A Uses Permit on Review request by John Fenley to operate a go-kart track at 2622 W. 17th Ave. in a Light Industrial Zone was denied by the Pine Bluff Planning Commission on Tuesday -- despite the fact that he rolled one of his go-karts into the meeting room.
The setback was one of several for Fenley, who has presented a number of different ideas he's had for his property.
Fenley's history with the Planning Commission for the property was originally to operate a ministry, which was denied. In June of 2020, the site was approved for a maker space and business incubator, and in December of 2020, it was approved as a custom auto repair and detail shop. He later requested a UPOR to operate a yard waste compost site, which was denied.
According to Larry Reynolds, director of the Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, the approvals were made but included requirements for site improvements, which have not been established.
"At the April meeting, Mr. Fenley was denied the establishment of a yard waste compost site apparently for a lack of detail in the application and the condition of the site," said Reynolds in his review comments. "The site is the former Varco Pruden Manufacturing site, which has been vacant for 17 years or more and has fallen into disrepair due to the lack of maintenance. The area surrounding the site is also in a declining state."
Fenley was on Tuesday proposing to use a portion of the site for a go-kart track open to the public. For this request, according to Reynolds, no site plan had been submitted that would indicate the track layout, parking and ingress/egress to specific track areas.
"As with the other go-cart track requests, staff has questions about stormwater runoff if gasoline power units are used," he said. "The site is primarily hidden from view and appears to be about the railroad right of way. On the other side of the railroad is the shady grove residential subdivision."
Reynolds said the site in general has the potential for the requested use but the conditions of the property look like a "war zone" with wood barriers erected and barbed wire strung out in a random matter. Reynolds said junk and debris piles litter the site and there were areas of standing water in the buildings.
Fenley said he refuses to do any type of cleanup to the property until his request is approved. He also said he was told at the last minute of the additional items he needed.
"You all were here on April 25th," said zoning official Lakishia Hill. "It was stated during that meeting that there were things that needed to be presented. You were told by this committee to follow up with me."
Commissioners said Fenley had a whole month to comply with his request. Fenley told the Pine Bluff Commercial that he was too busy campaigning against Go Forward Pine Bluff and that he received an email approximately 48 hours prior to the meeting of items he needed.
" I heard from Mr. Fenley by email on May 11th," said Hill. "That is two weeks after the meeting." Hill said she told Fenley to put together a business plan describing how he plans to operate the go-kart track in order to receive a favorable vote.
Fenley's complaint was that other investors got the green light to move forward without even showing up to the Planning Commission meeting. Fenley, however, presented a packet during the meeting to the commissioners of the additional items requested which included:
1. Completed application.
2. Site plan -- since UPOR's are site-specific, plans must show the actual layout of the track, ingress and egress, parking spaces, office space to be utilized, restroom facilities and any and all accessory uses or structures. On a site plan, these large dimensions must be accurate.
3. Written description of the impact on surrounding properties.
4. Business plan of operation including days and hours of operation.
5. Plan to bring the property into compliance with property maintenance codes (removal of debris, trash and standing water) -- safety.
6. How do you plan on meeting inspection and fire department codes.
7. Timeline for steps five and six.
The commissioners agreed that they did not have time to review the packet presented by Fenley and a motion was made to deny the request after hearing the recommendation of Reynolds.
"At this time staff cannot recommend approval and suggests denying the application," said Reynolds, "and not allowing any other commission requests for this parcel until the property can meet property maintenance standards and the buildings are brought into compliance and properly secured for safety."
Reynolds said later that because Fenley's request has been denied, Fenley has to wait a calendar year to resubmit the request or drastically change the plans for the site, "which would not include a go-kart track at this point."