Tuesday, July 16, 2013

TOP STORY >> Area is rezoned for auto dealer

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council voted unanimously Monday night to rezone the hill at the entrance to Sun Terrace subdivision across Hwy. 89 from Walmart to allow Excel Ford to relocate there.

The rezoning passed with an emergency clause to make it effective as soon as the mayor signed off on it Tuesday morning.

The city will gain a little money from the building permit for construction and some tax revenue for building materials.

But the discussion around the council table before the vote made it clear that the hasty rezoning was more about getting the property out of bankruptcy so that three abandoned houses could be torn down.

Tom Harness, general manager of Excel Ford, told the council that tearing down the houses would be a priority, but that he couldn’t do anything until the 4.89 acres were purchased from the Burrow Family Trust.

Alderman Ed Long was the first to ask him to be more specific, saying it was clear the council intended to approve the rezoning and that Sun Terrace residents needed to know when the three condemned houses would be torn down.

Mayor Bill Cypert rephrased the question only slightly when he asked, “If this passes, when are you going to start tearing down the houses?”

Harness had already explained that he had the financing lined up and an engineer had looked at the property. But he couldn’t buy it unless it was rezoned from C-2 to C-3, which would allow for the outside storage of vehicles. The entire project hinged on the rezoning.

“They’re waiting for me to say go. That’s why I’m here,” he said. “I can’t tell you a date. We don’t even own the property yet. I’m sorry I can’t say we’ve got a bulldozer outside waiting on us.”

City Attorney Jim Taylor said in response to questions from Alderman Angie Jones that since the council has already condemned the houses, the city could tear them down and bill the new owner.

Brian Boroughs, head of Cabot Public Works, said the city could have the houses razed for $8,000 to $10,000 each.

“Sounds like a bargain to me,” Harness said, but added that he would rather tear them down at the same time the land is leveled for the new car lot.

John Buerklin and Richard Thiele, longtime residents of Sun Terrace, told the mayor and council that they needed to make sure the roads were improved to allow for increased traffic from the business.

“The business that is being proposed is possibly the best we can have, but traffic concerns need to be addressed,” Buerklin said.

Sun Terrace residents have fought commercial development in the past because of traffic problems at the intersection of Hwy. 89 and Rockwood Road.

In other business, the council:

• Approved an ordinance to annex 40 acres near the fire station on Hwy. 89.

• Approved the purchase of a mini-excavator from Hugg and Haul for $51,698.

• Approved the purchase of a chipper from Vermeer for $26,671. The city’s clearing of land around Exit 16 prompted the purchase.

• Approved a grant application to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to pay 75 percent of the estimated $1.2 million cost of a safe room in the addition to the community center. The capacity would be about 1,000.

• Approved using bond money supported by the recently-passed one-cent sales tax to build the north interchange. The interchange was one of the projects voters supported. The resolution the council approved was a formality.

• Passed an ordinance annexing the Freshour property on Hwy. 5.

The building is expected to be renovated for use as a medical clinic.

• Reappointed Ron Craig to the planning commission and Brian Knowles to the Advertising and Promotion Commission.