City Council meeting, Nov. 17, 2014

The council backed off a proposal to convert green space on a city-owned lot to a parking lot for GianMarco's parking-challenged restaurant across the bridge.

The council backed off a proposal to convert green space on a city-owned lot on South Forest Drive to a parking lot for GianMarco’s parking-challenged restaurant across the bridge. Two residents spoke at the hearing, both opposed.

The same Ward 3 councilman who advocated for a pocket park on Broadway in September 2013 tonight asked the council to consider using a South Forest Drive green space as a parking lot for GianMarco’s restaurant. Walter Jones and Council President Bruce Limbaugh together proposed two options–either creating five parking spaces on the landscaped lot next to the street, or using up the entire lot with angled parking for 12 cars. (Critics in 2013 pointed to the presence of the South Forest green space as a reason not to approve further green space on the Broadway side of the creek.) At least for tonight, however, neither option survived scrutiny either from other council members or from two residents who didn’t want a parking lot on their street. As one asked, “Why would the city of Homewood even think about providing parking spaces for a private business?” More on the issue below.

What appeared to be a routine meeting tonight was lengthened to two hours with the last-minute addition of eight items and long discussions over sign variance requests. A public hearing set for a proposed craft brewery/taproom/bottling plant was complicated by a Planning Commission error. More below.

Members present: All-Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright, and Bruce Mr. Limbaugh. Mayor Scott McBrayer was also present.

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: 16

Approved minutes of the Sept. 22, 2014, meeting.

A picture off the Internet showing a Bike Share kiosk in Washington, D.C.

A picture off the Internet showing a Bike Share kiosk in Washington, D.C.

Entered a Bike Share planning competition: The Regional Planning Commission is sponsoring Homewood to receive technical and planning assistance toward creating a Bike Share program. The program establishes secure kiosks where riders can use their credit cards to rent bikes for touring around town. An RPC spokesperson said only 25 communities will be chosen for the planning assistance grants, which provide workshops and training–not funds–for setting up a local program. Federal funds for establishing Bike Share facilities are awarded much like transportation grants, with a 20 percent local match.

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 has become a neighborhood problem.

Postponed for now any plan to build parking on South Forest for GianMarco’s: GianMarco’s now famous role as the cause of the city’s longest running parking nightmare got an encore tonight when Mr. Jones and Mr. Limbaugh introduced an idea to use city right of way on South Forest as a lot for overflow parking. Two sketches from Mr. Cobb were produced, showing either the “less obtrusive” 5-car option right off the street, to the more obtrusive conversion of the entire lot for 12-car angled parking. Restaurant employees and customers are suspected of parking on the street, which is legal, and walking across the Griffin Creek bridge to the restaurant. The city has been in ongoing talks about the problem with the restaurant owner, who hired a valet service and leased parking places on Green Springs to ease the congestion. The city, which finally prohibited parking on Carr Avenue to help the situation, is installing a lighted parking promenade with 16 spaces painted onto “short” Saulter right-of-way, to be finished Jan. 1.

Mr. Cobb said the South Forest plan came about when a contractor working on sidewalks on that street was repeatedly approached by residents complaining about people parking in front of their houses and walking across the bridge to the restaurant. None of those people was present at tonight’s hearing however, just opponents. Mr. Limbaugh, reacting to critical questions, agreed with Mr. Thames and the mayor to see if the parking problem abates when “short” Saulter is finished. The mayor will talk further with the restaurant owner about where his employees should park.

Denied 9-2 a sign variance for the humane society: The Greater Birmingham Humane Society is asking to place a second sign in the city’s right-of-way at 185 West Oxmoor Road, saying visitors can’t find the facility, which is off Oxmoor on Snow Drive. Mr. McClusky said he thought the problem was wording–no one recognizes the acronym GBHS as the humane society. Some discussion followed about allowing a variance for a larger sign. The current sign was erected on a variance for an off-premise sign, which is otherwise outlawed in Homewood.

Voting yes: Fred Hawkins, saying the GBHS representative had done everything the council had asked him to do before presenting his request. Peter Wright voted yes, after initially raising questions about granting the variance.

Tire Engineers proposed this hybrid pole/monument sign for its Green Springs location. The council approved the wording but wanted a wider base and made of rock or brick rather than aluminum.

Tire Engineers proposed this hybrid pole/monument sign for its Green Springs location. Tonight’s approval related to a different supporting base than that shown. Two council members maintain their objections because of the proposed sign’s ultra-bright illumination.

Approved 9-2 a sign variance for Tire Engineers: Most council members praised Tire Engineers for agreeing to take down a double-pole sign and erect a shorter sign on a masonry base instead. The process has taken at least three council meetings and tonight’s vote affected only the design of the base–a double column of split-faced block. Mr. Jones, however, who was absent at that vote, implored the council to vote down the sign, which will be super-illuminated. Mr. McClusky apparently agreed and voted no. The council doesn’t currently have an ordinance regulating sign illumination.

Voting no: Walter Jones and Patrick McClusky.

Approved a 30-year franchise with the power company: The franchise renewal approved tonight allows Alabama Power Company to operate in the city limits.

Declared as surplus several work vehicles and equipment: Declared as surplus to sell or trade are three Internationals, a Giant Vac, a pick-up truck and a city-built trailer.

Voted in support of a state beer and wine license for the Asian Market: The market is at 22 Green Springs Highway. The matter had been delayed while the Public Safety Committee examined the restaurant’s record.

Voted in support of a state liquor license at Jim ‘N Nicks: The long-standing restaurant and bar on West Oxmoor has undergone a minor change of ownership, to a partnership, requiring the re-application for a liquor license.

The hotel has exceeded revenue expectations.

The hotel has exceeded revenue expectations.

Approved a financial document for Aloft Hotel: The city in 2007 sold the former City Hall property for $1.1 million for a hotel, stipulating the hotel would return a minimum $1.4 million in lodging and sales taxes over seven years. The document approved tonight acknowledges the hotel’s compliance; it had in fact met that milestone after four years and has returned $1.6 million, according to the city attorney. The document is required by a lender in order for the hotel to refinance its debt.

Approved a $10,000 grant application for police car cameras: The approval authorizes the mayor to sign a grant application with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

Declared one house a public nuisance, dropped another one: A vacant house at 1602 Ridge Road was declared a public nuisance after city staff tried unsuccessfully to find an absentee owner. A residential property at 924 Irving Street was dropped from the nuisance list after the back yard was cleaned up.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL

The following new items were referred to committees in a series of votes:

To Finance: To consider 1) Amending the budget to close out the Community Center construction; and 2) Declaring certain police vehicles surplus in order to sell.

To Special Issues: To consider another sign variance at Big #1 Motorsports at 505 Cobb Street preceding a Dec. 1 public hearing; and 2) To consider allowing a fence partially in a city right-of-way for a house at 403 Oxmoor Road that abuts a commercial property.

To Public Safety: To consider 1) Milling pavement or otherwise addressing  slippery steep driveways at Homewood High School; 2) Adding center and edge lines to Park Ridge Drive; 3) Removing yellow hash lines at Edgeview Avenue and Oxmoor Road and re-establishing a turn lane.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Reiterated a Dec. 1 hearing to rezone property for the Islamic Academy: Click here for the original case.

Complications have arisen in conditions the Planning Commission placed on the proposed brewery rezoning.

The Planning Commission cannot place a reversion condition on a proposed brewery rezoning. That matter will be addressed following a Dec. 15 public hearing.

Set a Dec. 15 hearing for a brewery/taproom/bottling plant rezoning: The Planning Commission this month gave Joseph Pilleteri a 5-1 vote in favor of rezoning a former grocery on Central Avenue from commercial (C-4) to light manufacturing (M-1) for his craft brewery and tavern. The vote was conditioned on restricting the M-1 use solely for the brewery and on reverting to original zoning should the venture cease to operate. However, the city attorney tonight said that the reversion clause is against the city’s ordinance and must be deleted from the proposal. Therefore it was decided to wait until after the public hearing before referring the matter to the Planning and Development Committee. Several business neighbors opposed the brewery, as planned, because of inadequate parking at the already congested Little Donkey/Octane property.

Set a Dec. 1 hearing for a fence variance: The proposed front-yard fence at 403 Oxmoor Road would be in the public right-of-way and an indemnification agreement.

Paid the bills, with one complication: Bills were paid for the period Nov. 3-14, 2014, including one removed by Mr. Jones for the installation of speed bumps in the alley behind downtown shops. The mayor had authorized the installation, forgetting that it required passage of an ordinance first. That said, payment was approved, with the ordinance to be passed at the next meeting.

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