PEA RIDGE -- A 20-acre section of land off Lee Town Road was rezoned from agricultural to residential at the July 6 Planning Commission meeting.
The request to rezone from A-1 to R-3 (multi-family) was presented to planners by realtor Tim Salmonsen on behalf of the property owner, Kinley Miller.
The meeting began with a public hearing for two issues -- a new zoning ordinance and the rezoning request. No one spoke on the zoning ordinance. Three people -- Amanda Evans, Julie Pond and Marty Finley -- spoke opposing the high-density zone request.
Evans said the zone, which allows apartments, would "hurt the integrity of Pea Ridge."
"My neighbors and I on Greer Street aren't naive; we know it's getting developed. We just don't want the integrity and safety on Greer Street to become apartments," Evans said.
Pond said the zone violates the "character of the city ... as constituted today." Referring to the comprehensive plan approved in April, Pond said low and medium housing of good design are encouraged and "nowhere in this guideline does it mention allowing high-density housing, which R3 housing equates to, as stated in the outdated municipal code."
Finley said increased traffic is a concern, especially on Lee Town Road, where "we've had two accidents involving farmers there."
"It's (traffic congestion) going to be more profound and more serious, putting that high density in there," Finley said.
Salmonsen said "you can't put more than three to four homes per acre" and that asking for the R3 zone "is just for flexibility. They (developers) just want the option."
"There's a problem with Pea Ridge in that there's not any affordable housing for young people. If we're not going to put it (apartment complex) there, then where?" Salmonsen queried.
"This town badly needs apartments. You won't be able to move forward with services people need and want until we have more rooftops," Salmonsen said. "I hope you guys will take that into consideration. All they (landowners) want to do is sell their property for the highest and best amount. If it doesn't get approved, it will make their property less valuable. Just give an option to develop something the community can be proud of."
Planning Commission member Tony Byers said he'd like to see a plan for what would be developed to approve making such a "bold move from A1 to R3. I'd be much more likely to approve. This doesn't really make me feel like we're ready."
Salmonsen said the developers don't have a plan but he believes the demand is there for apartments.
"If the demand isn't there, then they won't be built," he said. "It would be a smart thing for our community.
"You can't be so naive to think there are never going to be apartments in Pea Ridge. I think it makes good planning sense."
City attorney Shane Perry reminded Planning Commission members that this request has appeared before them previously and that, according to the municipal code, where there is a reapplication for a piece of property submitted within a year, there must be "substantial change in the conditions" that prompted the denial the first time.
He advised commissioners to determine whether there was a substantial change.
Salmonsen said when the request was first presented, it was surrounded by A1 zoning but is now bounded by R2 (medium-density) zoning.
The Planning Commission agreed there was a substantial change in the conditions. Greg Pickens made the motion to approve the rezoning request; Chris Johnson seconded the motion. Tony Byers voted against the request. All other Planning Commission members present voted in favor of the request. Planning Commission members Patrick Wheeless and Dr. Karen Sherman were absent.
The new zoning ordinance for the city, which was prepared a year ago, was approved, pending editorial changes.
City building official Tony Townsend said the zoning ordinance was announced via public notice in the newspaper and copies were available at City Hall for any wishing to review it.
In other business, Planning Commission members:
• Approved the large-scale development plan for D&D Investments for property on Halleck Lane;
• Approved the large-scale development for a warehouse on Smith Street; and
• Approved the final plat for Arlington Subdivision Phase 1B for Winter Park Partners.