Blytheville residents sound off on proposed street renaming guidelines

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The Blytheville Planning Commission held a public hearing Thursday night to discuss proposed guidelines for renaming city streets.

At the meeting, Blytheville residents told the commission now is not the right time to implement the proposal because a renaming project proposed multiple times in previous years has not yet been considered by the commission.

"Someone dropped the ball. The proposal was given to our mayor, Mayor (James) Sanders. It could've gotten lost in the paperwork on his desk. I don't know, but he did not pass it on (to the Planning Commission)," said Blytheville resident Jessie Mitchell.

Commission members told residents there are no rules within the Blytheville Subdivision Regulations pertaining to renaming city streets, and they want to have rules in place before considering new renaming projects.

The proposal residents want commission members to consider before implementing new rules is renaming a section of Ash Street after Martin Luther King, Jr.

"As chairman of this committee, I'm not going to recommend another street change until we have these policies or these procedures adopted by the city council," said Commission Chairman Jim McClain.

Sue Jeffers, who has been leading the effort to rename Ash Street, said a renaming proposal was submitted to Mayor Sanders' office in 2012.

"We were (at the meeting) asking for our request from two years ago be grandfathered in," she said. "I just wish that the Planning Commission would give our request to the City Council."

Commission members said they have not received a renaming proposal for Ash Street.

"People talked about (a proposal) two years ago, four years ago, 10 years ago, there's nothing that's come to the Planning Commission," said Chairman McClain.

Some residents questioned commission members about why they are allowing another renaming proposal to move forward with no formal guidelines in place.

"The brief history of that was there were several citizens that came to the mayor and said, 'We want to name this street after a prominent educator, Gene Henton, in Blytheville.' The mayor called me, I said, 'Why don't you take it to the street committee. See what they feel about it. If the (Streets and Drainage Committee) feels okay, the Planning Commission will have a public hearing to see if anyone has any objections.' (We) had the public hearing. We voted for it," said Chairman McClain. "The City Council right now on that issue is on their third reading. So once upon their third reading, they'll make that decision at the next meeting."

"If there had a been a proposal for Gene Henton and a proposal for Martin Luther King on the table at the same time then we would have done it accordingly, but there has been nothing, even today, that has come to the Planning Commission requesting a street change for Martin Luther King.

In addition to the timing of the proposal, residents told commission members they also disagreed with some of the guidelines being proposed, such as the number of years a person has to have been deceased in order to be considered, and residents being solely responsible for cost associated with notifying property or business owners located on the street to be renamed.

After the public hearing, the Planning Commission voted four to one in favor of submitting an amended version of the proposed guidelines to the Blytheville City Council.

The amendments include changing the requirement for a person to have been deceased from five years to three years, specifying a $100 application filing fee, and the City absorbing some of the cost associated with notifying property or business owners located on the street to be renamed.

Below is the amended proposal.

Section 9.01.  Criteria for Renaming a City Street.

A.  Any individual or organization may apply to the City to rename a City street.  City streets may only be renamed after a prominent person.  Such prominent person must be:

  • 1.     A person who has achieved prominence as a result of his or her significant, positive contribution to the United States of America and/or local community;
  • 2.     A real person; and
  • 3.     A person who has been deceased for at least five three years.

B.  Only one street renaming application shall be processed at a time, and only one street name change shall be implemented per year.  Additional applications shall be placed on a waiting list and processed in order of submission when these criteria can be met.

Section 9.02.  Selection of Street to be Renamed.

A.   The name of the street proposed for renaming shall not be changed if the existing name is of historic significance, the street is significant in its own right or named for another person.

B.   The name of any street shall be the same for its entire length.  Renaming only portions of a street shall not be permitted.

Section 9.03.  Application Procedure and Fees.

A.    The applicant shall submit evidence to the Code Enforcement Office that the street renaming proposal is in compliance with Section 9.01 A. 2. And A.3., and Section 9.02 B. If the Code Enforcement Office determines the submittal does not comply with these sections, the applicant will be so advised and the City shall take no further action.  If the submittal is in compliance with the above referenced sections, the Code Enforcement Office shall issue the application materials described in Subsection B.

B.    The applicant shall obtain from the Code Enforcement Office:

  • 1.   official petition forms;
  • 2.   Instructions as to fees and required procedures ($100 filing fee); and
  • 3.   The application form.

C.    The applicant shall, after filing a completed Code Enforcement Office application form and paying any applicable fees:

  • 1.      Obtain a minimum of 500 signatures in support of the proposal from legal residents of the City at large or signatures of at least 75% of the abutting property owners along the street proposed for renaming on the petition forms supplied by the Code Enforcement Office.
  • 2.     Make a good faith effort to obtain a letter of concurrence to the proposed street renaming from the honoree's surviving spouse, children, or parents in that order.  The Code Enforcement Office shall accept registered mail receipts and copies of all letters as evidence of compliance with this provision.
  • 3.     Provide to the Code Enforcement Office supporting information including a complete biography of the proposed honoree with references of substantiation, honors received, and contributions to the national and/or local community, et cetera, which will be reviewed by the Street and Drainage Committee of the City Council pursuant to Section 9.04. A.  This submission shall contain sufficient information to allow the Street and Drainage Committee to accurately assess the appropriateness of renaming a street after the proposed honoree.

D.    The applicant shall have 180 calendar days to complete and submit the information required by Subsection C. to the Code Enforcement Office.  If the completed application has not been submitted to the Code Enforcement Office within 180 calendar days after the application has been received by the applicant, the application shall be invalid.  No time extension shall be granted.  At the time of submission, the Code Enforcement Office shall check the applicant's application and accept it only if it is complete and appears to comply with the requirements of Sections 9.01 through 9.03.

Section 9.04. Review of Application and Public Hearings.

Upon receipt of the applicant's packet, the City shall process the application as follows:

A.     The Code Enforcement Office shall, within 14 calendar days after submission of the completed application, refer the street renaming application to the Streets and Drainage Committee for review and determination as to appropriateness of the proposed name and its compliance with criteria for selecting a new street name, and determination as to historic significance of the street.

B.    The Streets and Drainage Committee shall have 45 calendar days from the date of receipt to review the application and advise the Planning Commission as to its recommendations.

C.    The Code Enforcement Office shall notify all neighborhood and business associations recognized by the City which encompass or represent owners of property or businesses located on property abutting the street proposed for renaming of the proposed renaming and request that they submit in writing to the Code Enforcement Office their support or opposition to the proposed name change within 45 days.

D.    After the Streets and Drainage Committee review under Subsection B. of this Section, the Code Enforcement Office shall cause to have notifications made to each legal owner and each legal address abutting the street in question, notifying them that there will be a public hearing by the Planning Commission regarding the proposed street renaming and requesting the occupant and owner's input as to the proposed name change.  The notification to the owners of the property shall be by certified return receipt mailings.  Notice to the occupants may be made by regular mail or by door hangers.  All costs associated with the notifications shall be borne by the applicant.

E.    Notice of the public hearing shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation at least seven days prior to when the hearing is to be held.  The applicant shall be responsible for having the notice published and will bear all cost associated with it.  Proof of Publication shall be submitted to the Code Enforcement Office prior to the public hearing.

F.    Prior to the Public Hearing, the Director of Public Works shall prepare and submit to the Planning Commission a budget impact statement as to the direct cost of production and installation of new street name signs and related costs.

G.    The Planning Commission shall conduct a public hearing on the matter and make a recommendation to the City Council as to the best interest of the City.

H.    The Council may approve or deny application for a street name change upon determination of the best interests of the City.  If Council denies the application, it is filed with no further consideration, and the subject name and street shall not be considered again under this Policy for a period of at least two years.  If Council approves the application, certified copies of the enabling Ordinance shall be filed with the appropriate Mississippi County Officials.

Section 9.05.  Council-Initiated Action to Rename a City Street.

The Council may rename a street in order to correct errors in street names, or to eliminate confusion.  Such action may be taken if it is determined that insignificant impact will result and it is desirable for the convenience of the general public.  Renaming of a street by the City under provisions of this paragraph shall not be undertaken to rename a street after a person as provided for in other sections of the Chapter.  Therefore, City-initiated actions to rename a street under provisions of this paragraph shall be exempt from compliance with Sections 9.01 through 9.03 and Section 9.04 A. through D. Section 9.04 E. through H. shall continue to be applicable.

Section 9.06.  Implementation.

A.    After Council approval of the name change, the Public Works Department shall install the new name signs adjacent to the existing street name sign.  Both signs shall be in place for a period of one year.  Both street name signs shall be maintained for the one-year period at the same level of maintenance approved for street name sign maintenance Citywide, after which time the old name shall be removed.

B.    The Code Enforcement Office shall also notify the following organizations and individuals of the street name change through public notice, inter-office correspondence, or other appropriate means within 30 days after approval of the enabling Ordinance:

  • 1.      The applicant:
  • 2.     Affected City, County, State, and Federal Agencies;
  • 3.     General public;
  • 4.     Emergency service organizations;
  • 5.     Owners and occupants of all property abutting the street being renamed;
  • 6.     Utility Companies; and
  • 7.     United States Postal Service.

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