City Council meeting, Oct. 27, 2014

The newly merged Express Oil and Tire Engineers want to revamp this pole sign and really light it up with their co-branded name. The council, which unwittingly let a moratorium on pole signs lapse, carried over the request tonight then passed a third moratorium later in the meeting.

The newly merged Express Oil and Tire Engineers business wants to revamp this pole sign and really light it up with their co-branded name. The council, which unwittingly let a moratorium on pole signs lapse, coaxed them into carrying over their request tonight then passed a third moratorium later in the meeting.

The council tonight may have approved changes to its investment policy and okayed a $43,635 expense to move a sewer line for a Hollywood sidewalk–but when it comes to a dramatic split over an important issue, nothing beats a sign variance. Sign aesthetics ruled the evening’s discussions, with a tense 5-4 vote called against allowing an extra sign for Open Upright MRI, and a third–yes, third– moratorium on pole signs declared tonight.

UPDATED: Forgot to mention that there is a work session called at 5 p.m., Nov. 17, to hear from an engineering consultant making a pitch to expedite city projects with ALDOT.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Mayor Scott McBrayer was also present.

Members absent:  Fred Hawkins and Walter Jones.

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

Audience attendance: Approximately 26.

Approved the Aug. 25, 2014 meeting minutes.

Nightly overflow parking for GianMarco's and JoJo's restaurants has become a neighborhood problem.

Nightly overflow parking for GianMarco’s and JoJo’s restaurants had become a neighborhood problem and a safety problem when the restaurant opted for valet parking and the city foot the bill for sidewalks, decorative lights and parking spots nearby. Now the traffic is spilling over to South Forest Drive.

Carried over a hearing on South Forest Drive parking: Tonight’s hearing to discuss options for relieving parking congestion for GianMarco’s restaurant was opened with the aim of postponing discussion to next week’s meeting, when Ward 3 councilman Walter Jones returns.  The council recently approved a mayor’s initiative that prohibits parking along Carr Avenue and adds parallel parking places, decorative lights and a sidewalk on short Saulter Road. Parking congestion along Carr and Broadway had reached such a critical point that emergency vehicles couldn’t pass, and the restaurant itself had responded by leasing additional parking space on and hiring a valet service. But the problem persists, and the question now turns on reactions to customers parking on South Forest and hiking across the bridge to the restaurant. Next week’s council meeting will tell.

Carried over a sign variance request to next week: Applicants weren’t ready to make their case for a more signage at 185 Oxmoor Road (humane society).

Approved a sign variance for car repair shop: Linda Brantley is converting a garage with three overhead doors at 2790 B.M. Montgomery Street to an Arts & Antiques shop. The council approved two building signs that exceeded the square footage allowed by code.

Approved a sign variance for a UPS store: The UPS store moving from Wildwood to the Publix Shopping Center, 429 Green Springs Highway, was allowed to bring its lighted Lakeshore sign, although it exceeds the limits set on the Green Springs sign district.

NO! The requested variance to allow this secondary sign for a building tenant was turned down 5-4.

NO! The requested variance to allow this secondary sign for a building tenant was turned down 5-4.

Denied 5-4 a sign variance for a U.S. 31 medical building:  The council was torn whether to allow Open Upright MRI, a tenant of a NeuroRecovery LLC building at 3105 U.S. 31, to have a secondary sign on the building facing south, in addition to a monument sign. The monument sign did not exceed code. Nearly everyone asked the sign contractor questions. In the end, a roll call vote revealed a split against allowing the additional sign.

Voting in favor of the variance: Michael Hallman, Peter Wright, Richard Laws, and Bruce Limbaugh.

Approved a “Hold Harmless” agreement with Moretti apartments: The council allowed the mayor to sign an agreement with apartment owners TDG Homewood, LLC to protect the city against any future claims associated with the development at 101 Moretti Circle. What prompted this action was not made public.

This Google map view shows the Tire Engineer's sign dilemma--no space for a council-preferred monument sign that is visible over the adjacent building. They will consider locations on the north end of the property (to the right).

This Google map view shows the Tire Engineer’s sign dilemma–no space for a council-preferred monument sign that is visible over the adjacent building. The business will consider placing a monument sign on the north end of the property (to the left).

Carried over a contentious sign variance request: Applicants for the newly rebranded Tire Engineers at 215 Green Springs Highway, part of a chain purchased by Express Oil Change in February, made it very clear in committee last week that they wanted either a variance to replace the current “double” pole sign with a snazzy new lighted one, or they would simply “re-face” both signs, which would sidestep the requirement to obtain a variance. Committee members, mistakenly thinking the moratorium on pole signs was still in effect, took a tough stand on the issue, asking Tire Engineers to be good sports and so on, and find a place to put a council-preferred monument sign instead. Tonight, the applicants stood their ground, pointing out that there was no room for a monument sign and only a pole sign would be visible over the title pawn business’s building. Mr. Limbaugh asked if they would return next week after considering other locations on their property for a visible monument sign, a suggestion they finally took–even as Mr. Wright clarified that the city’s pole sign moratorium had indeed expired some months ago. Mr. Thames noted that he particularly disliked the proposal to make the sign super-illuminated. The applicants will return next week.

Approved changes to the city’s investment policy: The changes approved tonight and proposed by a Raymond James financial advisor weren’t discussed, however a city finance employee said the policy reiterated which conservative investments state law allowed municipalities and the level of returns, with added specifics such as staggered maturity dates. More detail will be forthcoming. 

Declared city vehicles surplus, ok to auction and trade: A Sanitation Department refuse truck will be traded on the purchase of two new refuse trucks; a Street Department aerial boom and platform truck will be auctioned.

Approved extra money for a Hollywood sidewalk: The council approved an additional $4,800 expense for a sidewalk on Rumson Road as well as a $43,635 expense to replace and relocate a clay-pipe sewer line as required by Jefferson County’s sewer department, to complete the project. Mr. Limbaugh said the sidewalk, which is on a hill and crosses a traffic “blind spot” was of utmost importance for safety of walkers, particularly children.

Approved a service agreement for employee flexible spending health plan: The mayor was authorized to sign an agreement with TASC (formerly Chappelle Benefit Elect) to administer the city employee’s cafeteria and medical flexible spending plan. Administrative fees are passed along to employees.

Approved an additional stop sign at Frisco Street and Mecca Avenue: Passed on the first reading, this measure adds a third stop sign to the intersection.

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

Set a Dec. 1, 2014, hearing for the Islamic Academy rezoning, street vacation: Click here for background on this case.

Awarded a bid for culvert repair: The low bidder of three to repair a culvert at 1717 Central Avenue was Norris Paving, with a bid of $137,320.

Abstaining: Mr. Hallman abstained, saying he was working on a project with Norris Paving.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

In a single vote the referral agenda allows the council to send multiple issues to committees for deliberation:

To Finance -To consider 1) Traffic and pedestrian concerns at the traffic circle at All Saints Episcopal Church, 2) Renewing a 3-year garbage collection contract with Republic Services; and 3) Amending the FY2015 budget to reflect fire department Life Saver grants and related expenditures.

To Public Safety -To consider 1) Supporting an application by Jim ‘N Nicks at 220 Oxmoor Road for a state retail beer license; 2) Supporting an application by Lian Hua Asian Supermarket at Green Spring Highway for a retail table wine on- or off-premise sales; and 3) Support of a “160-Special Retail” alcohol license application for Morrison Management Specialist (Brookwood Hospital) at 2010 Brookwood Medical Center Drive.

To Special Issues – To consider allowing construction of a parking pad in city right-of-way at 2210 St. Charles Street.

Authorized the mayor to reconsider a $1.3 million loan for fleet vehicles: The mayor was authorized at the last meeting to enter into a loan for $900,000 in police vehicles, $350,000 for garbage trucks, and $190,000 for a bucket truck, already approved in the FY2015 budget.

Imposed a moratorium on pole signs: This third pole sign moratorium was declared for a period not to exceed 180 days, or sooner if the council can enact modifications to the city’s sign ordinance. Council members asked why the moratorium couldn’t be longer, but the city attorney advised that a permanent moratorium was a violation of rights. Following the meeting, Mr. Limbaugh said the council had planned to rewrite the sign ordinance sooner, but found the consultant’s services too expensive. The decision now was to contract with the Regional Planning Commission for those services.

Changed November and December meeting dates: The dates were changed as follows to mesh with school holidays: Nov. 3rd, Nov. 17th, Dec. 1st and Dec. 15th.

Dropped public nuisance proceedings for one property: The property at 104 Ventura Drive has been cleaned up and dropped from the list.

Set a Nov. 17, 2014, public nuisance hearings for two properties:  Properties considered for excessive growth and litter are at 1602 Ridge Road, and 924 Irving Road.

Paid the bills: The council approved payment of invoices for the period Oct. 13-24, 2014.

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