The council moved a half million dollars into a Capital Projects Fund to shore up future capital projects, expanded outsourced probation services, and griped about paying the transit authority bill. But by far the most interest was paid to an outlandish wall sign proposed for a new “Holler and Dash” country concept restaurant by Cracker Barrel, on a prominent downtown corner.
Members present: Britt Thames, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Richard Laws, and Peter Wright, presiding for council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer.
Members absent: Vance Moody
Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, Greg Cobb, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department, and Melody Salter, finance director.
Audience attendance: 19
Appointed two members to the BZA: Ward 2 member Beverly LeBoeuf was reappointed with no objection to the Board of Zoning Adjustments and Stuart Roberts of Ward 3 was selected from two applications for the supernumerary spot on that board. Supernumeraries vote in case of absences by regular members.
Approved minutes of the Dec. 7, 2015, meeting.
Voted to drop three items: The consent agenda dropped consideration of 1) a telecommunications franchise called Southern Light; 2) an Alabama Power Co. economic development plan; and 3) A city communications plan.
OLD BUSINESS AGENDA
Carried over a request by Dunn Real Estate for special exceptions on a monument sign at the Ollie’s/Pep Boys center: The matter was carried over a second time tonight because the applicant isn’t ready.
Rejected bids opened in December for the city’s landfill contract, will negotiate a renewal with Adamsville facility: The city currently has a three-year contract with the Adamsville Landfill Authority, the entity that governs the state’s largest landfill, owned by Big Sky, (which bought the former Green Mountain landfill out of bankruptcy late last year). Mayor McBrayer said the city stands to save $24,000 per year on household garbage tipping fees by staying with Big Sky over Santek, which was the low bidder on Dec. 7. For city construction and demolition debris, which is handled separately, the city stands to save $4,400 per year by renewing the current lease.
With conditions, granted controversial exceptions to the sign ordinance for a Cracker Barrel concept restaurant downtown: The company is opening a Holler and Dash country-style restaurant at 2801 18th Street and requested additional signs, one protruding from the front and a painted mural on the 28th Street exposed side of the building that would feature an 8-foot tall rooster ridden by a cowboy against a background of diagonal stripes. That design was revised substantially in committee to lose the stripes and reduce the size, and cowboy–although details were scarce at the public hearing and no graphics were distributed. At the hearing, a Watts Realty spokesman and a neighboring tenant spoke in favor of the mural, while three other speakers were opposed. One speaker specifically asked what the sign regulations allowed and what exemptions were being granted, and would that open the door for other businesses to follow–particularly with regard to outdoor murals/signs. Mr. Thames said regulations didn’t ban painting signs on buildings; the issue was simply the restaurant’s request for the additional signage. The council then voted to approve the additional front sign and conditionally to approve the mural pending final review by the council before the next meeting, apparently via email.
Voting no: Michael Hallman
Approved an updated service contract with Freedom Probation Services: The company has the contract to handle probation services for the city’s court system and this vote accepts additional, but unspecified coverage, presumably at higher cost. The previous probation contractor was dropped in the midst of a national scandal.
Amended the budget to lease office equipment for the finance department: The vote allows the mayor to sign the lease for a mailer.
Approved up to $2,000 for an ad in the city’s Chamber of Commerce magazine.
Voting no: Michael Hallman; Abstaining: Barry Smith
Set a Feb. 8 public hearing for a commercial sign variance at 1922 29th Avenue South.
Approved a front yard fence variance at 1527 Roseland Drive: The proposed wrought iron fence, which will cross the city right-of-way, is a safety barrier because of an 8-foot drop to the creek bottom.
COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA
To Finance – To consider 1) Amending the current FY2016 General and Special Funds budgets; 2) The lease on a mailer for the Finance Department; 3) The cost of an ad for the Chamber of Commerce magazine; and 4) Change orders for the West Homewood street improvements by Patriot Park.
To Public Safety – To consider 1) Installing a street light near 209 Clermont Drive; and 2) Reviewing the noise ordinance; 3) A 4-way stop sign on 28th Street and Montessori Way; and 4) Traffic signs.
To Special Issues – To consider a 1) A sign ordinance variance at 4100 Old Montgomery Highway; and 2) A sign ordinance variance at #1 Lakeshore Drive; and 3) A sign ordinance at 1922 29th Avenue South (public hearing Feb. 8).
OTHER NEW BUSINESS
Approved two of four quarterly payments for public transit: Although the amount has been budgeted, the bill for the whole year was presented and the city had asked to be billed quarterly. In discussion Mr. Wright asked if future payments could be withheld if ridership statistics weren’t supplied as requested. Mr. Kendrick said the contract doesn’t include any such conditions. Mr. Thames–alluding to last year’s slashing of the transit budget followed by a months-long feud with the Birmingham Jefferson Transit Authority and noted CEO, now gone–said the council should remember that the only way the transit authority would listen is if its money was withheld. Last year’s funds were ultimately reinstated with no disruption or change in service.
Transferred additional money from last year’s General Fund surplus to the Capital Projects Fund: City Finance Director Melody Salter asked for up to $500,000 from last year’s budget surplus to be moved into Capital Projects Fund to “shore up” finances for upcoming projects.
Paid the bills: Invoices were paid for the period Jan. 11-Jan. 22, 2016.