The meeting’s most important decision followed a 13-minute closed-door executive session to discuss litigation, after which members unanimously voted to settle a legal dispute with America’s Best Value Inn & Suites, a West Homewood hotel which sued to have its business license restored after the council denied the renewal due to what it called excessive criminal activity. The owners have been operating under a temporary restraining order granted by a Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge.
However, the greatest drama unfolded over a more mundane issue–also in West Homewood–in which the council unanimously rejected a front-yard fence variance requested by Simply Ponds and Gardens, at 173 Oxmoor Road. The request had already been kicked back to a Special Issues Committee in April — where it was approved 4-0. However, with the exception of chairman Fred Hawkin’s absence, those committee members returned with the full council on Monday to say no to the variance. Business owners Frank and Ruth Davis expressed their shock at the turnaround, with Mr. Davis saying the council should be embarrassed and threatening that the decision might drive the garden art and pond business out of the city. Council members said they didn’t want to set a precedent in the area, which is slated to be rezoned as an improvement district, as other local businesses already had and likely would in the future seek the same type of fence variance. The council did approve an amended version of the variance, which didn’t mollify the Davises. For more details, see below.
(This 90 minute meeting was called to order at 6:17 p.m. following a long-running presentation by the Homewood Board of Education, which also started a bit late.)
Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Vance. Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Heather Reid, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.
Members absent: Fred Hawkins and Richard Laws.
Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, and Mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff.
Audience attendance: Approximately 15 to start.
All votes were unanimous unless otherwise designated.
Approved: The council approved minutes from the February 24, 2014, meeting.
Closed the Ward 2 Board of Education vacancy: Applicant interviews will begin on May 13. Applications for the Ward 3 spot on the Environmental Commission will close on July 11.
Approved the Consent Agenda — Details to come.
Carried over again a request to remove two trees on public property. The trees are in a city alley behind 1411 Primrose Place. The trees have been examined to see if they are in danger of falling.
Denied, with some concessions, a front fence variance for a business: Three of four Special Issues Committee members who voted earlier to allow a front fence to remain at a newly opened garden pond business on Oxmoor Road reversed themselves and joined the council in a unanimous denial. The 9-0 vote, with committee chairman Fred Hawkins absent, denied Simply Ponds permission to keep the iron security fence, which the business erected without permission in a West Homewood area slated to be rezoned to regulate and improve building appearance and pedestrian accessibility. The council followed a motion from Ward 2 (West Homewood) councilman Moody, however, to allow a 16-foot variance on the northeast side, which includes a portion of the fence. The rest must be removed.
Approved: The council approved plans to synchronize the traffic signals on Oxmoor Road, which a consulting group had recommended doing after removing three of the lights. The council agreed to the mayor’s appeal not to remove any signals, which will be synchronized to smooth traffic flow. To read the consultant’s entire plan for Oxmoor Road, follow this Google Drive link https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9mr4DV1ZTbfUkh4WlkzSlMxcjQ/edit?usp=sharing.
Declared library materials surplus for public auction: No details.
Awarded a bid for emergency repairs to channeled portions of Griffin Creek: The council awarded American Concrete Foundation & Walls a contract to repair sections of a channeled creek that collapsed after heavy rains a few weeks ago. The accepted bid pays $48.20/square foot. The bid of Stevens Contractors was also considered, but was not the low bid. Building, Engineering and Zoning employee Greg Cobb said the total cost would be approximately $75,000, to be funded through the already-budgeted “creek walls” maintenance budget, with any additional funding to be paid from the Small Infrastructure fund.
Re-set a bid opening to repair stormwater facilities: A new bid date was set for June 16 to adjust contract criteria for facility repair at 1717 27th Court South.
Surrendered a city easement: The original request to “vacate” a city easement at 1380 Kendall Place was not allowed. Instead, the council voted to achieve the same result by declaring the property surplus. The mayor was authorized to sign the documents transferring the easement for $1.
Declared no parking on Crest Drive and Columbiana Road: In two separate votes on Public Safety Committee recommendations, the council agreed to post no parking signs on an alley adjacent to 21 Crest Drive and at 905 Columbiana Road.
Approved a downtown liquor license application: Support was approved for a state liquor license application by new management company for the ALOFT hotel.
Agreed to replace a tree buffer removed from Columbiana Road: The council agreed to replace some trees and vegetation removed for parking at 811 Columbiana Road which exposed the residential street to Green Springs Highway. The decision was made with the caveat that willing property owners provide an easement to allow the city to work on the property.
Set May 12 public hearings: Hearings were set before the council votes on two rezoning cases, 1) Whether to rezone from Neighborhood Preservation District to Mixed Use District a group of duplexes at 2756 B. M. Montgomery Street, which the Planning Commission referred with an unfavorable recommendation (3-3 tie vote); and 2) A request to rezone an office building at 1628 29th Court South from C-1 (Office usue) to C-4 (Central Business District), to allow a Pilates class to be taught in one of the suites. This measure received 6-0 approval by the commission. Both measures first go to the council’s Planning and Development Committee.
Set a May 12 hearing to rezone 24 properties in West Homewood: This matter involves the substantial rezoning by city decree and following a Regional Planning Commission plan that would create a retail “village” atmosphere by regulating the appearance, setbacks and other features of commercial properties along Oxmoor Road, Oak Grove Road and Raleigh Avenue near Patriot Park. The plan has received Planning Commission approval, but the city council has a final say. Owners of affected properties, which are grandfathered under existing zoning, may still request to opt out of the rezoning. The Planning and Development Committee will deliberate further on this rezoning at its next meeting.
Referred the following issues to committees: To come.
Paid the bills: The council approved payment of invoices from April 14-25, 2014.
Approved ad valorem (property) tax rates an homestead exemption: These routine measures set property tax rates at the same level as last year and authorize their collection.
Approved a crawfish boil event: JoJo’s Restaurant on Broadway was given permission for an outdoor crawfish boil on May 31.