City Council meeting, Oct. 13, 2014

The Exceptional Foundation says it wants to build an addition to allow smaller class sizes, not increase enrollment. The current building has been expanded once.

The Exceptional Foundation says it wants to build an addition to allow smaller class sizes, not increase enrollment. The current building has been expanded once.

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.

Google Maps aerial view of Dorothy McDaniel building, existing parking and grassy area to be converted to parking for a building tenant.

Google Maps aerial view of the Dorothy McDaniel building, with existing parking and grassy area to be converted to parking for a new building tenant.

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.

Site zoned for Mixed Use District (live/work) building was approved for angled parking and other modifications.

Site zoned for Mixed Use District (live/work) building was approved for angled parking and other modifications.

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.

The Islamic Academy attempted must remove unsuitable fill dirt and repair damage to ALDOT's right-of-way when it attempted to build an unauthorized parking lot.

The Islamic Academy is asking the city to rezone the property outlined in blue, and vacate the unused city right-of-way. First, it must remove unsuitable fill dirt and repair damage to ALDOT’s right-of-way caused by the unauthorized parking lot construction.

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.
Does this car need to be stopped? A traffic study using $15,000 in leftover grant funds may have the answer.

Does this car on Roseland need to be stopped? A traffic study using $15,000 in leftover grant funds may have the answer.

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.

Who killed this oak tree?  Not I, said the city. But residents at 204 Broadway want the body removed, claiming the city's sidewalk installation damaged the trees root system.

Who killed this oak tree? Not I, said the city. The council rejected a claim by a resident at 204 Broadway that its sidewalk installation killed her tree.

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:

Homewood voted to slash the service hours and funding for metro transit to "get the attention" of the transit authority for their unanswered billing questions. Transit Executive Director Ann Dawson-August has asked to address the council--referred to next Monday's Finance Committee meeting. [This picture by Joe Songer is from a 2010 Birmingham News story.]

Homewood voted to slash the service hours and funding for metro transit to “get the attention” of the transit authority for their unanswered billing questions. Transit Executive Director Ann Dawson-August has asked to address the council–a meeting referred to next Monday’s Finance Committee meeting. [This picture by Joe Songer is from a 2010 Birmingham News story.]

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.

The Moretti apartments, seen here from a Rosedale back yard, were named after the Vulcan sculptor, Guiseppe Moretti.

The Moretti apartments, seen here from a Rosedale back yard, take their artistic name from the creator of The Vulcan statue, Guiseppe Moretti.

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.

The shaded area indicates excavation staging areas for a basement in this most recent plan of the Exceptional Foundation expansion. However, some buffer has been restored and other revisions made since this version was released two weeks ago.

The shaded area indicates excavation staging areas for a basement in this most recent plan available of the Exceptional Foundation expansion. There have been revisions as recently as Oct. 16 that restored part of a privacy buffer and changed a drop-off area.

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.

This overgrown Irving Road property has been repeatedly declared a public nuisance.

This overgrown Irving Road property has been repeatedly declared a public nuisance.

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.

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6 responses to “City Council meeting, Oct. 13, 2014

  1. Where would one find out more about the BJCTA billing issue? Am interested in metro area transit issues and would like to know more about anything that is affecting system operations.

    Like

    • I put this information on the HAL Facebook page as well:

      This from the BJCTA, whose executive director attended last night’s meeting expecting to be heard, per the agenda, but whose appearance was postponed and referred to the Finance Committee meeting next Monday evening: For information on the service hours provided in Homewood, charges, and other publicly available information, email Henry Ikwut-Ukwa, manager of planning and development, at Hukwa@BJCTA.org.

      Like

  2. How can I learn more about what parking options are being discussed for South Forrest Drive? I see the note about the meeting on October 27th but would like to know more before then.

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    • The Ward 3 council members are Patrick McClusky and Walter Jones. I’ll check and reply later.

      Like

    • From Patrick McClusky: “We are trying to figure out the best possible solution to the issue. We cannot stop people from parking on the street, since it’s legal throughout Homewood. The popularity of the restaurant (and JoJo’s) is a great problem, but still a problem. There isn’t sufficient parking for their needs. We also had to block off most of Carr Ave, since emergency vehicles couldn’t get down the road with cars parked on both sides. Now GM is using a valet, but that system doesn’t seem to be working either. The lot between GM and JoJo’s is Alabama Power ROW, and is owned by them. The valet is treating it like their own personal lot, and are not allowing cars to just park there, they are forcing them to valet (even if they are just going to JoJo’s for a drink). It’s a mess, but we are trying to work out a plan that benefits everybody in the best possible way (the residents, the businesses, public safety, etc…..).

      Like

      • Thank you! I assumed that’s what it was concerning. I’ve noticed employees of GM parking on South Forrest as well as patrons. I’m not sure emergency vehicles could access that street if needed. Hopefully something can be done to help alleviate the concerns of all.

        Liked by 1 person

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