Michael Hallman tonight, during an informal announcement period following council adjournment, surprised spectators and those on the dais by announcing that he was sick and tired of being discussed negatively in an unnamed “blog” by an unnamed fellow council member. As the council president was asking if he could please hear the personal dispute privately, Mr. Hallman shot back that he had not gotten any response to his previous emails about the matter. He had also complained, with no satisfactory answer, about unprofessional texts from this same council member, and was tired of it, he said.
Although Mr. Hallman didn’t name the accused council member, it would appear that the blog in question is al.com’s Homewood Forum http://www.al.com/forums/homewood/index.ssf, where councilman Fred Hawkins, using his real name as a handle, is a familiar commenter and most recently criticized Mr. Hallman’s habit of abstaining from votes relating to former employers (ALDOT) or people he knows through work. Mr. Hallman ended tonight’s awkward moment by basically saying he would vote any way he wanted. The issue didn’t play out further.
In other news, also involving Mr. Hawkins, a developer has shown interest in buying the city-owned property on Oxmoor and Oak Grove roads intended as project to showcase the new West Homewood Village building designs.
Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Heather Reid, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Mayor Scott McBrayer was also absent.
Members absent: Richard Laws.
Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, city code enforcement officer Scott Cook, and city Building, Engineering and Zoning manager Greg Cobb.
Audience attendance: About 26.
Filled a BZA board seat: The council approved the reappointment of Lauren Gwaltney to the Ward 1 of the Board of Zoning Adjustments.
Approved minutes of the July 14, 2014 meeting.
Passed a variance for more and larger signs at Alabama Outdoors:
The long-standing outdoor outfitter on 3054 U.S. 31, near CVS, will be remodeling the familiar building to add a tower on the south end, and more and larger signage. The business asked for four signs, including three replacements and one large sign facing the highway that spells out the name in brushed aluminum letters against a timber background. In all, the business requested nearly three times the square footage allowed, and one sign in addition to the three commonly allowed in that area. One of the fours signs will be over the entrance, which faces the back parking lot.
Dropped a request for a sign variance at a Chinese restaurant: A request for a variance at a storefront Chinese restaurant at 24 Green Springs Highway (near Pizza Hut) was dropped with no reason given.
Allowed more time for a property owner to cut back weeds: While sometime stifling smiles, the council listened as Charles Thompson of Vestavia defended the presence of bamboo, monkey grass and privet at 708 Carr Avenue, a vacant parcel he co-owns and which acts as a back yard for a rental property, also owned by him. Mr. Thompson had cleared the offending overgrowth, he said, and read aloud the dictionary definition of “privet” as a plant affording privacy on the fence. The real issue was that he had cut back the overgrown area after the city took the most recent picture. He was given until the next meeting to clear up the property.
Postponed a public nuisance case to give time for clean up: The council carried over a pending public nuisance case at 2831 16th Place South and 2827 16th Place South, owned by the same person, to give time to finish a clean-up of overgrown weeds, in progress.
Set a Sept. 22 hearing before two rezoning cases: The council and public will hear the justification for rezoning vacant property at 1728 26th Avenue South from R-7 (Attached Dwelling Unit District) to C-2 (Neighborhood Shopping District) to expand parking for a tenant of the former Dorothy McDaniel building; and to amend a Final Development Plan in the MXD (Mixed Use District) for a live/work structure being built at 1659 28th Avenue South. Both cases were approved for recommendation by the Planning Commission, although the second case had one dissenting vote.
Declared surplus police vehicles for auction on a first reading: After getting unanimous consent, the council declared a series of police vehicles surplus property to be auctioned.
Approved pursuing a sales contract for property at Oak Grove Road: The city-owned property at the corner of Oxmoor Road and Oak Grove Road apparently has a buyer. The highly visible corner lot–a former gas station that was environmentally cleared from any underground tank leakage– was purchased by the city to be sold as a “catalyst development” in the new redevelopment. The motion approved allows the city attorney to negotiate a price. Meanwhile, engineering work is finally proceeding on parking improvements planned nearby on both sides of Oak Grove Road next to Patriot Park and a virtually vacant commercial building. The delay is due to the council’s conflict over the scope of work with the first firm, which led to a dispute over cost and a change of vendors.
Committee Referral Agenda
In one vote, the council referred several items to committees, as follows:
To Finance – 1) To consider funding street lights on Berry Road, 2) To consider funding longevity pay and bonuses for full-time employees, contingent on ending the year with a surplus, 3) To consider unspecified FY2014 budget amendments, and 4) To consider a transit funding project (added).
To Special Issues– To consider a sign variance at 411 Green Springs Highway.
To Planning and Development – 1) To consider annexing a residence at 1709 Hillbrook Drive, 2) To consider vacating portions of 18th Street South between 2501, 2513 and 2517 addresses, (an unused road) and 3) To consider rezoning 4+ acres of wooded land at 2501, 2518 and 2517 18th Street South from C-2 (Commercial) to I-2 (Institutional) for the Islamic Academy, in Rosedale.
Set an Oct. 13 public hearing for the Islamic Academy rezoning request.
Set a Sept. 22 public hearing for a sign variance at 411 Green Springs Highway (Public shopping center).
Paid the bills: The council approved paying invoices presented Aug. 25-Sept. 5, 2014.