Annexation update-second annexation attempt–minus Buffalo Rock–passes state legislature

Most Homewood residents are reminded each July 4 and New Year's Eve that the property at 201 Green Springs Highway is in unincorporated Jefferson County, which allows sales of fireworks banned in Homewood. This property and seven others were subjects of an annexation attempt that failed in the state legislature this spring. The city will have to try again next year.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD-Yet. Most Homewood residents are reminded each July 4 and New Year’s Eve that the property at 201 Green Springs Highway is in unincorporated Jefferson County, which allows sales of fireworks banned in Homewood, just across the county line. This property and several others were subjects of an annexation attempt that failed in the state legislature this spring. The city had better luck this time around, minus Buffalo Rock property in West Homewood.

 

UPDATED Aug. 10, 2015–Annexation passes the state legislature on its second try. Buffalo Rock says no thanks, gives no explanation.

Homewood’s second attempt this year to annex pockets of unincorporated Jefferson County land that might attract nuisance developments–such as the notorious digital billboard–passed the state legislature today, but in a different form than it was first submitted in May.

Missing from the bill was Buffalo Rock office/warehouse property at 142 Citation Court. Homewood City Attorney Mike Kendrick, whom the council credited for steering the bill to approval, said the bill sponsor, Sen. Jabo Waggoner, refused to shepherd the bill through the Senate as long as Buffalo Rock was included. Mr. Kendrick said he didn’t know the reasons and wasn’t privy to the discussions between the state senator and Buffalo Rock executives. But the property was removed from the second draft.

Buffalo Rock’s response was less clear: “…The city elected not to have us included in that [second draft] for whatever reason they have,” said company Chief Operating Officer Matthew Dent. Dent said the company emphasized it wants to continue being a good corporate citizen of Homewood.

The bill was sponsored by Waggoner and Sen. Rodger Smitherman. State Representative David Faulkner was also credited for his work on the bill, which now goes to the governor for signing.

The following account, published in July, is accurate — except for all the parts about Buffalo Rock.

First annexation attempt fails

The Alabama Legislature ended its regular session June 5 and along with it the city’s attempt to annex 11 properties in unincorporated Jefferson County that are subject to its more relaxed zoning rules. The islands of county land came under scrutiny this spring when outdoor advertiser New Point Digital erected an oversized digital billboard on one of them, a Circle K at 1250 Columbiana Road, an act that sparked a rabid backlash from Homewood residents living across the road, and a boycott led by social media targeting the billboard owner and his clients.

The billboard was later relocated elsewhere in Homewood — also under local protest — after the council surreptitiously altered its own sign regulations to allow it.

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.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD-Yet. New Point Digital’s enormous electronic sign stood for a while at the Circle K/BP site on Columbiana Road. The property is in unincorporated Jefferson County. Homewood officials later helped New Point owner David DuBose relocate the sign to less offensive Homewood private commercial property behind K-Mart.

Leery of a repeat performance by another sign company exploiting lax Jefferson County regulations, the council then moved to bring the Circle K and other properties into Homewood through an act of the state legislature, one of three annexation procedures available to Alabama municipalities. It is this bill which was carried over out of committee rather than reaching the Senate floor for a vote, perhaps because Sen. Waggoner wasn’t present, according to a Senate clerk. [It was reported on 7/14/15 by Homewood councilman Fred Hawkins that Sen. Waggoner was present but chose deliberately to have the matter carried over to another session.] Whatever the details, Homewood freshman state representative, lawyer David Faulkner, said several issues affected the bill’s fate: The Homewood resolution was received with barely enough time to be advertised, as a local bill must be,  before the end of the session. Lawmakers this session were consumed with more important budget issues, Faulkner said, and there were some unanswered questions about the measure, such as whether Homewood officials had informed all the property owners of the bill.

They had not.

“We thought they had talked to the owners,” Faulkner said. “And in the Senate there was all this fighting amongst themselves over issues that had nothing to do with this. They (Homewood) will have to re-introduce it and re-advertise it.”

JEFFCOZONEPIC

This Jefferson County GIS screenshot shows the islands of Jefferson County land Homewood attempted to annex. Buffalo Rock property on Citation Court will remain in unincorporated Jefferson County. The bill didn’t include unincorporated residential property, shown in yellow.

The resolution addressed annexing the following parcels, all of which lie on or west of Green Springs Highway:

  1. 201 Green Springs Highway owned by Rivas Justo and Cesar Gonzales (San Miguel restaurant).
  2. 1250 Columbiana Road, owned by Circle K Stores, Inc.
  3. 1 West Lakeshore Drive, owned by One West Associates Inc. (professional office).
  4. Lakeshore Drive, owned by Southeast Medical Homewood LLC (2 adjacent parcels).
  5. 209 Citation Court West, owned by Tyler Henry.
  6. 129, 137, 159, and 167 Citation Court, owned by Bobby Ward.
  7. 142 Citation Court, owned by Buffalo Rock Co., Inc.
NOT IN HOMEWOOD. But that's okay. Buffalo Rock Co. told a state representative it wouldn't object if the city attempts to annex its property at 142 Citation Court into the city, and under its taxes and zoning regulations.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD-Ever. State Rep. David Faulkner has said Buffalo Rock Co. wasn’t aware Homewood was trying to annex its Citation Court property, but didn’t mind if it did. That was apparently not the case, as the property was dropped from the second–successful–annexation bill, passed Aug. 10.

Mr. Faulkner said he spoke only to Buffalo Rock, which didn’t object to the annexation but had not been informed of it either. However, property owner Bobby Ward, contacted on Wednesday, said he wasn’t informed of the city’s attempt to annex his four properties on Citation Court, and would oppose another attempt to avoid paying higher city property taxes. A person in charge at the San Miguel Restaurant on Green Springs didn’t answer visits or calls about the annexation attempt. Other owners have not been contacted for this story.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD. Bobby Ward, owner of office warehouse properties on Citation Court, said he would object to any further attempt by the city to annex his land into Homewood and its higher property tax rate.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD-Yet. Bobby Ward, owner of office warehouse properties on Citation Court, said he would object to any further attempt by the city to annex his land into Homewood and its higher property tax rate.

Since the New Point billboard issue blew up in early March, Jefferson County has taken steps to make sure any such sign application comes before the County Commission before being approved. The New Point sign met county zoning and sign regulations and was approved with no commission notice.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD. Raleigh Avenue Baptist Church still sits in unincorporated Jefferson County. It was not part of the city's annexation attempt, despite its location near a Hampton Inn and I-65.

NOT IN HOMEWOOD-Ever. Raleigh Avenue Baptist Church still sits in unincorporated Jefferson County. It was not part of the city’s annexation attempt, despite its location near a Hampton Inn and I-65.

While Homewood is interested in closing nearby zoning and tax  jurisdiction gaps, its annexation maneuver sidestepped the Raleigh Avenue Baptist Church, a prominent West Homewood property that is adjacent to I-65 and remains in unincorporated Jefferson County adjacent to houses and a Hampton Inn. A city zoning employee said it was unlikely that a billboard would be permitted here, even under the county’s lax 300-foot rule, due to proximity to residences. Homewood’s billboard regulations set a required 600-foot distance between billboards and residential buildings.

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6 responses to “Annexation update-second annexation attempt–minus Buffalo Rock–passes state legislature

  1. There is a small but upscale condominium complex on the mountain just up from the ABC liquor store. Hampton Heights. As you look down the Mountain there is an apartment complex that is Homewood and then across the street from it becomes Birmingham again. This is a residential pocket that should be annexed to Homewood. zip code 35209
    Will any residential communities that are obvious pockets be considered for future annex.

    Like

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