicted the outcome going in, they had not foreseen such a one-sided result.

After a motion and a second to approve from Fred Hawkins and Vance Moody of Ward 2, Walter Jones asked members to offer “creative” solutions to the traffic problems he foresaw from the Foundation’s planned new entrance on Oxmoor. Traffic stacking up behind cars turning left and traffic using the drive to cut into the rec center were his concerns. Following discussion, Jones made an amended motion to approve the rezoning conditioned on prohibiting any left turn from Oxmoor into the facility. Jenifer Champ Wallis seconded the conditional motion, which failed in a 5-5 tie, sending the next vote back to the no-strings-attached motion still on the floor. Here the vote passed 9-1 with Mr. Hallman dissenting.

This wasn’t the only news in a two-hour meeting with an unexpected 30-minute executive session called at 7:15 to discuss impending litigation. But by appearances, it was by far the most painful.

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

Members absent: Patrick McClusky

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

Audience attendance: About 25 to start.

Approved February 10, 2014 meeting minutes.

Appointed three members to vacancies on the Homewood Environmental Commission, as follows: Hans Paul was reappointed, for Ward 5; Arnold Rutkis was appointed for Ward 1 and Erin Clark was appointed for Ward 1.

Approved 9-1 a rezoning for the Exceptional Foundation Expansion: The two residential properties at 1610 and 1612 Oxmoor Road were rezoned from the current zoning of NPD (Neighborhood Preservation District) to I-2 (Institution District). The Exceptional Foundation will close on purchasing the adjacent properties, which will be bulldozed to allow a facility expansion and separate drive and drop-off point off Oxmoor Road, opposite West Glenwood Drive. Traffic congestion was by far the most prominent concern of those who sent emails opposing it, said Ms. Wallis. A vote for a conditional approval based on prohibiting a left turn into the new building from Oxmoor Road failed in a 5-5 tie. Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Moody were staunch in their motion to pass the rezoning with no strings attached and in the first balloting voted no to the amendment, followed by Ms. Reid, Mr. Wright and Mr. Hallman–who was against the rezoning at any cost. Voting in favor of conditional rezoning were Mr. Jones, Ms. Wallis, Mr. Thames, Mr. Laws and Mr. Limbaugh, who said he opposed having any second entrance built to the new facility. All four council members favoring an amended motion, however, voted in favor of the rezoning without any conditions, making the final vote 9-1.

Voting no: Mr. Hallman has maintained his final no vote was in favor of preserving the surrounding neighborhood from institutional encroachment. Although he had planned to abstain, he followed Mr. Jones’ advice to make his vote a clear yes or no.

Simply Ponds, a business about to open on Oxmoor Road in an area slated for a new pedestrian-friendly building codes, wants to keep a non-regulation front fence. The matter was kicked back to committee.

Simply Ponds, a business about to open on Oxmoor Road in an area slated for a new pedestrian-friendly building codes, wants to keep a non-regulation front fence. The matter was kicked back to committee.

Sent a front fence variance request back to committee:  Owners of a garden pond and statuary business being moved to 173 Oxmoor Road apologized profusely for building a high iron security fence in front of their property without getting a variance first, but insisted they were ignorant of the regulations and that it was necessary to protect valuable fountains and concrete figures–which they planned to display outside the business when it opened. Mr. Moody said he saw no justifiable hardship to allow the fence. A resident (reporting) opposed the fence, which is in the Green Springs Urban Renewal District (GURD) and subject to rezoning into the more stringent West Homewood District–a new improvement area. The council will deliberate further in a Special Issues Committee meeting.

Agreed to allow a resident to remove–and replant–a public tree – A homeowner at 205 East Edgewood Drive was allowed to remove an evergreen tree from the city right of way if it was replaced, per the Tree Ordinance, with a same-size or larger street tree. Mr. Hallman added to his motion a stipulation that the replanting occur within 60 days. A similar request to remove two public trees behind 1411 Primrose Place and deemed to be in danger of falling was referred to an arborist before a decision is made.

Correction–Sent back to Public Safety CommitteeApproved taking three Oxmoor Road traffic lights temporarily out of service – The council was just about to approve removing three signals at Edgeview Avenue, St. Charles Street, and East Hawthorne Road prior to synchronizing the remaining lights, when the mayor asked that they consider covering them or turning them off for a period of time before going to the expense of removing them. The mayor, noting that he wasn’t a traffic expert, said he didn’t think any of the signals should be removed. After some discussion, it was discussed whether to cover the signals for a period of time, then hold a public hearing before making any  decision to remove the lights. Any synchronization of the lights on Oxmoor will await such a hearing. The cost of removing the signals is in the $50,000 range and is unbudgeted for this year, he pointed out.

Approved on a split 8-1 vote:  – With Ms. Wallis temporarily out of the room, the council voted to renew for three years an audit contract with RiverTree Systems, Inc., a tax auditing service.

Voting no: Mr. Hallman voted no, saying after the meeting that he preferred to let the state provide the service.

Approved a reduced rate for AT&T Business Local Calling – The city’s IT director alerted the council that a promotion for a long-term contract would save monthly fees.

Approved a grant-funded road project on Valley Avenue and West Valley Avenue. The council authorized the mayor to enter a contract with Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood, Inc. for engineering services required for  resurfacing Valley and West Valley avenues in city limits. The project is to be funded by an ALDOT grant for road improvement. No dollar amount given.

Approved a combined package of sidewalk projects and related expenses: Sidewalks and other paving and road projects were addressed in a council work session that preceded this meeting.  Here’s the link.

Dropped, at the mayor’s request, an intersection improvement grant: At the mayor’s request and with an air of mystery, the council agreed to drop a request allowing Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood, Inc. to apply for a TAP grant related to services at 18th Street South and Rosedale Drive.
The mayor referenced “missing documents.”

Approved various amendments to the current budget: No details.

In one vote the council refers many questions each meeting to committees. Here is this meeting’s Committee Referral Agenda:

To Finance-A request to declare surplus property; To consider emergency repairs to Griffin Creek; To set a bid date for emergency Storm Water Drainage Pipe and Road repair at 1717 – 27th Court South; and to consider a crosswalk across Shades Creek Parkway to Brookwood Mall.

To Planning & Development-Prior to public hearings, the committee will consider 1)The Planning Commission’s tie vote on rezoning from NPD (Neighborhood Preservation District) to MXD (Mixed Use District) a property of duplexes at 2756 B. M. Montgomery Street, in which one duplex would contain a graphics studio; 2) A favorable Planning Commission recommendation to rezone  a downtown office building from C-1 (office) to C-4 (central business district) to allow a Pilates class to be taught in an office suite; and 3) The rezoning of 24 separate and variously zoned commercial properties in West Homewood to WHD–a district based on a more uniform and aesthetically regulated codes than traditional zoning based on use.

To Public Safety – To review the Homewood APPLE Traffic Study, part 2 (see part 1, above) about upgrading traffic signal systems on Oxmoor Road; To review street/road closure procedures for neighborhood events; To request a liquor license application for Crescent Hotels and Resorts LLC d/b/a ALOFT at 1903 29th Avenue South due to business changing management companies; and To consider a no parking ordinance at or near 905 Columbiana Road.

To Special Issues – To consider unspecified special issues in Rosedale; and the fence variance request from the Simply Ponds business at 173 Oxmoor Road.

To Public Works – The committee will meet to consider giving up possession of a city easement next to 1380 Kendall Place.

Set the following May 12 public hearings on rezonings cited above: 1) On the proposed rezoning at 2756 B. M. Montgomery Street; 2) The proposed rezoning at 1628 29th Court South; and 3) The proposed West Homewood Village (West Homewood District) rezonings.

Paid the bills, with two exceptions: Mr. Thames reviewed the invoices for March 31-April 11, 2014, with a motion to approve all except two, awaiting documentation.

Went into an executive session:  The city council voted unanimously to enter a closed-door executive session to discuss “impending litigation,” one of many exceptions to the state’s laws prohibiting private deliberations by public councils and boards. The council, attorney and city clerk were in session approximately 30 minutes before returning to adjourn the meeting. The city is in at least one lawsuit, with America’s Best Value Inn and Suites, which is contesting the council’s decision not to renew its business license. The city’s chief of police appeared to be in the private session as well.


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