City calls for special election on board position

Siloam Springs voters will get a chance to elect a director to fill at-large seat 5 in December.

Siloam Springs is officially on the path to filling the vacant seat 5 on the Board of Directors. On Tuesday, directors voted 5-1 in favor of holding a special election to fill the seat left vacant by the departure of Lucas Roebuck in July.

Director Bob Coleman, who voted in favor of establishing a committee to recommend a potential director to be appointed to the seat, led off the debate. Coleman said he reached out to some of his constituents to see what they thought about either holding a special election in December or appointing a director to fill the three years remaining on the unexpired term.

Coleman said he polled 50 voters, and of the 42 who responded, 14 said they wanted a special election, against 28 who recommended appointment.

Coleman said that the latest special election, in 2016, had only one candidate running for office. In 2014 and 2013 there were several candidates, but low voter turnout by the city's voters, Coleman said.

Director Brad Burns, who was absent from the last hearing on the subject, said he had experienced poor voter turnout in his own election. However, Burns said he did not think it is right to appoint a director for such a long term.

"Whether I like it or not, and I won't tell you whether I like it or not, this has to go to the voting public," Burns said.

"I think it's the right thing to do, and unfortunately Director Coleman is correct, the voter turnout is poor," Burns said.

The other vote that was changed from last August's stalemate that ended in directors tabling the question of how to fill the seat came from Director Carol Smiley.

Smiley said she had thought about her vote since last meeting, and concluded the foundation of the country demands an election instead of an appointment. Smiley said she would change her vote to be in favor of an election.

"I would hope that each board member struggled over this decision," said Mayor John Mark Turner.

The motion to call for an election passed by a vote of 5-1, with Coleman voting against.

Due to Tuesday's vote, the board will remain at six board members until the special election on Dec. 12. Interested candidates have from Sept. 13 until noon Sept. 28 to file a statement of candidacy and a petition for nomination containing 50 signatures. Candidates must be at least 21 years of age, have resided within city limits for six months or more and be a registered voter.

If no candidate receives a majority of votes during the Dec. 12 election, a runoff will be held on Jan. 9, 2018.

Also headlining Tuesday's board meeting were a trio of ordinances changing city zoning and use code, two of which specifically relate to medical marijuana.

Ordinances 17-21 and 17-22 were presented together by Senior Planner Ben Rhoads, though they had to be voted on separately. The two ordinances come as Siloam Springs is part-way through a moratorium on medical marijuana developments, which is set to expire in mid-December.

Ordinance 17-21 would change the city's use units so medical marijuana would be considered a special use, which requires a permit approved by the Board of Directors. The second ordinance would alter some language in the special use permit acceptance criteria and require permits be used within one year of issuance.

Director Steve Beers said if the ordinances are approved, the board gets more influence in keeping important parts of town protected without making it harder for developers.

"We're not saying that anybody who wanted to set up shop here couldn't come."

Burns said the ordinances showed the moratorium on medical marijuana developments was not crazy like some people in the state thought.

Both ordinances were placed on their first readings.

The third ordinance was also placed on its first reading. Ordinance 17-23 would make several changes throughout city zoning code. Rhoads said the ordinance contains both policy-driven changes and more general housekeeping changes, like changing fractions to decimals and updating the city's list of definitions in its parking code.

The policy-driven changes include the establishment of accessory building permits, increase in maximum truck weight, reduction in restaurant parking reserve and requirements for more restrictive exterior lighting. There are also several roadway code changes, including widened multifamily driveways, increased driveway throats and a requirement that driveways be aligned or separated by 100 feet.

The slew of changes has been under review since the summer of 2016.

The board also:

• Approved a contract to establish a long-range water plan. All water suppliers are required by the state every five years to create a long-range plan, said Public Works Director Steve Gorszczyk.

• Approved a contract to conduct a sewer collection system study. The southeast side of town has seen a lot of development, and there needs to be a study to see if additional infrastructure is needed to get sewage to the west side of town, said Gorszczyk. The study will be carried out in two parts because of budget constraints and because the most reliable data can be collected in spring.

• Approved a purchase of concrete pipe for the Kenwood widening project.

• Placed an ordinance giving the city administrator authority to hire, fire and discipline city employees, along with other changes, on its second reading.

• Placed rezoning ordinances for 708 East Main St., 2701 East Kenwood St. and 829 South Mount Olive St. each on their first readings.

• Approved a significant development permit for Freddy's Steakburgers, to be located at 2325 East Main St..

• Approved a significant development permit for Harvard Avenue Baptist Church to construct a gymnasium at 760 South Lincoln St.

NW News on 09/11/2017

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