City Council meeting, Nov. 9, 2015

The Fox News TV property, (shaded in lavender to the left) lies perpendicular to the trail extension route and is a key acquisition for continuing the trail across Lakeshore Parkway to West Homewood Park, as planned.

The Fox News TV property, (shaded in lavender to the left) lies perpendicular to the Greenway trail extension route and is a key acquisition for completing Phase II of the trail, as planned. Council members thought the property wasn’t needed until the third phase, and mistakenly released funds for other projects.

[Substantially rewritten Nov. 10 with information from a councilman.] A miscommunication and error in reading the Greenway Trail extension map came back to haunt a downtown streets project tonight, taking back $48,000 the council had hoped would fund to help upgrade 18th Street from downtown to Rosedale. Misunderstanding in the budget process led the council to believe it had more than $20,000 available this year to put toward a an 18th Street revitalization project grant. Compounding that error, the council had erroneously thought it didn’t need to acquire the Fox TV News property to complete the Trail’s Phase II segment, and reappropriated those funds for the 18th Street improvements and other projects. A closer look a few weeks ago revealed the property is indeed required to complete Phase II. With uncertain funding to supplement the 18th Street project, the council kicked the matter back to the Finance Committee for study.

In another development, the council voted unanimously in favor of an expanded no-smoking ordinance that includes vaping and e-cigarettes, with only minor exceptions written into the model ordinance proposed by the city’s Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Homewood.

Members present: Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Walter Jones, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Members absent: Michael Hallman and Fred Hawkins.

Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, Melody Salter, finance director, Vanessa McGrath and Greg Cobb, city Building, Engineering and Zoning staff.

Audience attendance: 23

Approved minutes of September 14, 2015.

Re-appointed Melvin Upchurch to the Ward 5 Library board position and Paul Doran to the library board’s Ward 4 seat.

Closed the application period for the at-large Park and Recreation Board vacancy, with one applicant listed on the city website, Gary Isenhower.

Approved Harold Hudson to the Ward 1 seat on the city’s Cable Commission.

CONSENT AGENDA – Passed, dropping the following two items from committee:

Dropped were a 2-year old item to consider a social media strategy for the city and a request for the BJCTA to explain the circumstances surrounding the CEO’s early departure.

OLD BUSINESS AGENDA

Supporters of a stringent ban on vaping as well as smoking point to the rapidly increasing use of e-cigarettes among middle schoolers.

Supporters of a stringent ban on vaping as well as smoking point to the rapidly increasing use of e-cigarettes among middle schoolers. The council passed the comprehensive ban, including hotel/motel rooms, restaurant patios and with few minor exceptions.

Passed a reconsidered no-smoking ordinance that would include similar bans and restrictions on vaping and e-cigarettes: The Public Safety Committee had voted 4-1 to amend the proposed no-smoking ordinance to include vaping, expand the ban to all hotel/motel rooms and remove the option for restaurant owners to establish smoking/vaping sections for outdoor patios–a measure councilman Britt Thames opposed in committee but which he overlooked tonight to vote unanimously with the council.  The council had stumbled over banning smoking at privately-hosted events in public spaces and its decision to allow smoking inside tobacco shops while outlawing vaping at vape shops, as the proposal required. Tonight’s vote allowed smoking inside vape shops as well and preserved a right of people to smoke/vape at privately hosted events. The ordinance outlaws smoking within 20 feet of any enclosed area where smoking is prohibited.

The townhouses would look something like this, according to the architect.

The townhouses proposed on Columbiana Road would look something like this, according to the architect.

Passed a rezoning to allow a six-unit condominium off of Columbiana: There was little controversy over rezoning for a six-unit “townhome” development at 818 Columbiana Road, the site of a former salon — now gone–involved in a prostitution sting years ago. The matter had been recommended by the Planning Commission, and variances approved this month by the BZA to allow much smaller lot areas and front and rear setbacks should the project be approved, which it was. A discussion from Mr. Moody focused on the rezoning of an R-7 (Attached Dwelling Unit District) island within a commercial island between Columbiana and Green Springs. The land was recommended as “Mixed Use” in a 2007 Master Plan, but Ms. McGrath said the concept of mixed use was evolving, and saw no need to adhere to the forecasted land use from eight years ago. Council concern targeted measures to keep the property maintained, which will be facilitated with a type of owners association set up when the units are sold. A resident spoke at the public hearing, asking about traffic concerns; traffic from Green Springs Highway is more evident since trees were cut down on commercial property, she said. The developer said trees would be cleared in front of the units (facing south on a new street built perpendicular to Columbiana), but there would be some buffer between the development and Green Springs. Prices to be around $300,000 per unit. Property owner is Twin Properties; Developer is Progressive Properties.

Denied a request to clear underbrush from an unused city alleyway between the YMCA and Rumson Road: The alley is public right-of-way that is not developed as an alleyway.

Approved work in the city right-of-way next to 324 LaPrado Circle: No details. 

Agreed to remove a tree in the city’s right-of-way for Regional Bank: The tree apparently obscures the bank. Mr. Jones asked if the city’s inspections department could see if any other trees were obscuring other businesses.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider 1) Setting a 5:30 p.m., Dec. 7, 2015, bid date for landfill services; 2) A request for proposals for directional/informational signage in the downtown district by the ad hoc Parking Solutions Committee; 3) Further public improvements on Columbiana Road; 4) Making budget amendments to FY2016 (current) budget for outstanding encumbrances from year just ended; 5) Purchasing 414 Cliff Place; and 6) To release for sale a number of lots acquired by the city in 1936, location not explained.

To Public Safety – To consider 1) A school zone sign for the Creative Montessori School; 2) Reviewing location of certain types of businesses within the city limits; and 3) Steps to address an increase in coyote sightings within the city limits.

To Special Issues – A request to allow a 4,000 square-foot tent to be set up for a Trinity United Methodist Church event.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Set a Dec. 7 public hearing for public nuisance on Shades Creek Parkway: The property is at 506 Shades Creek Parkway is being cited for overgrowth and litter.

Carried over a measure to support/approve a retail restaurant liquor license at the Shrimp Basket on Green Springs Highway: The city is waiting on a routine report from the police department before adding its recommendation to the state license application. 

Made its annual donation to the Exceptional Foundation: The yearly $40,000 allocation requires a contract for services and this vote authorizes the mayor to sign it.

Made a $2,500 donation to a police department initiative to help troubles/abused boys: The allocation has been approved in the current budget. The vote authorizes the mayor to sign the contract for services rendered to the city.

Authorized payment of $15,000 this year for ClasTran services: The special public transit for special needs and elderly riders has been the subject of controversy over the last two years. This year the council is ready to authorize the requested payments.

A federal grant will help the city extend downtown amenities north on 18th Street to Rosedale.

A federal grant will help the city extend downtown amenities north on 18th Street to Rosedale.

Approved a funding agreement with ALDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for the 18th Street Revitalization Project: The vote authorizes the mayor to sign the agreement with engineering firm Goodwin, Mills & Cawood. The half-million-dollar project will extend the downtown main drag north along 18th Street to Rosedale, including sidewalks, seating, plantings and other streetscaping touches. Grant funds were to be supplemented with another federal grant, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality or CMAQ program, which would cover expenses not paid by TAP, such as moving utilities and some engineering work. That decision, below, was postponed after it was learned there was only $20,000 budgeted in this fiscal year — not enough –for the required 20% match.

Rescinded a resolution and referred back to the Finance Committee a Regional Planning Commission request for CMAQ funds to supplement an 18th Street improvement project.  

HOMEWOODHS

Rumors have been flying about the Board of Education’s desire to relocate the high school, possibly to West Homewood Park. Where would the ball fields be relocated? The city has been asked to assist and is contracting with a bond company to understand its financial position when that time comes.

Authorized the mayor to sign a Bond Underwriting Agreement with Stifel, Nicolaus & Company (Merchant Capital) for investigating possible Board of Education and Park Board needs: The mayor explained after the meeting that the city was preparing for a school board request to assist with a possible high school relocation. It has been rumored a new school might be built on the West Homewood Park property, near the stadium, necessitating a equivalent move of ball fields. Where that might be is the subject of much speculation in West Homewood.

Paid the bills:  The vote authorizes payment of invoices for Oct. 26-Nov. 6, 2015.

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