The Exceptional Foundation has proven to be just as exceptional in its business dealings as it is in the clients it serves. On Thursday the council temporarily delayed passing a measure to facilitate the foundation’s expansion financing while while it fired questions at the architect about the agency’s ever-changing construction plan. Earlier this year, the foundation’s announced plans to demo two houses and build an addition on its west side caused a neighborhood furor, although the rezoning measure eventually passed. As discussed in city budget hearings last month, Homewood is not only the landlord, but the agency’s leading municipal supporter–whose $40,000 annual donation is about four times the amount contributed by other cities whose residents it serves. Two weeks ago, the foundation again took the park board, neighbors and council by surprise when it set an Oct. 13 construction start date and asked approval for a series of changes that included reducing a privacy buffer, digging a basement and removing an asphalt block of 12 Rec Center parking spaces for excavated dirt. As the council passed the requested measure last night, it was made clear that an accurate final plan and shared space agreement with the park board must be in place before construction begins.
Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Walter Jones, Barry Smith (part of the time), Heather Reid, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Mayor Scott McBrayer was also present.
Members absent: Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, and Richard Laws. Barry Smith left at the midpoint of the meeting.
Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, city code enforcement officer Scott Cook, city Building, Engineering and Zoning manager Greg Cobb, and planner Vanessa McGrath.
Audience attendance: Approximately 18.
Approved minutes of the Aug. 11, 2014, meeting.
Passed the “consent agenda” which combines several actions in one vote: The vote dropped a request to consider traffic issues around Edgewood Elementary School and a request by Mr. Wright nearly two years ago to consider landscaping around the Bagby Drive area.
Approved on a 7-1 split vote rezoning property for retail parking: The subject property at 1728 26th Avenue South is a grassy area next to the former Dorothy McDaniel building, that is being rezoned to expand parking for a new tenant. The motion at the last meeting to expedite the rezoning by voting on the first reading failed the required “unanimous consent” when Mr. Hallman voted no–as he did tonight.
Approved on a 7-1 split vote changes to a Final Development Plan in Rosedale: There has been some opposition to a property at 1659 28th Avenue South on which two buildings were demolished in order to build one mixed-use building. The original rezoning to MXD drew one opposing vote from Planning Commissioner Fred Azbik and negative neighbor comments. Some neighbors also expressed concerns over changes to the Final Development Plan. The opposition continued at the last meeting when a motion to expedite the approval by voting on the first reading failed the required “unanimous consent” on a no vote by Mr. Hallman, which he repeated tonight.
Re-set to Dec. 1 a public hearing scheduled this week on a problematic rezoning case: Monday’s public hearing on the Islamic Academy’s rezoning case had to be re-set after bad weather cancelled the meeting. However, Mr. Wright had already promised that the council wouldn’t take any action on the request until the school corrected substantial damage done to its own property and ALDOT right-of-way while trying to build a parking lot–and without proper permitting or inspections. That report will wait until the new hearing date.
The property encompasses roughly four acres of wooded land on a steep incline which the school is asking to be rezoned from commercial to institutional uses. It is also asking the city to surrender an unused right-of-way that crosses through the property. Although the Planning Commission recommended the rezoning 6-0, a council denial at this stage wouldn’t be the first on this contested piece of land. A previous council that denied a commission-recommended rezoning from commercial to residential prompted a lawsuit by the residential development firm, Cubed LLC, which only recently was dismissed after the property was sold to the school. The surveyor for the residential development, Joseph Miller, continues to work, now on behalf of owner North American Islamic Trust, Inc.
Re-set to Oct. 27 a hearing for a Humane Society sign variance: – The case is for the business at 185 Oxmoor Road.
Dropped an agenda item combining a resident’s long list of complaints: The council officially dropped this agenda item on a recommendation from the Special Issues Committee, but agreed to continue working where possible on issues that had merit:
- Putting the whole city in a single ZIPcode so that residents don’t have use polling places in other suburbs.
- Holding a contest to re-name West Homewood.
- Fixing potholes near the Huntington Glen subdivision.
- Improving the city’s website.
- Re-drawing state Legislature district boundaries (!)
- Posting a more legible city ward map.
Assigned a $15,000 grant surplus to a Roseland Drive traffic study: The study, using funds left over from the roughly $60,000 APPLE intersection analysis, will help the council decide whether to consider making a four-way stop at Roseland and East Glenwood Drive. The consultants will appear at the council’s Public Safety Committee next Monday to discuss it further. The intersection currently only two stop signs, facing East Glenwood.
Postponed action on a four-way stop at Roseland Drive and East Glenwood Drive: See above.
Declined a request to remove a damaged tree on Broadway. The council countered a resident’s claim that sidewalk installation killed a tree at 204 Broadway, saying an arborist reported the tree had been in decline for years. The city will not pay for tree removal.
Ratified the mayor’s action to review employee life insurance and long-term disability plan: The mayor selected J. R. Pruitt Group for the review.
Set an Oct. 27 bid opening at 5:30 p.m. for drainage repairs: The repair site is at 1717 Central Avenue.
In one vote, referred various new business to different committees, as follows:To Finance – To consider 1) Final budget amendments; 2) A new city investment policy, 3) Declaring two Sanitation Department vehicles surplus (a 2003 refuse truck will be traded in on two new trucks, and an aerial boom and platform truck will be auctioned); 4) Entering a franchise agreement with Alabama Power Co.; 5) Requesting extra funding for the Rumson Road sidewalk due to a a sewer relocation mandated by Jefferson County’s sewer department; 6) Hearing an appeal from the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, 7) A transfer of surplus from the General Fund to the Capital Projects fund for the year just ended; and 8) Authorizing the mayor to enter an agreement with TASC for employee flexible-spending health expense plans.
To Special Issues -To consider 1) Sign variances at 2790 B.M. Montgomery Street, at 429 Green Springs Highway, Suite 161 (UPS Store), 3105 Independence Drive, and Tire Engineers at 215 Green Springs Highway, and 2) Authorizing the mayor enter a “Hold Harmless” agreement with TDG Homewood LLC for future claims associated with the Moretti Circle apartment project.
Re-set sign variance public hearings to Oct. 27, 2014: Requests are for business addresses listed above.
Ms. Smith left the meeting at this point.
Approved on a split 6-1 vote — after 15 minutes’ discussion — a lease amendment for the Exceptional Foundation: This addition to the lease agreement satisfies the foundation’s lender for its building expansion by obligating the city to buy the building if the Exceptional Foundation defaults or the city breaks the lease.
The Exceptional Foundation angered its park board neighbors recently by asking for approval of substantial construction changes on an expedited schedule that included digging an additional floor below ground, using 14 Rec Center parking spaces for excavated dirt, reducing a neighbor’s privacy buffer, and rearranging the patterns of traffic flow. For that reason, the Foundation’s lease request tonight first sparked some specific questions about the latest drawings–which the architect admitted had been hastily put together and still needed corrections.
The new drawings, however, show 5 -feet added back to a privacy buffer that had been reduced from 20-feet to 10-feet in a plan shown the park board two weeks ago. The architect said the final drawings will be shown back to Mr. Squires, and the closing of the Oxmoor Road entrance pleased everyone on the council and park board.
Mr. Squires reiterated that the park board–feeling pressured by the scope of the changes and new timeline–required several work guarantees and a new shared parking agreement that would incorporate an accurate final map. The agreement, however, can be worked out separately to the park board’s satisfaction. The council, therefore, voted to approve the lease amendment.
Voting no: Mr. Hallman, giving no explanation.
Placed a lien against chronically dilapidated property: A lien representing $13,642.68 in repeated clean-up services was placed on the property and tax record of 1106 Irving Road, which had been declared a public nuisance. [In a separate action at an earlier meeting, the council authorized the city attorney to pursue other legal means of recovering the money.]
Authorized a $1.3 million loan for city vehicles: The mayor was authorized to enter into a loan for $900,000 in police vehicles, $350,000 for garbage rucks, and $190,000 for a bucket truck, already approved in the FY2015 budget.
Approved installation and expense of six decorative street lights: The vote authorizes the installation, power and maintenance of six decorative concrete light poles for the 800 Block of Saulter Road at $54.15 per month for each lamp, plus tax. The area is being modified for parallel parking places to relieve some parking congestion caused by nearby GianMarco’s restaurant.
In a related vote, the council
Set an Oct. 27 hearing for other parking options on South Forrest Drive: No further details given.
Paid the bills: The council voted to pay invoices for Sept. 22-Oct. 10, 2014.