Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TOP STORY >> Rezone bid rejected

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council on Monday voted down an ordinance to rezone 1502 Willie Ray Drive from R-1 residential to C-2 commercial after a man threatened to sue over it.

Jacob Henson of 141 Tanglewood Drive said, “I’ve got a statute right here from 1843 stating that you cannot put no business in Briarwood. I would like to know where the city council is getting their authority.”

Linco planned to construct a metal building on the large lot. The company’s staff would have cut countertops from granite and marble at the new location, according to project engineer Tim Lemons.

Planning Commission Chairman James Reid told the council the property faces the freeway and is “very close” to where the north interchange will be built.

That interchange is included in the bonds that are supported by the extension of a one-cent city sales tax approved by voters. The city’s part of the $20 million project is $9 million, and it is set for completion in 2018.

Reid said, “That whole area is going to be the north side of our city. We’ll develop all around this commercial area as we develop as a city and grow in that area.”

That could happen in 10 to 15 years, the commissioner said, but “we’re seeing the same thing now on Pine Street.”

Reid argued that the zoning meets the future land use for the property. The council recently approved those plans.

Henson said, “The only way that you can change (the statute), it can be changed, but you have to get the majority of people out there to sign off.”

Lemons said 51 percent of the nearby property owners had agreed to amend their bills of assurance and allow Linco to move there.

But Henson said, “I went around and talked to several people that Linco went around and had to sign the petition. And they didn’t have a clue what was going on. There was several of them that changed their minds after I showed them pictures of (Linco’s) present condition out behind Mean Pig Barbecue.”

He told the council there was a pile of granite there that was four feet tall and could fill three trucks.

Cypert reminded those in attendance that the C-3 zoning at the current site allows that outside storage, but that would not be tolerated in the requested C-2 zoning.

Henson said he had retained a lawyer because his documentation states residents are entitled to monetary damages if the city puts a business in their neighborhood.

He told the council all he needed to do was file a complaint at the Lonoke County Courthouse.

The mayor asked Henson to stop talking. Cypert told Henson that his lawyer needed to speak with City Attorney Jim Taylor from that point onward.

Taylor, in response to a question, said he thought Henson was reading from a bill of assurance, not a statute.

Alderman Ed Long said before the vote, “My concerns are, if it was down toward the overpass more, it would be more palatable to me. But we’re putting it in the middle, right smack in the middle of residences.”

Reid disagreed, saying the lot is separated from the neighborhood by a creek. He added that access to the public would be from Willie Ray and not a residential street.

But trucks will travel on Briarwood Loop to unload at the back of the building, Reid said in response to a question.

A Tanglewood Drive resident was concerned about the trucks. She said the road was already buckling with the asphalt coming off in chunks.

The resident also said a lot of people who have lived in her neighborhood for 25 to 40 years wouldn’t have the financial means to move.

She pleaded with the council to keep the area from going commercial.

A Briarwood Loop resident said he had not heard of the city’s plans to commercialize the neighborhood. He complained that people are already speeding on Willie Ray, driving 65 to 70 mph in a 45 mph zone.

Cypert clarified that Cabot would not buy residents out. Instead, the expected growth would come from private developers negotiating with the landowners who could choose to sell or not, the mayor said.