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One rezoning passes, one fails in Farmington

DEVELOPER PLANS TO APPEAL TO COUNCIL by Lynn Kutter | March 8, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

FARMINGTON -- City planners last week turned down one rezoning request for higher density single-family and multi-family housing but supported a second request to rezone property to allow a multi-family development.

Even before the Feb. 22 meeting, the city and Planning Commission had received several emails in opposition to the first rezoning request from nearby property owners. Others also spoke against the first rezoning request at the meeting held through the Zoom video/audio app.

Cox Development submitted two rezoning requests to the planning commission, both properties located off Highway 170, or South Hunter Street, but on different sides of the road.

The first rezoning request asked to rezone 10.5 acres acres on the east side of Arkansas 170 and north of the Arkansas 170/Wolfdale intersection from R-1 to R-2/MF-2. At the meeting, Blake Jorgensen with Jorgensen & Associates civil engineering firm said the owner was willing to change the MF-2 request, which allows the highest density multi-family developments, to MF-1, which allows only duplexes for multi-family housing.

Of the 10.5 acres, Cox asked to rezone the interior 2.5 acres from R-1 to MF-1, with the rest to be rezoned R-2, which requires a minimum lot size of 7,500 square feet, compared to 10,000 square feet for R-1.

The commission voted 5-2 against the first rezoning request for the land on the east side of South Hunter. Commissioners Gerry Harris, Judy Horne, Keith Macedo, Bobby Wilson and Howard Carter voted against the request. Commissioners Jay Moore and Chad Ball voted in favor of it.

Jorgensen last week said the owner planned to appeal the commission's decision to the City Council. This appeal will be on today's agenda. He said Cox Development most likely will ask to rezone all of the land from R-1 to R-2, unless the council would be willing to go along with a MF-1 designation for the interior portion.

Jorgensen noted at the meeting the property has a long history of attempts to be developed which didn't come to fruition, and the owner wants to have a "product that's viable and saleable." He added, "He's looking for harmony within that community and within that development. Otherwise, he wouldn't be able to sell those single family homes off...I hope we can move forward and add something to this community."

Jorgensen said Cox was proposing six duplexes on the interior of the development that would be surrounded by 25 single-family houses.

In a letter to the commission, Calvin and Sheila Andrews of Wolfdale Road listed five areas of concern about the rezoning request, including drainage and flooding in the southwest side of the property. They also questioned the upkeep of houses and duplexes that most likely would all be rental property and said Farmington's infrastructure for the south side of U.S. 62 and along Arkansas 170 does not have adequate police and fire coverage.

Their letter listed 39 questions they wanted answered about the proposed development.

City Council member Keith Lipford, owner of adjacent property, noted rezoning the land would put a development with minimal size lots in the middle of houses with larger lots.

"It just doesn't fit," Lipford said. "It makes no sense to me."

Other concerns expressed by residents included additional traffic from a development, a negative impact on property values, the number of multi-family units already in Farmington as well as new ones under construction and the upkeep of other developments by the same property owner.

Chris Bryson said he moved to his property on South Hunter because the area has large lots that give the feeling of living in the country and is a place he wanted to raise his family.

Bryson said the proposed development did not align up with the rest of the development on the same side of Arkansas 170.

"What you're doing here is that you're packing in houses and it's just going to stick out like a sore thumb compared to anything else on this side of the road. It makes absolutely no sense to me how this can be approved if we're trying to be consistent with what's on this side of the road," Bryson said.

Bryson also expressed concerns about flooding problems, noting he's had to improve the drainage on his property because of flooding on his land.

Another resident, Jerry Beard, wrote in a letter to the city that to rezone from R-1 to R-2 and multi-family would be going in the wrong direction.

"We relied on the current R-1 zoning when we bought our properties and built our homes. Why should these owners suffer so that the developer can make more money?" Beard stated.

As the discussion moved to comments from planning commission members, Harris reminded her colleagues that the land already is zoned R-1 for single-family housing.

"Think long and hard about your decision, because we do have a lot of R-2s and duplexes already," Harris said. "We have that duplex complex across from Pop Williams going in (on Broyles Street) so just think about the future of what we would want here. It's already R-1, which is a little over a 10,000 square foot lot. That's all I'm going to say."

Horne noted the land around the proposed development, while zoned R-1, is more like residential-estates zoning because the lots are much larger.

"I'm taking into consideration what is already there," Horne said.

In casting his vote in favor of the rezoning request, Ball noted that the city's land use plan, approved by the City Council about five years ago, shows this area with medium to high density housing. Ball said he believed the commission should look at the property from the goals and objectives as approved by the city council.

Farmington's elected officials said five years ago, it needs to be higher density, Ball said.

"That's the direction I'm going," he added.

The commission unanimously recommended the second rezoning request, and this will go before the council on today for final approval.

In this request, Cox asked to rezone 2.6 acres on the west side of South Hunter Street and north of the South Hunter/Wolfdale intersection from R-1 to MF-2.

Jorgensen said the owner proposes townhouses on this property with a total of 29 units. The development would have one ingress and egress with a cul-de-sac at the end of the street. Jorgensen told planners this project was approved in 2007 but not developed.

"This will allow us to move forward with the project previously approved," Jorgensen said.

Melissa McCarville, city business manager, noted this land is adjacent to property already zoned multi-family and that there are duplexes nearby.

Macedo said he appreciated the information that showed how land around the request is zoned and asked to receive similar information for future requests before the commission.

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