Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Vance Moody, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Heather Reid, Peter Wright, Richard Laws and Bruce Limbaugh, council president. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.
Members absent: Fred Hawkins and Patrick McClusky.
Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, police Chief Jim Roberson, Inspection Services director Jim Wyatt, Melody Salter, finance director, and John Bresnan, fire chief. City Attorney Mike Kendrick was absent, with a substitute filling in.
Audience attendance: 37
Approved minutes of the April 14, 2015, meeting.
OLD BUSINESS AGENDA
Carried over a pavement maintenance planpending a funding decision: The city awaits a Regional Planning Commission decision on a grant to offset the $40,000 cost of a comprehensive street maintenance plan, pitched by Volkert Engineers some months ago. Mr. Wyatt said he expected word by mid June. The plan is eligible for an 80% federal grant, leaving the city to pay only $8,000.
Approved 6-3 a rezoning on Linden Avenue for a church satellite: Galloping opposition from well over 100 downtown merchants and residents failed to dampen the council’s enthusiasm to rezone a vacant copier business for an Advent Episcopal Church satellite program location. Merchants and those owning parking lots opposite the building have warned that church-goers will fill the limited private parking they need for their own paying customers. The measure failed last week to get the required unanimous consent needed to pass on the first reading. It was clear then, however, that a council majority intended to approve it on second reading, with only a simple majority.
Most outspoken in favor were Ward 1 councilman Britt Thames, an Advent member, who said that the city was working on parking solutions downtown and that his wife–who operates a restaurant in Mountain Brook near the church’s current shopfront location–reports no parking problems from the Advent space there.
Mr. Wright, who was absent at last week’s packed public hearing, said he was “perplexed” at so much opposition to a such a seemingly benign development. The church, he said, had made arrangements to secure ample parking for its stated peak assemblies of 80 or so people.
“I am struggling to see how these two stories fit together,” he said, asking the council to delay a vote while the two groups could discuss and possibly resolve their differences.
Nevertheless, with a motion and second on the floor, the vote was allowed to proceed, which it did, delivering the expected approval.
Voting no: Michael Hallman, Peter Wright, and Bruce Limbaugh.
Dropped, with some disagreement, a move to transfer funds for a new police car: The issue, to transfer funds to replace a wrecked vehicle with a new Tahoe, was dropped for the next few months on the recommendation of Mr. Jones, and with the mayor’s assent. To questions by Ms. Smith, Chief Roberson said a purchase now would get a better price. Mayor McBrayer then explained, with a smile, that Ms. Smith’s questions put the chief — who had put the matter on the agenda — in the uncomfortable position of disagreeing openly with the mayor over the purchase.
Voting no: Vance Moody and Barry Smith.
Approved property appraisals needed for the Greenway Trail, Phase II, project: The measure authorizes the mayor to enter into multiple agreements with Pless Appraisal Group for property appraisals totaling $21,950.
Declared a 2010 Chevrolet Camarro surplus, due to be sold.
Switched to T-Mobile for cell phone equipment and services: Few details were provided, except to say the switch would save the city $50,000 over the course of a year. The city in August signed a contract with Verizon for cell phones and service. It is unclear if this contract replaces that one.
Approved a stop sign and no parking at Wena Avenue and Edgeland Place: The stop sign includes a no-parking area within 30 feet of the intersection.
COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA
To Finance – To consider 1) Participating in an area-wide sales tax holiday on Aug. 7-9.
To Planning and Development – To consider 1) Amending a development plan for parking at 1659 28th Avenue South as required in MXD zoning.
To Special Issues – To consider 1) Requesting a public hearing for June 8, 2015, for a front yard fence at 902 Broadway; and 2) A change to the sign regulations affecting the SoHo district.
OTHER NEW BUSINESS
Set a June 8 public hearing for a front yard fence on Broadway: The fence variance request relates to the Broadway/Short Saulter “triangle” development.
Put downtown merchants on notice about trash and garbage collection: Businesses backing up to the 18th Street alley will be receiving notices about keeping garbage and trash in containers or commercial Dumpsters.
Directed the mayor to intervene in a resident’s quarrel with ALDOT on Lakeshore & Riviera: The mayor was asked to formally ask ALDOT to maintain the grass and weeds around an AT&T fiber optics box that is installed in a homeowner’s yard but on state highway department property.
Paid the bills: Invoices were approved to be paid for the period May 11-15, 2015.
Said farewell to 14-year city council videographer Denny England: Oh the stories he could tell. But won’t. Mr. England holds a management position with Whirlpool and is moving to South Bend, Indiana, for a promotion to a corporate position. The city sweetened the farewell with a plaque and commendation for his years of service.
Accepted the resignation of Ward 4, Place 2 council member Heather Reid, opened the vacancy for applicants: Ms. Reid tearfully announced her resignation, effective immediately, to move out of Homewood to family land in Corner, a northwest Jefferson County community. Ms. Reid said it was always her intention to retire there with her husband, but an opportunity came sooner than expected. Despite expressions of sentiment from all council members and a resolution commending her hard work for the last three years, council was reminded to open the vacancy for a replacement. The council will accept applications through June 8, and begin interviews the following week before appointing her replacement.
Ms. Reid’s ward mate, Jenifer Wallis, resigned last year to move to Los Angeles, and was replaced by appointee Barry Smith. Ms. Smith is now the only woman member of the council.