A longstanding battle between residents and business developers culminated Tuesday night when Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin cast a deciding vote to change the commercial zoning restrictions on an already developed site.
Council members voted 6-4 for the change, but two aldermen, Chris Moore and Darrel Dover were not present. Seven votes are required to pass an ordinance, which meant Perrin had to cast the deciding vote.
P&H Investments LLC was granted permission to lease commercial space at 3611 and 3637 East Johnson Ave. to retailers, according to the ordinance. Residents who live in an adjacent residential area near the site made a plea to aldermen to not allow the rezoning.
“I don’t want anything open 24-hours a day, 30-feet from my bedroom,” resident Bobby Hankins said.
Others feared an all-night laundry mat, or other after hours’ business would bring crime to their neighborhood near Bill’s Fresh Market. Resident John Hatcher, 71, said he was concerned about the potential noise and the possibility of the property turning into an “eye sore” that could drop other property values. The area has many elderly residents and families with young children.
Developer Robert Hester tried to assuage those concerns. In 2012, P&H built 6,600-square-feet of commercial space on the property in hopes of luring medical professionals to the area, Hester said. It has more than 80 parking spaces. Home owners in the area reached an agreement with P&H to allow a restricted commercial zoning.
“We spent $2 million on it,” Hester said.
St. Bernards Firstcare occupies about half the space, and at one time a dentist was located there, Hester said. The property flooded once, and the dentist is no longer a tenant, meaning about half the space is available to lease, he said. Hester admitted it has been difficult finding high-end medical professionals to lease the remaining space. Several have inquired about opening a daycare inside one of the buildings, he said.
No lease agreements with any business have been reached, he said. Alderman Charles Frierson amended the ordinance to only allow a business to operate from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. after Hester suggested it.
The property may have been rezoned, but P&H will still have to petition the city to lease the property. It will have to adhere to the city’s parking requirements and meet other standards before a lease can be signed, Hester said.
In other business, Perrin told the council the city’s temporary skating rink is generating revenues. On good nights the city is collecting about $800 per night, and Perrin said he thinks it could generate up to $20,000 by Christmas.
The rink is located on city property on Union Street. First Community Bank donated a synthetic ice surface and 100 pairs of ice skates. The city provides the spot and maintains it through its parks and recreational department.