Committee Recap: West Homewood Entertainment District, city manager discussed Monday night

West Homewood might soon have an entertainment district.

The city of Homewood’s public safety committee met Monday night to discuss the possibility of creating an entertainment district in the area, following the creation last year of an entertainment district in downtown Homewood. Efforts to bring a district to Edgewood failed earlier this year. The city still has the authority to create one more district, but would have to acquire the state legislature’s approval to create any more.

An entertainment district allows patrons to consume alcohol outside within the confines of the district and allows restaurants to sell alcohol off-premises, within the designated area.

Councilor Andrew Wolverton, who represents portions of West Homewood, said he has heard from many residents and businesses in favor of creating a district in West Homewood. The district would include, in part, the area including Little London, Seeds Coffee, Pizzeria GM and Ash.

Resident Chad Stogner spoke about his concerns about the district, arguing that it includes parts of a church’s property – the map did include a portion of church property across from Pizzeria GM, but is being revised by the committee – and would basically serve as an open container law. While others feel the same way, Stogner said, they do not feel comfortable coming forward due to the support of other groups and the council.

Stogner asked the committee to consider advising businesses to apply for a special license from the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which would allow them to serve alcohol on sidewalks or seating areas outside their restaurant without creating a larger district. Councilor Melanie Geer also offered that as a possible alternative.

Stogner also raised concerns about having an entertainment district in an area where children are walking to school. Councilor Barry Smith said the council has the authority to control the hours of operation for the district. Hours for the downtown district are after school hours.

While not required by law, Council President Alex Wyatt chose to hold a public hearing on the issue. The City Council will vote on June 13 to decide a date for that hearing, with Wyatt telling The Homewood Star it will likely be at the next council meeting, June 27.

Councilor Carlos Aleman, who also represents the West Homewood area, said the district encourages walkability.

In other business, the committee heard an update on traffic calming efforts, which are underway and awaiting the delivery of items needed to perform the work.

Finance Committee

In the finance committee, Wyatt announced the members of an ad hoc committee formed to study the possibility of bringing a city manager or city administrator to Homewood.

The members of the committee are Wyatt, Aleman, Homewood Fire Chief Nick Hill, Homewood Chamber of Commerce Director Meredith Drennen, resident Andrea Snyder and resident Kent Haines.

Wyatt said the plan is for the committee to meet in the near future to develop a plan on how to study the impact of hiring a professional to run the day-to-day business of the city and to report back to the finance committee as they have updates. He said it might take “a year or so” to develop their findings and present a recommendation.

Any changes to the city’s form of government would have to be approved by a public vote.

The committee also voted to recommend changes to the city’s leave policy for probationary employees. Probationary employees, those in their first year of service with the city, were previously not eligible to take leave during their first year of employment, though they accrued one sick day and one vacation day per month during that time. However, the Jefferson County Personnel Board now allows cities to revise their policies so long as they notify the board. City Clerk Melody Salter said the recommendation presented by the committee is for employees within their first year of employment to be able to use their accrued sick leave and vacation time after 90 days of continuous employment. The full council will have to approve the changes.

The committee also approved budget amendments, the declaration of truck tippers as surplus, carried over a review of the city’s audit and heard an update on 18th Street construction, which is still continuing.

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