Tuesday, December 16, 2014

TOP STORY >> Rezonings upset residents

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council on Monday passed one controversial rezoning ordinance and allowed two others to be delayed after hearing from residents, the developer and the projects’ engineer.

The council voted to change a parcel of land on North Rockwood Road from R-1 residential to O-1 office and quiet commercial. An office for David’s Burgers will be built there.

An emergency clause was added, too, which makes the ordinance effective immediately rather than 30 days from when it was passed.

The aldermen also heard the first readings of two ordinances — one to rezone property on the 1400 block of Kerr Station Road from R-1 to a PUD (planned unit development) and the other to rezone 1502 Willie Ray Drive from R-1 residential to C-2 commercial. Ordinances must be read three times before the council can adopt them and they become law.

But aldermen can suspend the additional readings to quicken the process, and doing so is legal, Mayor Bill Cypert said after residents requested that the council allow the process to run its natural course.

Motions to suspend the second and third readings of the two ordinances failed with less than two-thirds of the council supporting them.

Aldermen Eddie Long and Ann Gilliam were holdouts on both. Alderman Angie Jones joined them in casting the third nay vote on the Kerr Station Road ordinance.

The Kerr Station Road developer, Jamie Lefever, spoke about changing his plans after the Cabot Planning Commission rejected them over density concerns.

The first proposal was for 12 two-story, 1,300-square-foot duplexes (six buildings) on nearly 1.5 acres. The new proposal is for 11 detached single-family, 1,500-square-foot homes with two-car garages, small yards and back porches.

Under the current zoning, eight homes could be built, Project Engineer Tim Lemons said.

Lefever wants to sell the houses for $155,000 to $165,000. He said he would rent them if they don’t sell, but that rent would be substantial because the homes will be stone and brick with concrete slab foundations and amenities like granite countertops.

Plans for the development also include a front gate, an iron and brick entrance, a 6-foot treated-wood privacy fence on the sides and back and a private road inside that the development’s Property Owners Association will maintain.

Resident Douglas Meiggs said he was concerned about the development causing his property, which is behind it, to flood. That could affect septic systems, Meiggs argued.

Lemons confirmed that sewer would be installed and that neighbors who pay a connection fee could also use it.

Meiggs asked the council who would be responsible if the development does cause flooding or septic system damages. The mayor said the city’s engineer would be diligent in the site-planning process to make sure damages don’t occur.

Meiggs also said, “It doesn’t fit in our neighborhood,” which features single-family homes on half-acre to 25-acre lots.

Several residents were concerned about additional traffic. Lefever said the development would be set back from the road and the driveway in front of the gate would be long enough to accommodate two cars waiting to get in.

Lemons added that cars from the small development would be a “drop in the bucket” compared to current counts on Kerr Station.

Meiggs was skeptical of the fencing, too. He doesn’t want his trees downed; Lemons said they wouldn’t be. Meiggs asked Lemons how the developer would maintain that fence. The engineer said, “very carefully.”

Then Meiggs asked how the developer would gain access to maintain the fence.

Lefever responded, “I want to be neighborly. I want to work with my neighbors. I don’t want this to be a hostile situation.”

He reiterated, “We did come up first with duplexes, and, obviously, the public spoke up and did not want that. So we changed it, and we were glad to…I joked with (Lemons) the other day it was a good thing the duplexes got turned down because I like this better.”

In other business:

• The 1502 Willie Ray Drive developer, Lee Linville, who is also a Lonoke County Justice of the Peace, spoke about moving Linco Countertops there from 10 Commercial Drive.

This rezoning request was also changed after the planning commission rejected it.

A planned driveway from Tanglewood Road was removed and access will be from Willie Ray.

Linville addressed concerns about the condition of the current location by explaining that the business is renting that building and cannot make structural improvements.

He said he spent several years looking for another property, found that choices were very limited and decided on Willie Ray because the council recently agreed that road should be developed into a commercial corridor when the north terminal interchange is completed in 2018.

Linville said he also collected signatures from more than 51 percent of the landowners, who agreed to amend their bills of assurance — agreements that are between the property owner and developer and not recognized by the city.

One resident asked that the council not allow her neighborhood to go commercial.

Resident Paul Davis said Linville could have placed his business in the industrial area at the end of Second Street. He described Cabot as having a “hodge-podge” of businesses and homes.

Several residents accused the city of not being transparent and of not doing all that is legally required of them.

But Lemons, who is also Linville’s project engineer, argued that he and the developer went through all the proper channels while Cypert said this issue had been discussed in commission and council meetings that were open to the public.

• David’s Burgers, a chain restaurant, will be next door to its planned office on Rockwood. Excel Ford, where excavation is underway, is across the street.

Residents were concerned about additional traffic. They wanted restricted access to the businesses. But the mayor told them that topic would be addressed later in the site-planning process.

There is one way in and out of the neighboring Sun Terrace subdivision, whose residents won a lawsuit against the city when they opposed putting in alternative accesses.