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Council to hear appeal of rezoning decision

by Eplunus Colvin | February 1, 2021 at 4:22 a.m.
The Pine Bluff City Council will consider an appeal of a Planning Commission decision at the council's meeting this evening. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)

A public hearing to appeal a Pine Bluff's Planning Commission denial of a request to rezone a property that fronts both Faucett and Oakwood road from R-1 to R-3 will be held before the regularly scheduled Pine Bluff City Council meeting today at 5:30 p.m.

Hosea Jackson of 1911 Construction Materials wants to change a single-family zone to a multifamily zone to build multifamily, duplex-style housing on the property. Currently, the almost 3-acre property is a vacant field with residential houses surrounding it.

The Pine Bluff Planning Commission denied the request because of a concern with the lot size and because commission members said they did not feel the development would preserve or improve the character of the surrounding property.

According to the commission, the two parcels have not been subdivided. The primary differences in the two zones are the size and width of the lots and the allowed usage. While the R-1 zone is limited to single-family residences on larger platted parcels, the R-3 description and intent state that such areas are intended for use in neighborhoods that meet one or both of the following criteria:

  1. Lot sizes are generally smaller than those required in the R-1 zone in the area or dimension.

  2. It can be established that the residential character of the neighborhood can best be preserved or improved by allowing a broader mix of uses than allowed in the R-1 area.

According to the commission, homes in the area are primarily owner occupied (79%) and are on lots that meet the R-1 requirements. One issue facing the rezoning request, according to the commission, is the irregular lot shape when combined.

In Jackson's request, he stated he was proposing an eight-lot subdivision of duplexes with access off Faucett and Oakwood roads.

The commission said the request falls short on one item -- the lot size. Members said they do not feel the change will preserve or improve the character of the surrounding property. They brought up a concern raised during the early stages of the City's Comprehensive Plan update, which was t that from 2000 to 2010, the city's housing has flipped from a majority owner-occupied housing to a majority renter-occupied housing.

Jackson said while he understands the concern, it cannot be ignored that there is a housing shortage in Pine Bluff.

"While we wish more people would build single-family homes, our current economy does not support it," he said. "Instead, housing shortages must be addressed in the present."

Jackson went on to say that hundreds of jobs have been created as a direct result of the Saracen Casino, yet the city has no housing for employees or executives to relocate to.

Jackson said the units exceed the value of the homes in the area and will improve the value of the existing homes.

The proposed planned development will consist of nine building spots. The owner of each lot or developer will have the option to build either a single-family garden home or a two-unit condo on each proposed lot.

OTHER AGENDA ITEMS

Eight proposed resolutions are on the agenda after the conclusion of the public hearing.

A resolution authorizing the mayor to execute an agreement with Southwest EAP to conduct an Employee Engagement Survey is first on the agenda.

Sponsored by Council Member Joni Alexander, these surveys will give employers insight into employee attitudes toward their job and overall job environment. The consideration for the agreement will not exceed $5,000.

The resolution approving an agreement with PeopleShores, a public benefit corporation, to lease the old downtown Bank of America branch at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Pine Street will be up for approval.

Previously reported, PeopleShores would be providing technology training and job opportunities by establishing a technology center in Pine Bluff that could scale to 200-plus jobs. To lease the premises would be $1,000 per year.

Several resolutions to appoint citizens to various committees are on the agenda, including the ad hoc committee to study the feasibility of a drag strip racetrack facility.

A resolution was passed in November to create a committee, but according to Traffic and Aviation Committee Chairwoman, Joni Alexander, no one had come forward. After a second attempt a few weeks ago to recruit members, Alexander said she has had several inquiries.

A resolution appointing Speedy Loran Wilkins to serve on the committee will be brought to the council. Wilkins has experience in drag racing and dirt track racing, and she has served on the board for Arkansas Dwarf Car Racing Association in charge of scheduling races.

"I already travel and spend money to race," said Wilkins. "I would like to be able to keep money here locally and have somewhere close to home to do what I love."

Wilkins said his daughter races junior dragsters and his son will as well.

"I am motivated by preparing a future for them and to keep this sport alive and thriving for years to come," said Wilkins who said he believes the drag strip will be positive for the people and the economy.

Robert Willis, Robert Treadwell, Mark Stephens and former Council Member Win Trafford have all been appointed to serve on the Crime Advisory Commission subject to council approval.

Lastly, there are several properties that have been placed on the tax books as having delinquent taxes.

A resolution will be read for approval providing for placement of costs of correcting certain nuisances on tax books as delinquent taxes and collected in the same manner as any other delinquent taxes.

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