City Council meeting, Sept. 12, 2016

New height limits--although not as stringent as those originally passed by the Planning Commission--should hold houses down to a more reasonable scale on Homewood's narrower lots.

New height limits passed tonight–although not as stringent as those originally recommended by the Planning Commission–should hold houses down to a more reasonable scale on Homewood’s narrower lots.

In a meeting of record postponements, the most significant vote was one changing limits on height of single family houses and setting a new method of measuring height that engineering dept. employees think will be more enforceable for the small staff of two inspectors.  The new limits–29 feet for houses on lots 55 feet wide and under and 35 feet for wider lots measured from the threshold to the roof peak–are actually higher than the former limits (25 feet for lots 40-55 feet wide; 30 feet for lots 56-65 feet wide, and 35 feet high for larger lots). However, the old way of measuring by computing an average of heights from all four sides was easily manipulated by builders to produce roofs above the stated limits, they say. Zoning officials and the Planning Commission in April recommended a limits of 25 feet and 35 feet respectively for the two lot widths. The council declined to vote on that recommendation, carrying over the process to multiple discussions and pushing the suggested limits up to 29 feet and 35 feet as they did so. 

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

Absent: None.

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

Audience attendance: 15

Opened up the application period for two Homewood Environmental Commission vacancies, Ward 1 and at-large.


Dropped, by general consent, the following committee agenda items (Items may have been dropped not because they were denied but because they have been addressed without a council vote):  Dropped were 1) Request for a West Homewood Street Festival, with the idea that a private group will be incorporated to accept donations for funding regular street parties in West Homewood; 2) Request to resolve issues of sanitation, speeding and paving on Ashwood Lane;


Declared vehicles surplus to trade for new vehicles: A 2015 Freight6liner M2-106 with aerial device and 2016 Ford F550 with an aerial device were declared surplus in order to trade for similar 2017 trucks.

822 Columbiana Road The property fits inside the irregular shape of 818 Columbiana and adds four more units facing the original six that have been approved earlier.

822 Columbiana Road
The property fits inside the irregular shape of 818 Columbiana and adds four more units facing the original six that have been approved earlier.

Rezoned a parcel on Columbiana Road to expand a 6-unit townhouse development: Developer Eric Rogers’ Progressive Columbiana LLC had a parcel at 822 Columbiana Road rezoned from Office Business District (C-1) to R-7, for attached dwellings for a building with 4 units, to be built facing a 6-unit building already planned. Site clearing on the combined project is already underway. One person spoke at the hearing asking if there was adequate parking (yes, off-street parking enough for two cars per unit), and would it be gated (no).

Carried over a motion to convert the 500 block of Rumson to one-way only:  The matter has been under discussion for a while but was carried over from the last meeting to obtain information from an earlier traffic study by Skipper Consulting. The city is still waiting for that information and the item was postponed to the next meeting.

Carried over a measure to grant $5 million in tax abatements to promote a redevelopment of Wildwood South: The council wasn’t ready at the last meeting to vote on a proposed 10-year, 50/50 split in new Homewood sales tax (excluding the schools’ 1%), an offer on the table to Nashville retail development firm Oldacre- McDonald, which will potentially be adding traffic features and roads, building new outparcels and façade upgrades to the aging shopping center. The revenue sharing deal would be effective for 10 years or $5 million, whichever arrives first. Tonight the matter was carried over again because the development plan isn’t ready. However, the firm’s engineers have had parcels redrawn to align with the Birmingham-Homewood municipal boundaries, which are currently in dispute and divide two of the largest South Wildwood parcels.

yourpieGranted a sign ordinance exemption to allow an extra sign for a SoHo pizza franchise: Your Pie at 1831 28th Avenue South, Suite 160, a corner space, was allowed to have a third sign, which will be unlighted and project from the corner and be visible from traffic going both directions.

612 Hambaugh

612 Hambaugh

Carried over a request for an exemption from the city’s fence regulations for a house on Hambaugh: The request for 612 Hambaugh Avenue has been carried over once before.

Carried over a possible repeal of the Home Energy section of the International Building Code: The plan hasn’t been discussed in a council meeting but concerns new insulation and other building requirements associated with reducing long-term energy use but which are costly to implement.

Carried over, then provisionally passed funding for a crosswalk signal at Oak Grove Road and Oxmoor Road. The request had been carried over once and was carried over again tonight because funding hadn’t been approved. After the business meeting, Mr. Hawkins asked that it be re-opened and passed conditioned on what funding had been discussed in committee, i.e., that either it cost under $15,000 or if over, that it be bid out. With some reluctance, but no objection from the finance chairman, the council voted in favor.

Carried over for a second time a request for an oversized sign on Linden: A bridal shop at at 2900 Linden has asked for an oversized sign but not submitted a mock-up as promised. The business has agreed to shift the sign’s placement so it doesn’t block another business’s sign from view. Mr. Limbaugh said this was the last carry-over for the bridal business. 

Declared part of an alley pedestrian-only: The portion of an alley that runs between Woodland and Broadway will be marked with signs that it is not for vehicle traffic.

Approved an expenditure of $9,500 to synchronize the traffic lights on Lakeshore Parkway: The parkway is the portion of Lakeshore that lies west of I-65 that runs through the Wildwood shopping center.

Passed an amendment to the current budget: The amounts and changes weren’t discussed.

Carried over setting a public hearing on a requested annexation to Homewood: The request to annex properties at 913 and 1400 Shades Crest Road is complicated by the fact that they adjoin Hoover city limits, requiring a longer procedure. The request has already been held over once.

New houses push the limits of Homewood's smaller lots. New height limits will be measured at the front door to roof peak. The former method

New houses have pushed the limits of Homewood’s smaller lots. Now height limits will be measured at the front door to roof peak, not through complex and easily manipulated method of averaging.

Approved changes to the zoning book affecting lot size, housing height, setbacks and other details: The council, which had declined for months to vote on a handful of residential changes passed by the planning commission–including a controversial 25-foot limit on height of houses on lots 55 feet wide and under–was passed tonight after the limit had been raised by increments to 32 feet via a series of Planning and Development committee meetings, a public hearing and two informal public forums. In addition to the height limits (35 feet for houses on lots wider than 55 feet), the council added a provision for lots sloping down to the street–thereby raising the front door above the ground level–the height from ground to roof peak could be no higher than 32 feet for the narrower lots or 38 feet for the wider ones.

The amendments passed tonight included the new simplified measuring method, which formerly was obtained by computing an average of heights of all roofs “between the eaves and ridge,” a time-consuming method that overwhelmed the city’s building inspection staff of only two. Under that method, which architects said could be manipulated to create ever taller roofs, the limits were 25 feet for lots 40-55 feet wide; 30 feet for lots 56-65 feet, and 35 feet high for larger lots. Beside changing setbacks, the changes tonight also reduced the number of lot classifications to just two: 55 feet and under and over 55 feet.

Approved sidewalks on Mayfair between Whitehall and U.S. 31: The council approved the measure in two phases.


To Finance – To consider 1) A franchise agreement with Level 3 Communications; 2) Set a bid date for wrecker/towing services for the police department; 3) Setting a bid date to consider a new animal control service contract; 4) Establishing a policy concerning police use of a license plate reader; and 5) Awarding one-time employee bonuses from a projected FY2016 surplus.

To Public Safety – To consider 1) Additional lighting on State Farm Parkway; 2) Establishing a crosswalk on Manhattan Street; and 3) Granting a BINGO permit to benefit the Agape House.

To Public Works – To consider 1) A request to work in the city right-of way at 11250 Columbiana Road.

To Special Issues – To consider 1) Allowing an exemption to the city’s tent ordinance t 1114 Oxmoor; 2) Granting an exemption to the city’s tent ordinance for a special event at 200 Green Springs Highway; and 3) Granting an exception to the sign ordinance at 809 Green Springs Highway.


Set a Sept. 26 public hearing for a sign ordinance at 809 Green Springs highway. The address appears to be the former Jefferson County courthouse annex.

Paid the bills: Invoices for the period Aug. 29-Sept. 11, 2016, were approved to be paid.


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