City Council meeting, June 9, 2014

A concept sketch of rebuilt duplexes on B. M. Montgomery Street in Rosedale, rezoned June 9 from residential to mixed use.

A concept sketch of rebuilt duplexes on B. M. Montgomery Street in Rosedale, rezoned June 9 from residential to mixed use.

The council, with two members absent and two others dissenting, approved a relatively small rezoning measure in Rosedale tonight that nevertheless packed an emotional punch to scores of residents who had spoken out against it at three public hearings. As expected, Rosedale’s Ward 1 representatives Britt Thames and Michael Hallman voted no–as they had pledged at a May 20 town hall meeting held before a crowd of 80 residents in Rosedale. Less certain was the quick roll call of yes votes from the rest of the council, especially given the Planning Commission’s unfavorable recommendation, and the grievances aired at hearings. Approximately a dozen spectators there presumably for the Rosedale vote didn’t stay for the rest of the meeting.

Other measures of note tonight include questions about the cost and scope of the first phase of the West Homewood Village project, and a 15-minute Executive Session held to discuss impending litigation–one of the allowed exceptions to the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, and Peter Wright. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Vance Moody and Bruce Limbaugh, council president.

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

Audience attendance:  26

Unclear motion on Exceptional Foundation lease: The council seems to have approved in advance the lease for the two lots the Exceptional Foundation is about to purchase, then convey to city ownership before a planned building expansion. The three-part transaction will all happen at one time, but the city attorney didn’t know if the purchase had closed.

Approved on a 7-2 split vote rezoning a residential property in Rosedale: The approval began with a motion by Mr. Hallman to deny the rezoning request, to which Mr. Kendrick advised that any motion be in the affirmative, which then could be voted against. There being no second for Mr. Hallman’s motion, a motion to approve was made and seconded and approved. For more details on the background, see the report on the May 20 town hall meeting, May council hearing, and April Planning Commission hearing.

Voting no: Michael Hallman and Britt Thames, both representing Ward 1. Mr. Thames had called the town hall meeting about the rezoning where residents were overwhelmingly opposed to the measure.

Approved rezoning a vacant house for a beauty salon:

This vacant Cook Street (behind Piggly Wiggly) property was rezoned for a "high end" beauty salon.

This vacant Cook Street (behind Piggly Wiggly) property was rezoned for a “high end” beauty salon.

The council had questions about parking sufficiency and whether Cook Street was a dead-end or a cut through. A letter of concern had been received about these matters. Ms. McGrath answered questions about the zoning history, saying it was zoned R-7 but used as a law office, then was rezoned to C-1 in 2007. The motion passed.

Approved a fence variance: The council approved a 6-foot privacy fence proposed at 1618 Roseland Drive.

Referred a fall event to Planning Committee: A request for a Nov. 1, 2014 Rib Run/Fall BBQ race was referred to committee.

Adopted/accepted the mid-year (March 31) budget review: The review, which is required by the city’s fiscal policy, was presented to the Finance Committee in mid-May and reported here.

Carried over a personnel matter: The council postponed authorizing the mayor to sign an updated agreement with Alerus regarding an employee plan. Mr. Kendrick had unanswered questions.
Referred to committees the following items for consideration:

To Public Safety – An ordinance prohibiting “jake braking” in the area of West Oxmoor Road; and traffic and pedestrian concerns at the traffic roundabout at All Saints Episcopal Church.

To Finance – Budget amendments; measures authorizing the mayor to execute 1) a Right-of-way Acquisition Agreement with the State of Alabama for transportation improvements from Oxmoor BoulevardGreen Springs Highway to Barber Court, intersection improvements at Barber Court and Oxmoor Road and I-65, and a continuous two-way turn lane in the City of Homewood under the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP); and 2) a Construction and Utility agreement for the same project; Funding for a telecommunication contract/services.

To Special Issues – A fence ordinance variance to allow a split-rail fence along the front lot line on Hampton Drive, from applicants at 223 Devon Drive, and a sign ordinance variance at 280 West Valley Avenue.

Set June 23 public hearings on the above variance cases:  Public hearings were set for the West Valley Avenue sign variance, and the Hampton Drive front yard fence.

Approved an increase in a budgeted sidewalk contract: The council approved increasing the contract with MBA Engineers from $10,000 to $17,000 for the Rumson Road project.

Referred the West Homewood Village engineering work to committee, after questions: The city has budgeted $400,000 for the first phase of the West Homewood (Village) redevelopment–streetscaping and parking across from Patriot Park–but there were questions when Mr. Schoel of Walter Schoel Engineering presented a summary of the first phase that included a topographic and land-acquisition survey before presenting cost estimates to the city for the actual plan. Mr. Hawkins said he was concerned about spending so much on the preliminaries and not having enough left to do the actual construction. Mr. Jones asked, and the council agreed to refer the matter to the Finance Committee at the meeting June 16 meeting.

Set a June 23 public nuisance hearing on the following properties: A residence at 3016 Firefighter Lane. Three other residences were dropped from the list after improvements were made. The house on Firefighter Lane had a back yard that was “a mess” according to city staff.

Paid the bills: Invoices for May 12-June 6, 2014, were approved for payment. 

Entered a closed-door, or Executive Session: At 6:55 the council voted to enter a closed-door session to discuss upcoming litigation. It is the third such meeting called this year behind closed doors, and the second for litigation. State law lays out several exceptions to the Open Meetings Act where councils and other boards can talk privately and without advance notice. The law doesn’t require councils to meet behind closed doors for any reason. The council returned at 7:10 and adjourned the meeting.

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