City planner proposes changes to sidewalk, zoning ordinances

City planner proposes changes to sidewalk, zoning ordinances
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - 9:11 p.m., Nov. 29 UPDATE: There was much debate Tuesday night as the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission discussed a recommendation from city planner Darrel Smith on the issue of installing sidewalks in the city.

The discussion Tuesday night centered around what, if anything, can be done about the issue. Supporters said the building of new sidewalks will help with safety concerns around the city while opponents noted a one-size-fits-all approach would stifle growth.

However, members of the commission said any decision from them would be advisory in scope with a final decision coming from the Jonesboro City Council.

The MAPC will meet again on Dec. 13 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the issue further.

In other action, the commission heard a conceptual rezoning review for a property on North Airport Road. The seven-acre property, site of the former Eagles Club, is being considered for seven new multifamily structures with 112 new dwellings, city officials have said.

No action was taken on the request, with the presentation being informational.

Changes could be coming to Jonesboro's sidewalk ordinances.

A public forum on proposed changes will be held at the Jonesboro City Council Chambers on Nov. 29 at 5:30 p.m.

City Planner Darrel Smith said when he accepted the position with the city, Mayor Harold Perrin and the city council asked him to review ordinances already on the books, specifically, the sidewalk ordinance.

Right now, sidewalks are required on commercial developments, but the Jonesboro Metropolitan Area Planning Commission can waive that requirement.

"I'm not sure we need to waive as many sidewalk requirements as we have," Smith said.

Instead, he's proposing to make sidewalks a requirement, not only for commercial developments but for residential and industrial development too.

"We probably should have been building sidewalks 20 years ago. We weren't. Now we've got a lot of people in the community asking for sidewalks," Smith said.

Smith explained that if the developer chooses not to install sidewalks, they will pay a fee. The fee would go into a fund specifically for installing sidewalks through town.

"We've designed for cars since we've been building. That's part of the problem that we've got now as far as not being able to go up and down the street," Smith said. "We never looked at trying to design for people, we always designed for cars and so that's the reason I'm proposing this for the sidewalks."

The proposal brought much discussion from commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioner Dr. Rick Stripling argued that exceptions made to the sidewalk ordinance by the MAPC are well thought out.

"Making someone pour concrete going nowhere does nothing," Dr. Stripling said.

Commissioner Kevin Bailey said it boils down to dollars.

"I think that is going to be a lot of heartburn in the development community. A lot of heartburn. I'm not against sidewalks but I think there still has to be logic applied to it," Bailey said. "Darrel, you're stuck between a rock and a hard place, you're trying to do your job, and this is a difficult situation."

Other commissioners argued that the ordinance should not be a "blanket statement." Brant Perkins said a blanket requirement was illogical.

"To me, sidewalk usage needs to be tied to where either foot traffic is or is likely to be," Perkins said. "If you build a sidewalk and nobody uses it, we're just wasting money and driving people's cost up. If you tie the requirement to where you construct the sidewalk to where the foot traffic is likely to be, that makes more logical sense."

"This may be doable but probably not without some compromise, some give and some take," Ron Keaton said.

More discussion will take place Nov. 29 at 5:30 p.m. during a public forum on the issue.

Darrel Smith also discussed potential changes to be made to zoning requirements in the city.

Right now, seven stipulations come along with a rezoning request. Smith has proposed eliminating the requirement that stipulates how long the land has been vacant.

"If any project doesn't meet all the criteria in the section the planning commission or city council can require the owner to provide additional information to determine if the rezoning should move forward," Smith said. "Additional information may include, but not be limited to, traffic studies, drainage considerations, crime reports, noise and light studies, wetlands and historical considerations."

Smith also discussed making notification requirements for proposed rezonings more strict.

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