Debate begins over possible entertainment districts

Following the recent approval of an entertainment district in downtown Homewood, the city has begun discussions over asking the state legislature to grant two new districts, one in Edgewood’s business district and one in West Homewood’s business district, stirring debate among community members.

The city is currently allowed under state law to have two entertainment districts and currently has one that includes what is typically referred to as downtown Homewood. Instead of choosing between Edgewood and West Homewood for the second district, the city is seeking to have state legislators approve an extra district.

The city’s public safety committee was the first to discuss the move and drew mostly negative feedback from Edgewood residents.

One parent said the committee needed to consider how many children not only live in Edgewood, but how many frequent the shops and restaurants included in the proposed district, while another asked the committee to take area resident’s concerns into consideration.

Committee chair Andy Gwaltney said the district will not be advertised, but one resident said news of the district would spread.

Entertainment districts allow businesses with alcohol licenses to obtain a license which allows for the consumption of alcoholic beverages off-premises, allowing customers to purchase a drink and walk around within the district. No alcohol may be brought into the district, and the council would later set hours and other guidelines.

The committee recommended approval of requesting the legislature to approve the two entertainment districts.

Finance Committee

In the finance committee, Jennie Whitman, chief financial officer for the Birmingham Zoo spoke about reaching an agreement on what the city could receive from the zoo for their contributions, which fell from $25,000 to $10,000 last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While a “Homewood Day” has existed in the past, allowing residents to go into the zoo for free, there needs to be a “conversation” about possible discounts or other returns on the city’s investment, Whitman said.

While not wanting to shortchange the city, Whitman said the zoo does not want to hurt their overall operations. 

The committee authorized Mayor Patrick McClusky to sign a contract sending funds for fiscal 2022 to the zoo and said he could later negotiate how much will be given to the organization.

The committee also heard from Trane, which has proposed replacing the chiller at City Hall at a cost of about $1.5 million, with an additional $23,000 per year for operational costs.

The current unit is a “dinosaur,” Trane representatives said. The company would be responsible for maintaining the unit.

Committee chair Walter Jones said he preferred to make a one-time purchase using federal funds rather than financing the purchase.

In other news, the committee:

  • Heard an update on Homewood Chamber of Commerce initiatives by the chamber’s executive director, Meredith Drennen
  • Heard an update on the 18th Street Revitalization project. The city is hoping to receive federal authorization to move forward in December.
  • Recommended the approval of a $423,000 bid with Dunn Construction for the improvement work on Old Montgomery Highway. As Dunn was the sole bidder for the project, the city can negotiate the price.
  • Recommended the approval of a $13,750 bid with Flock cameras for five security cameras. The cameras cost $12,500 per year with a first-year installation fee of $1,250, Police Chief Tim Ross said.
  • Set a bid date for mowing and landscaping services of state right of way areas in the city for Dec. 20 at 4:30 p.m.
  • Recommended the approval of a $42,100 contract with Sain Associates for design services for the Mecca Avenue sidewalk project.
  • Recommended the approval of a $37,700 contract with Schoel Engineering for design services for a stormwater project on Kenilworth Drive.
  • Recommended the approval of a Dec. 7, 10 a.m. bid date for the 18th Street alley improvement project.

Public Works

The public works committee met briefly to hear an update on the revitalization of Green Springs Highway, which should see temporary striping work done this week, as well as some paving. The committee also recommended the approval of a Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority bus shelter at 2601 18th Street South, to be paid for by the BJCTA.

Special IssuesThe special issues committee approved a Nov. 22 public hearing for the removal of five protected trees from 1505 Manhattan Street, nine protected trees from 1796 Murray Hill Road and six protected trees from 908 Shades Road.

The committee also carried over a request for the city to vacate a portion of an unnamed alley between 1703 Shades Park Drive and 1610 Shades Park Cove.

Planning and Development Committee

The planning and development committee recommended setting a public hearing for Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. to consider the possible rezoning of 1832 25th Court South from institutional district to neighborhood preservation district, which would permit the renovation of a non-conforming, single-family home on the property.

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