City to Move Forward 'As Best It Can' After Charter Amendment Loses at the Polls
City Manager Bob Bruner said despite the loss, he doesn't expect a similar amendment to go on the ballot any time soon.
The proposed amendment to the City Charter lost at the polls on Tuesday, however City Manager Bob Bruner said Wednesday that the city will continue to move forward.
"While the Charter amendment would have made (buying and selling land) less expensive and time-consuming in the future, the city will continue to implement the Triangle District Master Plan and other public improvement plans as best it can," Bruner said Wednesday afternoon in a short statement.
The amendment to the City Charter would have made it easier for the city to sell city-owned property at market value.
According to the Birmingham City Charter, adopted in April 1933, the city can not sell property for more than $2 per capita, or $2 multiplied by the city's population as determined by the last U.S. census. The only way the city can bypass the rule, Bruner said, is to receive approval from Birmingham voters.
In 1933, that meant the city couldn't sell property for more than $19,078 unless put to a vote. However, Bruner said since the City Charter doesn't provide for inflation, Birmingham remains restricted by the $2 per capita price ceiling.
That means in 2012, the city can only sell property for, at most, $40,000.
"This makes it virtually impossible for the city to sell any property without voter approval because even small parcels in the city sell for more than $40,000," said Bruner in a memo addressed to the City Commission in early August.
Birmingham has a long history of acquiring property, Bruner writes in his memo. In the 1950's, the city purchased several downtown parking lots, eventually turning them into the Park Street, Peabody Street and Pierce Street parking structures.
More recently, the city purchased a 8.32-acre property near Pierce and Frank Street, eventually turning it into Barnum Park.
However, if the city is unable to sell property it purchases at a fair-market value, Bruner said the restrictions imposed by the City Charter now make every property acquisition potentially permanent.
"This means the city may be 'stuck' with a property it cannot use if develoment plans change or land assembly involving multiple owners is not completed as planned," Bruner said.
In August, the Birmingham City Commission voted 6-1 to place the amendment on the ballot, with Commissioner Gordon Rinschler noting it was a "pretty friendly proposition (not likely to) impact anyone."
However, Commissioner Rackeline Hoff voted against the plan.
"It changes the thinking (if this passes)," said Hoff. "It changes the thinking of whoever is sitting up here."
In mid-October, the city launched a website in an attempt to educate residents about the proposal, answering a dozen of frequently asked questions, including what the problem was and what would happen should the proposal pass.
On Wednesday, Bruner said the failure of the charter amendment does not impact any immediate plans or projects, and that the city will continue to acquire property as part of its public improvement efforts.
Still, don't expect to see the Charter amendment come back anytime soon.
"(T)he city has no immediate plans to put this or another similar Charter amendment before the voters," Bruner said.