Friday, October 11, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Cabot mayor makes it right

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert made the right decision when he recently removed Ron Craig from the city’s planning commission after he insulted residents of the upscale Glenwood Estates subdivision who are against a plan to build 42 garden homes on a mere 6.2 acres next to their neighborhood.

By comparison, Glenwood Estates has 44 homes on about 25 acres. Its residents said the proposed development could cause traffic problems and will be an eyesore to the area.

Tim Lemons, the engineer for the development and a Lonoke County justice of the peace who is running for the House of Representatives, said the homes would be about 1,450- to 1,600-square feet with high-pitch roofs, hard-surface counters and crown molding. They’d be relatively small but expensive homes that might be worth more per square foot than some homes in Glenwood, he said.

To build the new neighborhood, the builder must first get approval to rezone the area before the new style of subdivision known as a planned unit development.

The Leader’s Joan McCoy reported last week that the meeting was orderly until a woman from the audience described the pristine appearance of her neighborhood.

Craig shot back that it wasn’t as nice as she described because he’d seen people repairing cars in their driveways.

Soon accusations of dishonesty were hurled between Craig — a member of the planning commission for more than 20 years — and the proud residents of Glenwood Estates. Civil discourse ended right there.

All cities want to build homes, which help boost tax revenue and population growth. And Glenwood residents should be pleased that developers find their city such a desirable place to build. But development should be done in a way that is respectful to nearby residents.

We know the consequences of poor urban planning decisions. Against our advice, Jacksonville aldermen voted to close the Graham Road railroad crossing about eight years ago, which forced a handful of businesses to close because traffic was rerouted through a maze of side streets.

Today, the signs of what is easily Jacksonville’s worst case of self-inflicted urban blight are still apparent: Boarded-up buildings, gang graffiti, overgrown grass and a permanent barricade in front of the old crossing. Urban blight can spread quickly, too. On the other side of the tracks now, Main Street has a number of vacant businesses and criminal activity.

City officials should always listen carefully and respectfully to the advice of residents.

The Cabot Planning Commission postponed its decision until next month. Mayor Cypert, who has never lost his temper in a public meeting, has always been a fair decision maker. Though the city council will have to approve the planning commission’s decision, we trust the mayor will serve as a cool-headed leader during a time of divisiveness.

In the meantime, everyone should enjoy CabotFest today if the rain doesn’t keep the crowds away.