City Council meeting, March 16, 2015

Efforts to have this sign relocated from unincorporated Jefferson County along Homewood's Lakeshore Drive is prompting a city overhaul of its own sign ordinance.

Efforts to have this sign relocated from unincorporated Jefferson County along Homewood’s Lakeshore Drive is prompting a city overhaul of its own sign ordinance.

The council opened by voting to go into an executive, or private, session to hear attorney’s advice about potential litigation, which is one of the several lawful exemptions to the state’s Open Meetings Act. The exemption doesn’t allow a council to deliberate or decide on a course of action, all which must be done in public. An executive session typically does not include anyone except the council and the city attorney, but in an exercise of some “gray area” Homewood’s private sessions have included the mayor, his chief of staff, and the city clerk. The council returned 30+ minutes later and took no action.

The city is in the process of updating regulations on all types of signs. Pole signs, such as the Auto Title sign, are being outlawed.

The city is in the process of updating regulations on all types of signs. Pole signs, such as the Auto Title sign, are being outlawed.

An expected ordinance outlawing pole signs was introduced tonight along with an unexpected and lengthy set of amendments addressing billboards and other sign types. Details will be provided directly from the ordinance, which was only summarized in a first reading tonight.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Heather Reid, and Peter Wright, sitting in for president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Vance Moody and Bruce Limbaugh.

Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, and mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff.

Audience attendance: 20

Approved minutes of the Jan. 5, Jan. 12 and Jan. 26 meetings.

OLD BUSINESS AGENDA

Will present a FY2014 audit, heard in committee, when complete: The audit was presented except for the Management Discussion and Analysis, which makes the report complete. Representatives from Carr, Riggs & Ingram auditing firm presented a summary of their findings at an earlier Finance Committee meeting, which when complete will be posted in its entirety on the city’s website. The only findings  not meeting the city’s Fiscal Policy was the capital fund. More information will be provided here shortly.

Creative Montessori School board president Brooke Coleman shows off a rendering of the new campus--to face a newly named street, Montessori Way.

Creative Montessori School board president Brooke Coleman shows off a rendering of the new campus–to face a newly named street, Montessori Way.

Changed the name of First Avenue West to Montessori Way: Board members and executives of the usually low-profile Creative Montessori School were on hand to applaud the council’s renaming of First Avenue West to Montessori Way. The school, which was founded in 1968, is rebuilding and expanding its building, including turning the front to face the newly named street, where it is the only business. The school’s plans received lots of praise from Mr. Jones and Mr. Thames. 

Gave stamp of approval on a state liquor license for Hart & Soul cafe: The council voted its support of a state retail liquor license application for SOHO Sweets, Inc. dba Hart and Soul Coffee Company, 1014 Oxmoor Road.

Approved a “no parking” sign by an alley on East Edgewood Drive.

Set a March 23 hearing before voting on miscellaneous changes to the city’s zoning book. The changes were discussed in a previous Planning Commission meeting.

Awarded a contract for Fire Department uniforms: The sole bidder, Municipal and Commercial Uniforms was approved to provide uniforms after submitting a per-item price of $1,500 for an undetermined number of people, but keeping within a $40,000 budget, according to the fire chief. The bid opening occurred at a March 2, 2015, Finance Committee meeting. 

Declared old fire equipment surplus, to be replaced by new equipment: A number of so-called Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBAs) were declared surplus property in order to use a grant award to purchase new ones.

Approved a new commercial lease with Hamilton Mortgage at city hall. The vote authorizes Mayor McBrayer to execute a four-year lease extension on a portion of the third floor at $112,284 annually–the same rate the business already pays.

Added a street light on Devon Drive:  A street light was approved at or near 505 Devon Drive at a cost of $73.54 annually, to be paid from the city’s gasoline tax.

New sign types keep ahead of city ordinances to regulate them.

New sign types keep ahead of city ordinances to regulate them.

Heard a first reading on sign ordinance changes outlawing pole signs and other changes: The city attorney read through summaries of 19 separate changes to the city’s zoning ordinance relating to signs. The council will vote following a second reading at the next regularly scheduled meeting next week, March 23. As a preamble, the city and its Special Issues Committee have been grappling for years with the need to update  the city’s sign regulations, but were stymied by the complexity as well as cost for professional consultation from planning firms. 

After calling (at least) three moratoriums on “pole signs,” council members two weeks ago seemed in agreement to at least outlaw this category of signs. Two days later, the appearance of a digital billboard on Lakeshore Drive made it clear that regulating billboards (large off-premise signs) was at least as important as banishing certain types of street signs. The result is a 15-page document making height, square-footage, and other changes to a range of sign types, including billboards, and in each of the city’s various zoning districts, including Brookwood Village and Wildwood. The current pole sign moratorium is set to expire in April.

More details are to be added from the actual ordinance.

Approved a stop sign at Venetian Way: The council approved a stop sign at Venetian Way/Parkside Circle/Parkside Court following a traffic review.

Added three street lights on Forest Brook Drive: The council approved paying $28.50 total per month from the city’s gasoline tax for three street lights on Forest Brook Drive. 

Approved, then referred to committee a street-paving management system: The council approved a $40,000 consultation fee from Volkert Engineers to test and grade 125 miles of city-maintained streets and to make recommendations for a scheduled maintenance plan involving a mix of repaving, remilling, resurfacing and treatment with sealants to prolong the life of city streets. The matter is being referred to the Finance Committee to find the funds.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider costs for the 1) Street Pavement contract with Volkert Engineers; and 2) a contract with Pless Appraisals to appraise property considered for access to the West end of the Greenway Trail (Phase II, recommended by Goodwin, Mills and Cawood).

To Public Safety – To consider 1) Supporting a restaurant retail liquor license application to the state ABC board by T B Concepts of Brookwood Village LLC, dba Hickory Tavern, 595 Brookwood Village; 2) Supporting a retail beer and retail table wine state ABC board license for Champagne Cascade LLC dba Neighborhood Hops and Vine, 1712 28th Avenue South; 3) Traffic-calming efforts on East Edgewood Drive; 4) Erecting “No Jake Brake” signs on Interstate 65; and 5) A downtown Edgewood pedestrian barrier.

To Planning and Development – To consider 1) Establishing, as required by city ordinance, a Homewood Community Development Review Committee to oversee form-based codes in the West Homewood District, and set its operating procedures, and a Warrant Request Form; and 2) Measures to alleviate standing water on Edgewood Boulevard.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Consider a lease situation at the former Garden Shop of Homewood: A situation not explained but described as somewhat of an emergency involving a strip of land the city owns adjacent to the garden shop at 309 Oxmoor Road was added to the agenda.

Transferred the city’s employee assistance service contract: Due to circumstances that weren’t explained, the former contractor, EAP, was unable to fulfill its contract, which was then awarded to American Behavioral Services, pending approval of the city attorney. The vote approves the service agreement, for which no price was disclosed, and an acknowledgement that certain private employee information would necessarily be made available.

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period Feb. 23-March 13, 2015, were approved to be paid.

In the "Elephant in the Room" category, councilman Peter Wright's final remarks tonight thanked the community for working together to relocate an electronic billboard at the Circle K property on Lakeshore and Columbiana Road.

In the “Elephant in the Room” category, councilman Peter Wright’s final remarks tonight thanked the community for working together to relocate an electronic billboard at the Circle K property on Lakeshore and Columbiana Road. The effort was ongoing for much of the last two weeks.

In announcements, Mr. Wright thanked all who came together to help resolve a digital billboard permitted on unincorporated Jefferson County property along Lakeshore Drive. Mr. Jones added that he had auditioned to sing the National Anthem at a future Barons came, partly to satisfy his two children and partly because he has a good voice, having minored in Voice at the University of Alabama. The date of his performance will be announced.

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