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The failure of a rezoning request sparked a big-picture discussion during Tuesday night's city board meeting about the city's interpretation and implementation of its historic overlay, specifically as it relates to residential property development.

The conversation was prompted by a request to rezone a property at 817 N. Mt. Olive St. from R-2 (residential, medium) to R-4 (residential, multi-family). The request was withdrawn by its applicant prior to Tuesday's meeting. While the debate surrounding the request involved a number of elements, one that stuck out in particular was the city's recommendation of approval for the proposal while simultaneously recognizing its inconsistency with the city's future land use map.

A city staff report said the rationale for this is that the property is located within a H-1 (historic) overlay zone -- which permits a higher density than R-4 zones -- and because of that, the density requirements for R-4 zones need not be considered in these cases because the overlay takes precedence over the base zones contained within it. Instead, the report states that the only consideration that should have been taken into account was whether multi-family dwelling units would be appropriate in the area based upon provisions outlined in the city's land use code.

Brian Palmer, a local resident, property developer and critic of the Mount Olive Street proposal, appeared in front of the board following their request for any public input from the audience toward the start of the meeting. Palmer cited a number of concerns he had with the overlay, but also expressed support for it.

"Originally when the overlay was put into place, the purpose was (that) this district is established to enhance and protect the utility, beauty, enjoyment and value of historic portions of the city, and to operate as an overlay zone to all existing base zones for the purpose of allowing all stated provisions to be applied in place of less restrictive base zone provisions," Palmer said. "About a year ago, that was changed and that less restrictive portion of the purpose was changed to allow all stated provisions herein to be applied in place of all provisions within the base zoning provisions and other provisions stated in the municipal code. I think everybody can agree that the historic overlay is an area we want to enhance and protect because this is again, I believe to be the heart of our city. So that portion of the purpose everybody can get behind, but when we begin to look at removing that less-restrictive portion of the purpose, we begin to get into some of the concerns. Which are that we begin to put in place a higher density in lieu of what is the base zone (and) we begin to become less restrictive on the set backs."

Another local property developer, Donnie Bunker, had a different viewpoint.

"As a developer in the historic district, I've seen an increase in incentive to take care of what we have and build in town due to the historic overlay," Bunker said. "There's an incentive because it's easier, not in a bad way where we are going to build on someone's toes, but because there is a difference between the way the lots were originally mapped and platted, where they're 40 feet wide (or) 50 feet wide versus the newer subdivisions. With a blanket restriction on everything, it doesn't work to do infill housing. There is a lot more details and technicalities that Ben Rhoads is probably brewing on right now, so that is my side. It's helped incentivize staying in town."

At the end of the meeting during their director's reports, Directors Bob Coleman and Reid Carroll were sympathetic to Palmer and Bunker's concerns. Both directors accentuated a desire to see city staff try and re-evaluate how the overlay is to be officially understood moving forward so that instances like this don't continue to repeat themselves.

"I do think we need to review all of those and possibly come up with an amended master plan or zoning regulations," Coleman said. "At the least, I would very much like to see -- in January, we are going to end up (with) new board members, and they're going to look at these zoning situations like I did and do now -- I would like to see us have a presentation for all of us to explain our zoning and master plan situation so that we are all a little better educated on exactly what it is and how things take place."

In other business, the board took the following actions:

• Approval of a contract that will allow the fire department to purchase a training tower for $534,203.

• Approval of a contract to allow the public works department to outsource Tri Star Construction for $78,229.20 to construct curb and gutter needed for the Kenwood Street Widening Project. The city is unable to do this part of the project internally because they lack a curb machine.

• Approval of a contract to hire Burns and McDonnell Engineers $1,050,174 to complete a 30 percent design of the upgrades needed for the water treatment plant.

• Approval to adopt an ordinance that vacates certain rights of way on the 500 Block of West Tulsa Street.

• Approval to adopt an ordinance that reverses a provision of the city code that mandates the approval of a significant development permit prior to completing certain projects in city parks by city staff.

• Approval to adopt an ordinance that imposes a citywide service fee -- not to exceed three percent of the total transaction -- on all debit and credit card transactions, for the purpose of helping offset rising costs associated with credit card processing fees.

• Approval to place an ordinance on its second reading that would amend current code and introduce a new chapter of "landscaping code." The ordinance would place more stringent regulations on property developers and encourage preservation of green space.

• Approval of a resolution that authorizes a preliminary plat development permit for the 24.43 acre property located on the 2300 Block of North Mount Olive Street.

• Approval of a resolution that authorizes a final plat development permit for the 14.26 acre property located on the 23000 Block of Lawlis Road.

• Approval of a resolution that authorizes the city to receive reimbursement from the bonds it receives for upgrades to the water treatment plant, due to project expenses that arose before the bonds were issued.

• Approval of a resolution that reduces the amount of unincorporated county land that Siloam Springs provides EMS coverage to, from 147 square miles to 40 square miles.

General News on 10/10/2018

Print Headline: Rezoning failure prompts big-picture discussion at meeting

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