Jonesboro City Council votes no on controversial rezoning request

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 289 views 

Attorney Jim Lyons said Tuesday (March 8) the development of nearly 40 acres of land for a possible housing development could provide much needed housing in a busy part of Jonesboro. City Council members said otherwise, voting 5-3 against the proposal.

The Jonesboro City Council had a special meeting Tuesday (March 8) to discuss the rezoning of 38 acres on Aggie Road from R-1 to RS-8 Limited Use Overlay. The rezoning has been the subject of a lawsuit in Craighead County Circuit Court since 2012.

The Jonesboro Metropolitan Area Planning Commission voted 5-0 in September 2012 to approve the request, sending it to the Jonesboro City Council. However, council members voted 9-3 against the proposal on Oct. 15, 2012, court records indicated.
Circuit Judge John Fogleman ruled Jan. 8 that the city did not follow its own rules on the rezoning issue.

“The city of Jonesboro, like many cities, has excellent long range city plans for development,” Fogleman said. “The real problem for cities like Jonesboro is the lack of political will to follow their own well-designed plans for development. In general, these plans are developed with the involvement of professionals and have been thoroughly studied. The plans are adopted in the abstract but when the plans are applied to particular pieces of property, a city begins to meander away from the professionally prepared plans.”

In the ruling, Fogleman cited a 1996 northwest Arkansas case (City of Lowell v. M&N Mobile Home Park) as reasoning for the circuit court to get involved.

“This court only has the power to meddle in the affairs of the city of Jonesboro when it acts in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner,” Fogleman said.

Fogleman sent the case back to the council to reconsider the rezoning request within 60 days, which was Tuesday (March 8).

Lyons, who represents the landowner, Dean Tyrer, said the factors to consider are the consistency of a proposed comprehensive land use plan. The property was annexed into Jonesboro in 1988 as R-1, but has not been rezoned. Tyrer bought the land in 2002, but has not been able to develop the property, Lyons said.

The land could be used for single family homes, with smaller parcels of land for so-called starter homes, Lyons told the council. Lyons said no one has expressed an interest in the property under the R-1 designation, but said the land could be developed under RS-8. Lyons said the area is zoned with railroads and mobile home parks nearby, with other criteria met on the land as well.

“The property values will not be detrimentally effected,” Lyons said of the proposal, noting the new construction will help increase property values.

Lyons said at least 137 homes could be built on the land, based on 2,700 square feet for each home, with a 1,236 foot average.

An issue of contention has been traffic in the area. Lyons said the traffic would be less, based on Census Bureau on the number of people living in a home.

Several council members during the meeting asked Lyons about the development of the property, as well as the land’s proximity to Arkansas State University.

“Could it be rented out to college students (in a single family area),” council member Darrel Dover asked Lyons.

“Yes,” said city zoning director Otis Spriggs.

Lyons said the homes, under the zoning rules, could be rented and that the requirement could be put in any bill of assurance on the property. Several council members declined to comment on the vote, citing the ongoing litigation. As of Tuesday, the case was still active in circuit court.

Voting in favor of the request were council members Charles Frierson, Gene Vance and Rennell Woods. Voting against the request were Dr. Charles Coleman, Ann Williams, John Street, Darrel Dover and Todd Burton. Council members Chris Moore, Chris Gibson and Mitch Johnson were absent.