City Council, Aug. 8, 2016

The 2007 Master Plan calls for neighborhoods to be anchored by destination points, or focal areas. The council on Monday voted to commission a full revision of that plan. Cost unknown but to be presented in the mayor's budget Aug. 29.

The 2007 Master Plan calls for neighborhoods to be anchored by destination points, or focal areas. The council on Monday voted to commission a full revision of that plan. Cost unknown but to be presented in the mayor’s budget Aug. 29.

The council on Monday moved the next meeting from Aug. 22 to Aug. 29 to give incumbents and new candidates a chance to campaign before the Aug. 23 election. Some were skeptical the real reason was to move the mayor’s budget presentation–by policy presented by the last meeting in August–to safely after the election and perhaps preserve incumbents’ seats in office. Monday’s meeting also included a vote to approve a full Master Plan revision of the 2007 plan–cost unknown–which will be included in the mayor’s presentation. The vote was a significant departure from the Planning Commission’s recommendation April 5 to spend $60,000 toward an update of the downtown section only.

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

Absent: Vance Moody

Staff present: Mike Kendrick, city attorney, Melody Salter, finance director and city clerk, J.J. Bischoff, mayor’s chief of staff, Greg Cobb, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department, Scott Cook, code enforcer.

Audience attendance: 18

Approved minutes of July 11 and July 25, 2016.

Filled an arts council seat and opened or continued the application period for two Ward BZA seats. Carolyn Warren was named to fill the Ward 1 Arts Advisory Council seat; In Ward 5, the open BZA seat has not attracted any formal applicants and will remain open; meanwhile, a BZA supernumerary spot  (which votes in cases of absences) was opened.  

CONSENT AGENDA

This agenda is used to drop items from consideration with a single council vote: Dropped were 1) A request for a walkway to the back parking lot of Publix from the Columbiana Road sidewalk. (Mr. Jones said in dropping the item he hoped the mayor or someone could prevail on the grocery store give necessary permissions, etc., to make the walkway happen); and 2) Permission granted for a resident to work in an unimproved city alley behind 1627 Sunset Drive. The item was dropped because the city withdrew its permission at the last meeting due to neighbor complaints.

Efforts to contain height of houses on certain lots to 1 1/2 stories is being met with opposition. Some residents think uncontrolled building is endangering the quaint charm of some Homewood neighborhoods. Council members, builders and other residents consider the limits anti-growth.

Efforts to contain height of houses on certain single-family lots to no more than 1 1/2 stories is being met with opposition. Some residents think uncontrolled building is endangering the quaint charm of  Homewood neighborhoods. Council members, builders and other residents consider the limits anti-growth.

Agreed to move the next meeting from Aug. 22 to Aug. 29: Mr. Limbaugh announced the move, which passed 10-1, giving an explanation perhaps to those who thought the change was made to move the mayor’s budget presentation to after the Aug. 23 election. Mr. Limbaugh, however, said the move was to honor requests for a second public hearing on the housing height issue because so many changes have been suggested by the council since the July hearing; and that incumbents and office-holders alike wanted to be free to campaign the night before the municipal election. The city attorney later said the city was under no obligation to hold a second hearing or meet any kind of advance notice, because the hearing on the zoning ordinance change had already been heard. That said, Mr. Limbaugh called the meeting a “public commentary” period.

Voting no: Mr. Hallman objected that the date should remain because hearings were previously set for Aug. 22, but was outvoted.

Approved Closing a Brookwood Village street for events in September: Brookwood Village Street will be closed September 22 and September 29 from 3-10 p.m., for Brookwood Live music series.

Renewed a federal Economic Development grant to benefit at-risk student athletes: A schools athletic administrator thanked the council for accepting the renewed $50,000 grant, administered by the state economic development agency, to identify and help athletes at-risk for getting into trouble with police stay connected to the school through various intervention programs. The grant was accepted last year for the first time. This is a renewal.

Carried over acceptance of a $353,000+ FEMA SAFER grant for extra firefighters: There was some concern that the federal grant could be completed on time and an extension was being sought. Fire chief John Bresnan told the council he thought the next meeting, now moved to Aug. 29, would be timely enough for the council vote and to meet the deadline.

Overgrown trees, congested parking are two issues to be addressed in a downtown master plan..

Overgrown trees, congested parking are two issues to be addressed in a downtown master plan..

Approved funding, pricetag not announced, for a full updated city Master Plan: The Planning Commission earlier this year heard a pitch from the Regional Planning Commission and recommended the city budget $60,000 toward a $280,000 partial Master Plan update, focusing on the downtown area, limited to the area from Rosedale to Oxmoor Road and from U.S. 31 to Central Avenue. Ms. McGrath in April said the area has accumulated 12 different zoning categories and three different sign districts–ruling on sign variances has become a regular feature of each council meeting and the city has very limited zoning to handle mixed use. At this meeting, however, the council approved a full city-wide update, also with the RPC, and with details of the funding to be presented in the Mayor’s Budget, scheduled for the next meeting, now set for Aug. 29. Click here for details of the RPC’s original update focusing on downtown and parts of Rosedale. Click here for a pdf image of the cost breakdown presented in April. 

Set an Aug. 29 public “commentary” before voting on housing height and other zoning changes: The proposed new changes affect the method of measuring the height of new single-family houses, a change in the number of recognized lot sizes from three to two (55 feet and under and over 55 feet), new height limits for each of these two lot widths, setback changes, and minimum size house allowed on the smaller lot. These original changes were presented to the Planning Commission by the zoning staff  on April 5 and unanimously recommended, but were carried over when the builders complained about the restrictions at a council public hearing later. The 25-foot restriction on the smaller lot would have resulted in most two-level houses being limited to a story and a half, i.e., preventing full two-story houses (see picture above). Council members then raised the limits from 25 to 29 for houses on the smaller lots in a July 29 public forum and raised them from 29 to 32 and from 35 to 36 respectively at an Aug. 1 committee meeting. Complaints from certain residents demanding a second public hearing on the changed amendments prompted Mr. Limbaugh’s decision, although the city attorney said the city had already met its public hearing obligation, whether the amendments were changed or not.  

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

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

Moved a rezoning public hearing from Aug. 22 to Aug. 29: The hearing for rezoning Columbiana Road property from C-1 to R-7 for a condominium development was moved because of the meeting date change, above. The matter is the expansion of a six-unit condo development into a 10-unit development after an additional parcel was added at 822 Columbiana. Work has already begun. For the Planning Commission presentation on this addition, click here.

Set an Aug. 29 before changing a section of Rumson to one-way: The hearing was set before considering whether to change the 500 block of Rumson to one-way.

Set an August 29 public hearing on a sign variance on Citation Court: 

Approved a signal on a cross walk at Oak Grove Road and Oxmoor Road.

Transferred $5000 from one fund to another for police department tuition.

Approved a $1000 expenditure for a Birmingham Bowl sponsorship.

COMMITTEE REFERRAL AGENDA

To Finance – To consider 1) A fiber optic franchise agreement with Southern Light LLC and permission to work in the right-of-way; 2) A utility agreement with Mobilities to install a pole in the right-of-way; 3) Making amendments to the current budgets; 4) Paying for paint striping on Valley Avenue; and 5) Paying for a street light.

Red Hills Brewing Company interior. Photo by al.com

Red Hills Brewing Company interior. Photo by al.com

To Public Safety – To consider 1) Posting a directional sign to the middle school; 2) Requesting a mid-year report from the police department; 3) Installing a street light; 4) Addressing parking problems on Shades Road; 5) Striping on Valley Avenue; and 6) Supporting an ABC board license at Red Hills Brewing Co. The approvals process for the development by Little Donkey off Central Avenue was protracted, beginning with zoning mistakes made in the Planning Commission and extending to vigorous objections by neighborhood businesses because of the forecast parking nightmares, over which the council passed the required zoning, although on a split vote. Mr. Pilleteri then ran into financial troubles, recovered, and is set to open the area’s first Over the Mountain brewery and taproom shortly.

To Special Issues – To consider 1) Allowing a variance to a sign ordinance at 800 Green Springs Highway; and 2) A sign variance at 2921 18th Street South.

OTHER NEW BUSINESS

Set Aug. 29 hearings for two sign variances: See Special Issues items, above.

Paid the bills: The council approved bills be paid for the period July 25-Aug. 7, 2016. 

Declared, in separate votes, that the following properties be declared public nuisances: The declarations on the following properties mean the owners either refused to clean up overgrowth and litter or couldn’t be reached to do so and the city will clear the properties into compliance and charge the bill against the property as a lien. Declared nuisances were 1602 Ridge Road, 2516 Mamie L. Foster, 2522 Mamie L. Foster, 110 Acton Avenue, and 1624 Mountain Gap Circle.

Approved a measure to fill poll worker vacancies in all wards for the upcoming elections: Vacancies have opened in every ward since the last measure was passed. 

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