City Council meeting, June 13, 2016

2004 drawings for a Homewood "Justice Center" at 90 Bagby Drive.

2004 drawings for a Homewood “Justice Center” at 90 Bagby Drive.

Tonight’s meeting began with a work session to consider a West Valley Avenue site for a new police headquarters. The meeting was finished with a dramatic request by the mayor for a $2.3 million appropriation to launch an upgrade of city streets. Also on the agenda were settings for the municipal elections, runoffs, if needed, and voting equipment.

Work session – 5:30 p.m.

Members present: Fred Hawkins, Patrick McClusky, Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, and Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was Mayor Scott McBrayer.

Absent: Vance Moody, Alex Wyatt, Richard Laws and Peter Wright.

Police Chief Ross addressed the work session, called to decide whether to commission a feasibility study for funding a new police headquarters/jail/court complex in West Homewood. Chief Ross prefaced his remarks by saying the police headquarters had been downtown since the city’s founding and the

The building at 90 Bagby Drive was declared unsafe earlier this year and slated for demolition.

The building at 90 Bagby Drive was declared unsafe and demolished. The site has been eyed for a police headquarters for more than a decade. Tonight that idea took another step forward.

current building was constructed in the mid-1980s. He had looked over plans drawn up 5 years ago for a two-story building at the corner of Bagby Drive and West Valley Avenue. Much of that plan is still useful today, he said. Although he didn’t think the location was ideal, it was more important to have personnel consolidated under one roof rather than across the city as they are now–downtown, Citation Court, the Bagby shop, and a substation on Oxmoor Road. Nevertheless, even with a move for that purpose, he still wanted to retain a strong precinct downtown by the merchants.

After some discussion Mr. Thames asked what would be done with the current property. The mayor commented that he would look into all options, including a ground lease that produced some income, or even using the property for parking. With the council being united to go forward with a relocation, it was decided to dispense with spending money on a feasibility study. The session was adjourned and the regular session called to order at 6 p.m.

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

Members absent: Vance Moody, Alex Wyatt and Peter Wright.

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

Audience present: 15

Board vacancies addressed:

  • Opened application period for Ward 5 and supernumerary BZA seats.
  • Re-opened the Ward 3 library board seat, with applications taken until June 24 at 5 p.m.

OLD BUSINESS

Approved rezoning certain commercial properties annexed from Jefferson County last year: This vote finalizes the annexation and rezoning of 3 of 9 parcels on the city’s corporate limits that were under county jurisdiction and zoning, as follows: Circle K store at 1250 Columbiana Road, from the county’s C1 to HW Neighborhood Shopping District; Southeast Medical Homewood LLC, 35 West Lakeshore Drive, from county Preferred Commercial to HW C1, Office Building District; One West Associates, #1 West Lakeshore Drive from JC C1 to HW Neighborhood Shopping District. A fourth property in this package, the site of the fireworks trailer on Green Springs Highway, has been put on hold while a dispute with the owner is resolved.

Two of five planned houses on the Broadway "triangle." Developer Chris Tucker joined another builder tonight to object to height restrictions on new houses. Tucker says his houses aren't "towering."

Two of five planned houses on the Broadway “triangle.” Developer Chris Tucker joined another builder tonight to object to height restrictions on new houses. Tucker says his houses aren’t “towering.”

Carried over staff-recommended amendments to the zoning book/set a June 27 work session, due to objections raised by two builders: The residential zoning recommendations discussed in detail in the April 5 Planning Commission meeting, were to be finalized by the council tonight until two builders raised identical objections that a limit on building height would adversely affect their business and possibly encourage homeowners to build ugly, flat-topped houses to maximize their square footage at the expense of aesthetics. The height restrictions are 25 feet from the front door threshold to the top of the roof for houses on lots up to 55-feet wide, and 35 feet for lots over 55 feet, with the purpose of containing the trend toward taller and taller houses on small lots. A builder living on Dixon said, however, that the restriction would have disqualified 23 of the last 25 houses he built; that due to rising costs of land, it didn’t pay to build small houses and the regulations would force home builders to flatten the pitch of roofs to get more living space into new houses.

Also opposing was the developer for the houses on the Broadway triangle, saying three of the five houses he is building would be non-compliant; he did not think his houses were “towering.” Also speaking in favor of giving the matter more thought was BZA chairwoman Lauren Gwaltney, who said tree removal and houses that were too tall were the two most common complaints the board received, and members had no recourse in the law to rely on. The work session will invite builders, regulators and residents to weigh in on the subject in a public forum.

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.

Bobby Ward objected to the city’s annexation of four Citation Court office warehouse properties, but let the matter drop last month.

Continued setting June 27 public hearing to rezone five recently annexed Citation Court parcels: The properties were annexed a year ago with four others (see above) and have been  recommended by the Planning Commission to be rezoned from the county’s Light Industrial classification to Homewood’s Light Manufacturing. The cases in April were heard in the Planning Commission in more detail, disputed and carried over by the owner of four, Bobby Ward, who did not return to object the following month’s meeting. To be rezoned:

129 Citation Court – Bobby Ward

137 Citation Court – Universal Development Corp., Bobby Ward, owner

159 Citation Court – Bobby Ward

167 Citation Court – Bobby Ward

209 Citation Court – Henry Tyler

600HambaughAVE

The council will allow a side yard fence on the side facing Dixon.

Granted permission to erect a front yard fence at 600 Hambaugh Avenue: The council approved a side-yard fence facing Dixon despite some reluctance from Mr. Jones, who felt the Dixon street neighbors wouldn’t like to face a fence. That said, there were no objections filed and he voted with the majority in favor.

Scheduled a June 20 bid opening to purchase patrol rifles.

Declared a 2003 Ford Expedition police vehicle surplus and due to be sold.

Declared certain city right-of-way property surplus and granted easements for use by ServisFirst: The vote authorized the mayor to enter into easement agreements for ServisFirst to build across three city alleyways at the new building site.

Carried over consideration of mosquito control options: It was decided in committee to refer the question of spraying to the Homewood Environmental Commission, which was to issue a statement for the city website, and to acquire as many as possible mosquito larvicide cakes, called “dunks” from the county health department to give to residents and the parks department. The discussion will be left open, or continued, as other options are considered.

Approved new informational signs for downtown: The council approved an expenditure of no more than $3,500 for downtown directional and informational signs.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider A) Setting a bid opening date to purchase tasers for the police department; B) Amending the current budget, by request of the Finance Director; C) Entering a franchise agreement with Access Fiber Group, Inc. to install small cell phone transmission equipment in city right of ways; D)  Consider participating in the Aug. 5, 2016, “Back to School” sales tax holiday; and E) The purchase of the city-owned vacant lot at 165 Oxmoor Road.

To Planning and Development – To consider updating the city’s Master Plan for the downtown area.

SOMERSETDRIVEDITCH

Homeowners are asking for a fence around an open drainage ditch on Somerset Drive. Google maps.

To Public Safety – To consider A) A stop sign on Saulter Road and Lake Wood Drive; B) Supporting a state ABC retail beer off-premises license for Fred’s on Green Springs Highway; C) Fencing an open drainage ditch at 1542 and 1544 Somerset Drive.

To Special Issues – To consider A) Allowing work in the city right-of-way to paint addresses on curbs; B) Granting variances (exceptions) for signs at 2700 19th Place South, 135 West Valley Avenue, 929 Oxmoor Road, and 2910 18th Street South; C) Discuss parking and garbage container locations; and D) Ways to resolve sanitation, speeding and paving problems on Ashwood Lane (Mr. Jones asked for clarification that only the 100 block of Ashwood is in Homewood city limits).

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Set the date for a general city election on Aug. 23, 2016, and runoff election (if needed) on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016.

Passed a resolution to obtain certain voting equipment compliant with state law.

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period May 14-June 10, 2016, were approved to be paid.

Set a July 11 public hearing for three sign variance requests: See Committee Referral, above.

POLICEMOTORCYCLEDeclared police property surplus and due to be sold:

  • 2010 FLHP Road King motorcycle
  • 2007 FLHP Road King
  • 2007 FLHP Road King, as a trade-in on a 2016 Road King
The council refused to be hurried on OLS's request to build an inset in front of the church for several parallel parking spaces, citing driver side safety.

The council refused to be hurried on OLS’s request to build an inset in front of the church to move parallel parking spaces closer to the church by 7 feet.

Carried over a last-minute request to construct a parking pad in front of Our Lady of Sorrows Church: The church, without observing the usual procedures, asked permission to cut into the city sidewalk in front of the church to move parallel parking spaces 7 feet toward the building and away from Oxmoor Road. The church would assume all the costs, including re-routing the sidewalk. Mr. Jones asked why the church wasn’t following the usual agenda process, and Mr. Cobb said the contractor was “ready to build.” Mr. Laws made a rare comment, asking why the church should be allowed to basically cut a unappealing parking pad in front of its building when homeowners were rarely allowed to do the same thing. The rest of the council agreed to his motion to carry the question over to a Public Safety Committee meeting.

This al.com photograph shows a deteriorating section of Valley Avenue with a patched utility cut in the near lane. The city is considering an engineering contract to better plan road maintenance and funding. [Valley Avenue is set for re-paving and other changes.]

This al.com photograph shows a deteriorating section of Valley Avenue with a patched utility cut in the near lane. The city is considering an engineering contract to better plan road maintenance and funding. [Valley Avenue is set for re-paving and other changes.]

In post meeting comments, Mayor McBrayer pitched a  $2.3 million appropriation to take action on Volkert Engineering’s recommendations to preserve, pave and repair 125 miles of city streets.  The council in March 2015 approved the $40,000 consultation to study city streets and recommend a plan to begin to repair, preserve and pave them in a sustainable way. That done, Volkert reappeared in a March 2016 work session to report the results and request a $4 million project to fix and preserve city streets. Tonight, the mayor asked the council to consider an appropriation for more than half that amount to get the project under way.

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