Over the objections of Ward 2 representative Vance Moody, the council passed 8-2 substantial changes to the West Homewood District “Village” zoning regulations–including the elimination of Lodging from its permitted uses–and handing future power for review and approval to the Planning Commission. In other action, the council seemed okay with more signs–lots more signs–on the front of Brookwood mall.
Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Vance Moody, Walter Jones, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Richard Laws, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer.
Members absent: Fred Hawkins
Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, Melody Salter, finance director, and Greg Cobb, city Building, Engineering and Zoning staff.
Audience attendance: 31
Approved the minutes of the Aug. 10, 2015, meeting.
In the Consent Agenda, the council used one vote to drop two items previously discussed in committee:
- Dropped considering a cross walk at Central Avenue and Reese Street because the project is already scheduled.
- Dropped further discussion of a website revamp because the funding has already been approved in the mayor’s budget.
OLD BUSINESS AGENDA
Approved 8-2 substantial changes in the West Homewood District Village ordinance, abolishing its review panel in favor of the Planning Commission and BZA: The West Homewood District “village” zoning ordinance, passed in August 2013 to govern the shape and appearance of redevelopments on 22 parcels, became relevant this spring when the Oxmoor Road EconoLodge applied for a significant redevelopment under the new regulations. Vocal opposition sparked a reexamination of the actual regulations, as well as procedures for reviewing them, which have not been well understood.
The city council earlier this year officially asked the Planning Commission to advise on making changes, which the commission did over the course of a public hearing and two meetings, finally recommending that the review committee (Community Design Review Committee) be abolished and replaced with the more familiar Planning Commission/BZA format. Among a long list of other changes to the regulations, the commission asked to remove “Lodging” from the list of permitted uses in the district, even as the EconoLodge is considering investing in a second hotel on its property. (Mr. Kendrick explained that the motel application would be grandfathered under the old rules as long as the application was active. It was submitted July 17 and is in its second review extension.)
Although no one spoke during the public hearing, Ward 2 representative Moody argued in favor of keeping the CDRC, saying the Planning Commission is composed of mayoral appointees with no required ward representation. Until recently, there were no Ward 2 members on the commission. And, although there are several members who live in the ward now, nothing in the process guarantees there will be in the future.
On the other side, Ward 2 representative Hawkins, who was absent, was in favor of the change for several practical reasons–some shared by the staff–such as the Planning Commission having a regular meeting time that zoning staff already have to attend. It was considered a burden to add a fourth committee responsibility to them; also, as Ms. McGrath pointed out, her membership on the committee created a conflict of interest, as she had to advise applicants during one phase of a development, then vote on it in another. The CDRC format did not include mandatory public hearing schedule and public yellow sign postings that the commission/BZA format does
After discussion and passing unanimous consent, the vote was 8-2 in favor of the changes. Future West Homewood District applications will be handled by the Planning Commission, with requested variances heard by the Board of Zoning Adjustments.
Voting no: Mr. Moody and Mr. McClusky.
Gave requested “feedback” on variances allowing signs along the Brookwood Mall retaining wall: Cypress Equities has been trying to rejuvenate the familiar Village at 600 Brookwood Mall, in this case allowing asking the council to weigh in on posting signs across the concrete retaining wall facing Lakeshore Boulevard. No sign is allowed there by law now, although unofficial exceptions were made years ago in the case of the mall’s name and Z Gallerie, which Mr. Cobb said he probably allowed. The council expressed a desire to stay within the 4.6-foot letter height limitation set by the ordinance, which allows signs on the mall structure
itself, and to consider no more than six store sign, all within a single typeface “family,” to be simple bronze as shown in company mock-ups, and to withhold their vote until a final proposal is presented. The matter was carried over to the next meeting.
Approved funds to repair Lee Center drainage problems: The council approved spending up to $5,000 for repairs to the parking lot.
Approved funds for consultants to advise on a street pavement inspection/maintenance program: for city streets: The council voted to spend $9,600, or the 20 percent local share of costs in a transportation project underwritten 80 percent by federal highway funds. Volkert Engineering will perform the $40,000 study of 125 miles of city streets and how to establish an ongoing maintenance program, using sealants and other repairs as well as milling and repaving.
Declared city equipment surplus and due to be sold: The request from the Public Services Department includes (3) oil burning heaters , (1) sandblaster parts/cabinet and dust collector, (1) Lincoln pneumatic bumper lift jack and (1) AC Recycling machine/ Skye Model # 8534/Serial # 841409 and a 2002 Elgin Eagle Street Sweeper Serial No. F-1271-D/Mounted on a Sterling /VIN: .
COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA
To Finance – To consider 1) Declaring as surplus a 1995 International refuse truck, a 1994 International refuse truck, and a 1998 International Clam Shell truck; and 2) Purchasing an “Official Fan Guide Sponsor” for the Annual Birmingham Bowl.
To Public Safety – To consider adding a stop sign on Ascott Road and LaPrado Circle.
To Special Issues – To consider 1) Hearing a presentation from David Agee about driveway paving options; 2) Set an event date for a celebration of a West Homewood revitalization project; and 3) A sign ordinance variance for a business at 1934 28th Avenue South, requested by Diane Foley.
Set a Sept. 28, 2015, hearing for a sign ordinance at 1934 28th Avenue South, see above.
Paid the bills: The council approved paying invoices for the Aug. 24-Sept. 11, 2015 period.