Lau, Lorenz begin Fort Smith Board experience

story and photo by Aric Mitchell

The Fort Smith Board of Directors welcomed two new additions Thursday night (Jan. 3) in the board's first regular meeting of 2013.

Director Keith Lau took over for departing director Steve Tyler in the Ward 1 seat while Director Mike Lorenz stepped in for Don Hutchings in the Ward 3 seat.

Directors George Catsavis and Andre Good also took their second term oaths at the meeting, which was held at Fort Smith Public Schools Service Center.

In comments to The City Wire after the regular and town hall meetings, Lorenz said a priority for his first term would be to "bring a different approach."

"I haven't been involved in politics before," Lorenz said. "I just want to bring my business and finance skills in to play. I didn't get to do much of that tonight, but I'm really excited to get started and get everybody together."

Lorenz will draw on his experience as a former City Planning Commissioner to "ease the process" on developers, he said, adding that "even seasoned builders and contractors – sometimes they had trouble making their way through the process for getting something approved (in Fort Smith) and there were a lot of times I'd see things come to the Planning Commission that really weren't ready yet because something had been missed in the process, and that's disappointing because you don't want to hold something up because of a small technicality."

"So hopefully we can eliminate some of those and assist a little better in getting things through instead of assuming everybody knows the full process," Lorenz added.

Lau said he had no plans to bring anything before the board in January, but admitted he "would love to see what we could do as a city to get the channelization of the Arkansas River to 12 feet."

"There's also the issue about the billboards and the ordinances and the moratorium that we have there through April," Lau said. "I'd like to get the Chamber of Commerce involved in that. I don't want to do that just as this group. I want to get stakeholder input from all the people who have businesses that rely on that kind of advertising. We need their input, and I'm going to actively solicit that."

Lau’s moratorium statement refers back to a temporary moratorium on the receipt and consideration of applications for new or modified billboard advertising. The hiatus, recommended by the city’s Development Services Director Wally Bailey and approved by the board at the Dec. 18 meeting, will expire on April 19, 2013.

Thursday’s light agenda included only two ordinances; one an amendment to the city's Master Land Use Plan and another to amend the Unified Development Ordinance in order to allow for changes in land restrictions for sexually oriented businesses that were made in November 2012. At that time the board voted to move available land use for sexually oriented businesses to 4% from 1.4%.

Both ordinances were approved unanimously.

Following executive session, the board reappointed Director Kevin Settle to the position of vice-mayor and tapped Good for the Fort Smith Advertising and Promotion (A&P) Commission post vacated by Hutchings.