Friday, March 04, 2011

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville finally set to expand north

Leader staff writer

One city resident likened Jacksonville’s efforts to annex the business corridor north of the city to Sodom and Gomorrah, but the council still approved bringing the property into the city Thursday night.

Rizelle Aaron called into question the need to bring liquor stores and adult-oriented businesses into the city. That stretch of Hwy. 67/167 includes many other businesses that bring in about $100 million a year in sales. That will mean more than $1 million in annual taxes for Jacksonville.

“Isn’t there some other way for the city to get the money it needs?” Aaron wanted to know.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said after the meeting that the best way to prevent the area from becoming home to more liquor stores and adult-oriented businesses is for it to be part of the city.

“Now we have control of what can come into that area. When it’s part of the county, our control is very limited,” the mayor explained.

Two other residents voiced concerns at the public hearing, but once they were assured that their property was not part of the acreage being annexed, they had no problems.

Without any other concerns voiced, the council quickly approved the resolution bringing the property into the city. The annexation will increase the city’s land mass, but not its population as there are only a few houses in the annexed area.

The annexation issue will now go before Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines, who is expected to release the approximately one-square mile of county land to the city. If there are no delays in the process, then the city’s northern boundary will reach the Lonoke County line by late April or early May.

Unlike the city’s efforts to annex this same acreage, plus three more square miles, last year which failed in a vote of the residents, this annexation required no public vote.

For a voluntary or “quiet” annexation to work, at least 51 percent of the residents, representing at least 51 percent of the land, must ask, in writing, to come into the city. If that is the case, then the annexation only needs the approval of the council and the county judge.

“We’ve got about 70 percent of the owners representing about 80 percent of the property,” said Jim Durham, the city’s director of administration. Durham personally visited nearly every one of those owners, and only a few did not sign on in an effort to bring about the annexation.

“Every business will be allowed to come in as they are and owners can sell their businesses to others who can continue to operate them,” Durham said.

But for that to happen, the planning commission had to approve new zoning categories for the city, a C-5 and an M-2.

A C-5 zone will be the only place within city limits that a person can operate a retail or wholesale business for packaged liquor. “Those liquor stores along Hwy. 67/167, like Ace Liquor, will come in with a C-5 zoning. Even the new liquor store being built next to Ace, because it has already been approved by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board and at a time the city had limited control in that area.

“The second zoning recently created by the planning commission is M-2 for adult-oriented businesses. Businesses like Cupid’s and Sensations on the west side of Hwy. 67/167 will come into the city with this zoning. The only places these types of businesses can operate in are M-2 zones and those will be the only ones besides Austin Ready Mix which will come in tagged M-2, because that’s also the only zone that allows cement factories.”

The acreage annexed Thurs-day includes 40 separate tracts of land. Besides the liquor stores, Sensations and Cupid’s, those tracts include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Faith Christian Center, Central Community Church of Christ, Jax-Cabot Vet Clinic, Wood Funeral Home, J.B.’s Auto Salvage and Marple Auto Sales.

In other council business:

n City Engineer Jay Whisker apologized for the delays and traffic jams on Main Street as work is being done to make the five-way intersection of Main, Dupree and James safer and more eye appealing. “I get it, I get it,” he said, explaining how he has been inundated with calls.

Whisker said the crosswalk work should be completed in the next week or two and that will do away with all the detours.

n Whisker, in the engineering report for February, said the department issued 10 building permits and 12 business licenses. The department also performed 78 inspections during the month and issued 23 letters of unkempt or unsafe yards and structures.

n The mayor reminded the council and the residents that the city’s annual cleanup day was set for April 2. All those wanting to participate should meet at the Jacksonville Recycling Center at 1300 Marshall Road at 8 a.m.

n Leroy Akridge was reappointed to the city’s board of adjustment and Mike Wil-kinson was reappointed to the Jacksonville Housing Authority.