Two council members defended a bid by Cathedral Church of the Advent to rezone a Linden Avenue commercial building for satellite programs and meetings, saying the direction downtown was in favor of “mixed use,” and that lack of parking was no reason to turn away growth. Talk veered toward parking decks before the matter came to a vote, which failed a motion for immediate consideration. The lack of parking was the death knell for the former business, Dex Copiers, said one critic of the rezoning plan.
Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Peter Wright, Richard Laws and Bruce Limbaugh, council president. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.
Members absent: Barry Smith, Heather Reid and Peter Wright. Richard Laws left midway through the meeting, as noted below.
Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, and Vanessa McGrath, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.
Audience attendance: 47
Approved minutes of the March 23, 2015 meeting.
Appointed a Ward 5 representative to the Board of Education: The council voted to name Ms. Judy Truitt to the open Ward 5 seat on the school board. BOE terms are five years.
Carried over action on a pavement maintenance plan, pending funding: The plan by Volkert Engineering to rank the city’s 125 miles of streets and recommend a maintenance schedule using a graduated spectrum of remedies from sealants to repaving was once again carried over while the city waits to see if it can win federal funding at 80% with a 20% local match. Without funding, the city would pay 100% of the program’s $40,000 cost.
Rezoned Southern Progress property acquired by Samford: The council approved a non-controversial re-zoning of three of four parcels the university purchased from Southern Progress Company late last year. The three parcels at 2100 Lakeshore Drive are being rezoned from PCD-1 (planned commercial district) to I-3 (institutional) for use as a college campus, specifically Samford’s new College of Health Sciences complex. The remaining lot will retain its zoning and use as a Southern Progress office building. The case has won several variances in advance of the rezoning.
Failed approval to immediately rezone a Linden Avenue building for a church satellite: As promised, Homewood merchants showed up in force to oppose a bid by the Cathedral Church of the Advent to transform a former Dex Copier location at 2814 Linden Avenue to a church satellite, pointing to inadequate parking. Speaking against the move and imploring the council to vote likewise were 11 business and business property owners, including Steve Thomas, owner of Soho Retro, who also represented the majority membership of the city’s Chamber of Commerce. Joining him were owners of Pure Barre, Shaia’s, Soca Clothing, and Momma Goldberg’s as well as all 11 households of the nearby Mayfair Circle Homeowners Association. Residents said parking congestion on Linden created a dangerous intersection by Mayfair Circle’s outlet onto Oxmoor Road.
The strongest voices had already been heard at the previous Planning Commission meeting, including J. L. Shaia, and Homewood Toy & Hobby Shop ownership. Tonight Kevin McCain, co-owner with his wife of the toy and hobby business, said he and his in-laws — who own the property and rear parking lot– stood to lose customers when church users inevitably park in the convenient rear lot. Soca, Pure Barre and other businesses on 18th Street have extended weekday hours and are open on weekends, disputing the church’s claim that its program times don’t conflict with normal business hours.
Mr. McCain also presented a petition of 129 signatures to be included in the minutes. The Planning Commission had voted to recommend the rezoning 6-1.
Specific objections focus on the church’s potential occupancy of over 100 compared to only 11 onsite parking spaces.
Speaking in favor were the church representative, a part-time employee, and a Homewood resident who called the parking objections “overblown” after interviewing three businesses on the east side of 18th Street.
Jim Brewster, Senior Warden of the church, said the church had arranged for 69 more parking spaces through off-hours leases in addition to the 11 that come with the building. He emphasized that the current over-the-mountain satellite, in Mountain Brook’s retail village, has only drawn four assemblies of 70-80 people.
Clay Birchfield, whose firm Penuel Birchfield is prospective landlord, also spoke in favor.
Not so fast
The measure was left hanging, however, when Mr. Hallman voted against a motion to consider passage on the first reading. Failing such “unanimous consent,” it will be reintroduced at the next council meeting.
With their votes un-cast and unknown, Mr. Thames and Mr. Jones both spoke in favor of the rezoning, Mr. Thames saying that the current zoning allowed uses with worse parking impact (such as a movie theater), and his wife had a business in Mt. Brook near the current church space, and didn’t see any problems there.
The conversation ended shortly after Mr. Jones raised the possibility of a city-built parking deck to relieve the parking situation downtown.
Changed the sign ordinance, again, to ban digital billboards: The council tonight voted to ban digital billboards following an exhausting, 3-month uproar over the surprise installation of a digital billboard on Lakeshore Drive by an advertising company, and the following relocation–with the city’s assistance and to the distress of West Homewood residents–to Oxmoor Road.
Banned parking around a Roseland Drive intersection: The council voted to prohibit parking 50 feet from the intersection of East Edgewood Drive and Roseland Drive.
Annexed a residential lot in Forest Brook: With no opposition or discussion, the council passed an ordinance annexing a residential property at 1616 Forest Ridge Road.
Mr. Laws left the meeting at this point.
Sent back to committee a tax abatement request for a West Homewood deli/bar: With no explanation, the council sent back to the Finance Committee a request from “Oak & Raleigh” for up to $6,000 in tax incentives over three years. The committee had voted to recommend the tax help at its last meeting.
Approved assessment/collection of property taxes, and Homestead Exemption: Every year in May the city must renew its agreement to allow Jefferson County’s tax assessor and tax collector to collect property taxes, which are then conveyed to city coffers. The Homestead Exemption for homeowners is also extended in a separate resolution, both of which passed tonight.
Dropped, for now, a telecommuications franchise to Samford University: With work on the agreement still in process, the city attorney advised dropping consideration of a telecommunications franchise/right of way agreement by Windstream KDL, LLC.
Kicked back to committee, to be tabled, another telecommunications franchise: A pending franchise agreement with Southern Light, no details provided, was referred back to the Finance Committee.
Terminated a controversial court system probation provider: The city dropped its contract with outsourced probation provider Judicial Correction Services, which in 2012 was accused by a Shelby County judge of operating “debtors prison” conditions in Harpersville. JCS disputed the claim point by point to the state Supreme Court and has not been accused of any wrongdoing, including keeping probationers continually owing fines and fees, in Homewood. The company’s contract was terminated, however, and replaced by another third-party firm, Freedom Probation Services, Inc., which has no such tainted reputation. Cities outsource such services, which collect revenue solely from the offender, rather than take on the expense of managing their own programs and hiring probation officers. MotherJones article here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/03/its-been-bad-year-judicial-correction-services
Amended the current budget: No details.
COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA
To Finance – To consider 1) Multiple agreements with Pless Appraisal regarding Greenway Trail phase II properties; 2) Declaring as surplus a 2010 police vehicle; and 3) Cellular service and equipment.
To Planning and Development – To consider an 18th Street downtown revitalization project.
To Public Safety – To consider 1) Prohibiting parking at Gatsby Court and North Shadesview Terrace; 2) Adding a stop sign at Wena Avenue and Edgeland Place; and 4) A city-wide study of traffic flow, walkability and bikability in the city.
To Special Issues – To consider 1) A sign variance at 1831 28th Avenue South; and 2) A “solution” to trash accumulation on an 18th Street alleyway.
OTHER NEW BUSINESS
Paid the bills: The council approved payment of invoices for the period April 27-May 8, 2015.
Approved a special events liquor license for a crawfish boil at JoJo’s.