Rezoning approval fails planning commission
Members of the city planning commission failed to approve a rezone development permit on Tuesday night after hearing opposing arguments from residents who live nearby the property in question.
The proposal pertains to a rental home located at 817 N. Mt. Olive, in addition to an empty lot that is located south of the property. Currently, the property is classified as R-2, which means that two residential dwellings are permitted to be there. The intention of the motion that failed was to up-zone the property to R-4, which would allow for multifamily dwellings to be built, such as an apartment complex.
The proposal died in the planning commission due to lack of a motion for approval by any of the members present. It will now be sent to the city board for further review during their meeting on July 3, without a recommendation from the planning commission. Some reasons given by residents of the area who are opposed to the measure include an overall lack of space for further development, safety concerns, increased noise due to greater numbers of people and
the potential of a decrease of their property values.
Wade Batchelor, who lives at 116 E. Helena St., which runs perpendicular to North Mt. Olive Street, is a neighbor whose fence borders the property. He was the first at the podium to explain why he is opposed to the development.
“We bought that house because all of East Helena is all single family homes,” Batchelor said. “We feel that there is not space, it could drop our property value and it really is not that large of an area.”
Another resident who spoke out in opposition to the proposal is Tabbitha Easley of 801 N. Mt. Olive. Easley said that she attempted to purchase the lot and the dwelling from its owner, Pruner Properties, LLC, but that they were unwilling to sell it. Easley spoke primarily of her concerns about renters moving near her home and the prospect of having her property value decrease.
“Well-kept townhouses with renters with integrity perhaps may not decrease my property value,” Easley said. “However, the current renters, I do not think I have seen the police more at any other (renter’s residence). The property is very run down and poorly kept.
“I do not know the landlord’s relationship with that specific rental but my concern is that it will be run down and not properly maintained and that will decrease my property value. And, if I wanted to turn around and sell it, it is just going to be an eyesore.”
Despite these sentiments, Steven Bishop, who is the owner of Bishop Properties Construction, Commercial and Residential in Siloam Springs, attended the meeting as a proponent of rezoning the area. While speaking to members of the commission, Bishop defended the measure, saying that the development would improve the area’s appearance and economy.
“It would actually increase their property values. We are eliminating the house that is there now and putting up a very costly structure and system that will increase the property values of those in the area,” Bishop said. “They will not be low-end apartments, that is not what we are looking to do here. What we have come up with, as a preliminary concept, are town-homes that are unique. So there would be a number of town-homes that face North Mount Olive, each one would be individual and they would compliment the downtown historic district.”
Prior to their attempt to vote on the proposal, the commission’s Chairman Karl Mounger shared his final thoughts about the idea.
“I have always been opposed, and I will say it right now, to putting anything into R-2, where there are single-family, residential homes.”