In a special work session introduced by a 15-minute private session, the City Council voted in favor of letting the city attorney negotiate a sale of city property by Patriot Park along with a development plan for a retail building in the new West Homewood village district.
The vote referred to the results of a Request for Proposal announced in July 2015 that attracted only two responses, 1) A commercial tenant building with a restaurant anchor, called The Grove, whose developers, Sonja DiCarlo and Paula Harris, offered $50,000 for the $135,000 property, and 2) A food truck plaza idea from developer Tom Walker, who offered the full purchase amount. Both submissions were rejected at a December 7 work session for having too many unanswered questions, of which purchase price was a main concern for The Grove. The process was extended again to Feb. 15, and then Feb. 22 while a rumored third proposal was in the works. It is that third concept–A 3-story tenant building by Avondale developer Hunter Lake in collaboration with Appleseed Workshop architects–that was approved for further negotiations, with an offer of only $35,000 for the property. See the full proposal here.
Tonight’s vote, which was unanimous with two councilmen absent, was taken after comments from six local residents and architect Kyle Kirkwood (on the Homewood Board of Education project team) for the losing The Grove design. Mr. Kirkwood said he had been working with the partners since long before the RFP was issued last summer. He stressed the amount of work that had gone into the proposal, the partners’ request for a 90-day due diligence period before making an offer, and the group’s interest in collaborating further with the neighborhood as the concept took shape.
Nevertheless, residents who commented favored the latest plan, pointing out the Post Office Pies brand name and Mr. Lake’s success in Avondale. One resident said the prospect of future success more than outweighed the $35,000 offer, while another resident disagreed, saying future success wouldn’t hinge on the difference between paying $35,000 and the full asking price. Another resident was concerned with the three-story concept and plans for condominiums on the floor. Documents in the actual RFP say the former gas station property, which had leaking underground fuel tanks, wasn’t suitable for residential, schools or daycare uses. However, the city attorney disputed that interpretation, saying it was “ADEM’s call,” not the city’s, to enforce. The same resident said he didn’t understand why a developer planning to spend millions on a building would offer such a low price.
Before the vote, Mayor Scott McBrayer commented that the council was very wary of “giving away” property, which had played into the protracted discussions about the property. Councilman Peter Wright said his main interest was getting the city’s monetary value out of the property in the sale, although he led the vote for the Lake concept, with the lowest offer to date.
Carried over a pitch from Volkert Engineering to commit to an 8-year, $4 million upgrade of 96 miles of city streets: Volkert Engineering made a presentation for a second phase in its current contract to evaluate city roads and make recommendation for future maintenance and repair using several different repaving, sealing, and coating processes discussed at length tonight. The recommendations were broken down by ward, showing miles of street repairs needed and cost for each, totaling the $4 million, or a half million per year. The prevailing issues on Homewood streets, they said, were multiple overlays of asphalt, covering gutters, alligator cracking, asphalt poured on concrete, and poorly repaired utility cuts. Results of the inspection work will be provided to council members and the matter will be discussed in detail before putting together a bid package, likely to be budgeted for the following fiscal year.
Agreed to produce an ordinance using Mountain Brook and Birmingham practices to assure better permitting, inspections and enforcement of road repairs after utility work: Mr. Thames pushed this item onto the work session agenda, suggesting the city perform its own street repairs following utility work and charge the cost to the utility companies. It was learned in discussion that neither the streets or building inspections departments handled permits for road cuts and repairs because wording in the current ordinance directs the city clerk to issue a permit when a bond is posted. It was agreed the amended ordinance should put permitting, and therefore inspection and enforcement responsibility, under the building inspections department.
Members present: Michael Hallman, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Alex Wyatt, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer.
Members absent: Walter Jones and Rich Laws.
Staff present: City attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, and Greg Cobb, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department..