After months of producing detailed cost and operations data for the council’s Finance Committee, transit authorities had won a partial reprieve for a 50% funding cut, extending “full” service through January. To that partial reprieve, another three months was grudgingly added at this meeting, but over the objections of four members who favored a longer extension. Also at this meeting–The council and two volunteer boards will spend an expense-paid overnight retreat at a North Alabama resort, and the city gets a third police dog.
Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Heather Reid, Rich Laws, Peter Wright and Bruce Limbaugh, council president. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.
Members absent: Vance Moody, Bruce Limbaugh.
Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, and Vanessa McGrath, city Building, Engineering and Zoning planner.
Audience attendance: 30
Approved the Nov. 17, 2014 minutes.
- The council recognized former Chamber of Commerce Director Tricia Ford, who retired at the end of December, for leading growth in the organization and launching events such as the Taste of Homewood, Holiday Open House for downtown merchants and other accomplishments.
- The Birmingham Water Works Board submitted the city its royalty, or utility license charge of of $266,000.
Dropped plans to fix a slippery slope at HHS: The Finance Committee recommended and the council agreed to drop this item, as the property belongs to the Board of Education. The BOE will address this issue at its next meeting.
Approved a zoning change to accommodate a hotel on U.S. 280: The decision affects a hotel/office building development at the former Mountain Brook Inn site. In a public hearing, city staff explained how the city decided to drop “hotels” and “motels” from allowed uses on C-4b zoning for High Rise Office/Commercial. This omission was discovered after the Planning Commission approved the highrise hotel, and the council agreed to allow hotels, but not motels in the new wording.
Approved 5-4 a 3-month funding renewal for transit: Transit authorities were on hand to watch the split vote for continued funding of $66,000 for three months. In this case, those voting “no” were actually in favor of a longer, 6-month reinstatement of city transit, but were outvoted by those who have displayed less favorable opinions of the regional transit organization. It was reported that the debate arose in the Finance Committee, chaired by Mr. Jones, and ended in a 3-1 vote (Moody absent) to request three months funding only.
Voting no: In favor of a longer extension were Fred Hawkins, Walter Jones, Patrick McClusky and Barry Smith. (The absences of Mr. Limbaugh, who has voted positively in the past, and Mr. Moody, who voted against transit previously, may not have influenced the decision.)
Carried over a request to replace a totaled police car: The matter was postponed until the city finds out how much insurance will cover.
To Finance – A request to 1) Enter a franchise agreement with the Birmingham Water Works Board.
To Public Safety – A request for a Feb. 23 bid opening for Fire Department uniforms; and 2) To declare certain FD vehicles surplus in order to be sold. A Tahoe and Yukon were dropped from the original list.
To Special Issues – Request to allow a tent (requiring a temporary zoning variance) for Trinity United Methodist Church at 1400 Oxmoor Road.
To Planning and Development – To consider rezoning West Homewood property at 55 & 65 Bagby Drive and 301 Goodwin Crest Drive for an indoor storage facility (from C-1 Commercial/Office to C-5 General Business District) in advance of a public hearing set for Feb. 23, 2015. The Planning Commission voted 6-2 to recommend the rezoning to less restrictive uses on Bagby and Goodwin Crest after hearing opposition from another building owner. See second item, below for more information.
OTHER NEW BUSINESS
Accepted the donation of a new police dog: The vote authorizes the mayor to accept the donation of a Dutch Shepard for the police department’s K9 unit. The dog, whose name is Banjo, is mature and already trained by former Birmingham police handler, although he’ll need some extra training. He joins two other canines on the force, Justice and Shiloh. FYI, Banjo came from Holland with several others in 2011 in this online newspaper story http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2011/11/birmingham_police_department_a_1.html
Approved releasing property restrictions on Bagby/Golden Crest buildings: In a complex transaction, this vote directs the mayor to release a 1970 restrictive covenant on four blocks of property and a later amendment that reserves the property for municipal use. The precise restrictions or the effect of their release were not explained except to comply with current zoning. The buyer is Burr & Forman law firm, whose representative made the request on behalf of other, undisclosed owners under the name 5565 Bagby Associates, LLC, including the city of Homewood. A majority of the five corporate owners must agree.
Paid the bills: The bills were paid for the period Jan. 5-23, 2015. Ms. Reid and the mayor noted it cost the city about $100,000 per day to operate.
Approved 8-1 an expense-paid overnight retreat in North Alabama for the council and two other city boards: The council approved a contract with the Marriott Shoals Hotel to send itself and members of the Board of Zoning Adjustment and the Planning Commission for training. The training is to be conducted by the city attorney, Mike Kendrick, to keep the city boards current with relevant legislation and best practices affecting their area of control. Ms. Reid, who as a part-time event planner donated her services to pick the location, said the seminar will run from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on a Saturday and include two meals that day plus an overnight stay on Friday. The two volunteer boards are being included because of their influence in city planning and lack of training. (Last year the BZA was criticized for bending to community outcry over an unpopular new house design and denying the homeowner minor variances that would normally be approved.)
The Muscle Shoals venue gave a cheaper group rate than did hotels closer to Birmingham, she said. No retreat would be effective if held at home, and Rosewood Hall wasn’t available until late this spring.
Voting no: Michael Hallman.
Final words: Council members and mayor are each given the floor at the end of every meeting to make announcements, some of which are included here.
- The annual Salamander Festival is set for 3-5 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31st at Patriot Park/Senior Center.
- Peter Wright recognized three boys from Boy Scout Troop 97 who attended the council meeting.
Adjourned at 7 p.m.