Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council Appoints New Design Review Committee Members After Tiff Over Vetting Candidates

Birmingham City Council President Valerie Abbott (Source: Sam Prickett)

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to appoint three new members – Willie Oliver, Abra Barnes and Scott Burnett – to the city’s Design Review Committee, glossing over concerns that the appointees had not been properly vetted by the council’s Planning and Zoning Committee.

It was the apparent end of a weeks-long, often confusing discussion that started Oct. 22, when the council initially approved appointments to all 11 seats of the DRC. But at last week’s council meeting, District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt, who chairs the council’s Planning and Zoning Committee, said that two appointees had declined to join the DRC; architect Charles Williams had moved out of the city limits, while Realtor Sarah Walker cited prior commitments on other boards.

The council initially had planned to appoint Oliver and Barnes to replace Williams and Walker on Nov. 5, but the item was delayed after Hoyt’s office provided the full council with the resumé for another nominee, architect Scott Burnett. Hoyt said then that Burnett’s inclusion was a mistake.

“He has never been considered for an appointment,” Hoyt said then.

At this week’s meeting, though, Burnett was nominated, replacing previous appointee Clay Dorsey.

District 3 Councilor Valerie Abbott, a member of the council’s Planning and Zoning Committee along with Hoyt and District 5 Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, argued that the nominations had not gone through the proper channels.

“Last week, we delayed this item for a week so that the (planning and zoning) committee could consider who to appoint, and the committee did not meet, and we have it back again this week with an additional person added,” Abbott said. “So yes, these are the recommendations of the chairman of the committee, but there are three members of the committee, and the other two were not invited to make that decision.”

“I’m not going to vote for these people,” she added. “There’s nothing wrong with the people, (but) we’ve totally skipped the committee process and let one person make the decision without the other committee members.”

Hoyt denied Abbott’s claim, saying that the committee had been given the opportunity to look at every resumé except Barnes’, who was a late addition to the nominees. “The final decision (comes from) this body here,” Hoyt said, referring to the council as a whole. He added that he’d spoken with O’Quinn and that “he said he didn’t have a problem” with the nominees.

O’Quinn did not speak during the discussion but voted to approve the appointments. Abbott, along with District 2 Councilor Hunter Williams, abstained from voting. The rest of the council – except for Clinton Woods and John Hilliard, who were absent – voted in favor of the appointments.

Oliver, Barnes and Burnett join the remaining eight DRC appointees: Sheila Montgomery-Mills, Christopher Swain, Creig Hoskins, Ivan Holloway, Ben Wieseman, Brian Wolfe, Richard Mauk and Lee Ann Macknally.