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Council rejects panel, OKs rezoning request

by Eplunus Colvin | February 2, 2021 at 4:57 a.m.
The Pine Bluff City Council discusses proposed ordinances and resolutions.

The Pine Bluff City Council voted to overturn a Pine Bluff Planning Commission decision to deny a request to rezone a property that fronts both Faucett and Oakwood roads from R-1 to R-3.

Hosea Jackson of 1911 Construction Materials wanted to change a single-family zone to a multifamily zone to build multifamily, duplex-style housing on the 3-acre property.

Neighborhood residents attended a public hearing Monday during the start of the 5:30 City Council meeting to voice their opposition to the rezoning appeal. Dr. Larry Amos said the neighborhood consisted of old property owners, some of whom have resided there 40 years and objected to multifamily duplexes being mixed in with single-family homes.

"I don't think any of us have a problem with a single dwelling like we have," said Carol Brown, who also resides in the neighborhood. Brown said she felt the 3-acre lot would not be able to accommodate the families and their vehicles.

"That's not room to build," said Brown. "Oakwood and Faucet are very busy streets. We don't need that many people."

Another neighbor, Larry Kirk, said his concern was safety and what the neighborhood would turn into if the duplexes are constructed. "When this comes in, it's probably going to be nice for a while then eventually it is going to go down and the only ones that are going to be suffering are the older people that live there now," he said.

Jackson said the units he wants to build would consist of three garden homes that will range from 1,100 to 1,500 square feet, and approximately eight duplexes-- some with garages.

"I believe I am going to offer something to this community that is going to increase the value of their property," said Jackson, who added that he had resided in Pine Bluff for 30 years and owns three businesses.

"I have chosen Pine Bluff to be my home and I want to see Pine Bluff do better."

Jackson said that one of the units will be set aside for someone in law enforcement in a bid to decrease crime in the area.

Lloyd Franklin, who spoke in favor of the development, said the Planning Commission and the city of Pine Bluff were not on one accord due to the Planning Commission denying housing because of a concern raised during the early stages of the City's Comprehensive Plan.

The plan states that from 2000 to 2010, the city's housing had flipped from a majority owner-occupied housing to a majority renter-occupied housing.

"The thing is the average household medium here in Pine bluff can afford a new house," he said. "We have a housing shortage and we have a new casino that we can't even house the workers there."

Franklin added that the city tears down three houses a week, 12 houses a month, 144 a year, and yet only averages building 12 houses a year.

He also said that to stick to single-family homes would exclude a population of people who are looking for more simplified living.

"We want to build condominiums because we have a lot of retirees that are retiring who just don't want a home," he said. "They want a two-bedroom condo to stay in. They want what they can afford."

Jackson presented drawings to the council showing those he wanted to target for these homes and condos.

Rent would also start at $1,200 a month.

"He is targeting an older crowd and bringing in an older crowd into this community," said Franklin.

Bringing in an older crowd was less of a concern for the residence of the neighborhood as some asked if the homes would be available for Section 8, a federal program that assists low income, elderly and disabled people with housing. Franklin said by federal law they couldn't discriminate against anyone that was on housing.

"I represent people on Section 8," said Alderman Ivan Whitfield.

"They to have a right to live in a place where everything smells new, the carpet is new and a garage. They can't buy a house, but if housing will allow them to live on this earth and pay it for them, let them have it. They deserve it as well. They may not be as fortunate as we are. "

Whitfield made a motion to overturn the Planning Commission's decision, which was unanimously approved by the city council.

"We can't quit not developing because we are not ever going to grow," said Franklin. "We tear down 144 houses a year."

Several resolutions were also approved by the council. They include:

The appointment of Johnny Smith Jr. and Brian Renolds Cal Sr. to the Crime Advisory Board, along with Robert Willis, Robert Treadwell, Mark Stephens,and former Alderman Win Trafford.

The appointment of Speedy Loran Wilkins to serve on a drag race strip committee.

Authorizing the mayor to execute an agreement with Southwest EAP to conduct an Employee Engagement Survey was app. The anonymous survey will be offered to all city employees to voice their concerns of morale and fairness in their respective workplaces.

Approving a lease agreement with PeopleShores to lease the former Bank of America building.

Originally the lease stated the rent would be $1,000 a year but was modified to read $1,000 a month. They company will also pay utilities. The 10-year lease will begin on March 1.

This is not just training," said Murali Vullaganti, founder and executive chairman of PeopleShores. "It's actually getting jobs to the people in the technology center."

Vullaganti said he expects to hire 200 people in the next 24 months.

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