The Jonesboro City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to strike down a request from a property owner who wanted 8.29 acres to be rezoned to allow multi-unit housing. Emotions ran high as residents who live on or near Hudson Drive filled the council chambers prior to the vote.
Resident Dan Passmore touted the area’s sparse number of rental residents and the growing traffic problems in the northern part of Jonesboro along U.S. 49 that leads towards Paragould.
“We’re running out of (similar places) like that in Jonesboro … it’s like you’re out in the country. That’s hard to find,” Passmore said.
Land owner Robin Caldwell asked for the property to be rezoned to allow up to 96 multi-units or apartments to be built on the swath of ground in the middle of a residential section. The neighborhood has about 18 houses.
Caldwell has tried to sell the property for more than a year, but many developers are only interested in the property if it’s zoned for multi-housing, real estate broker Cole Stevenson told council members. He wouldn’t divulge how many developers were interested in the site if a zoning change were made, but he said there was no imminent deal in place if the change was made.
An elderly woman and resident named Rita made an impassioned plea in the chambers. In tearful tones, she described how the traffic on Hudson Drive continues to get worse. She also detailed how multi-unit houses would destroy property values in the area, and how that type of housing would raise crime rates along the road.
“We have a quite, safe, peaceful community,” she said tearfully. “Please don’t take that away from us.”
The battle between residents and developers is the latest salvo in a growing problem in Northeast Arkansas’ largest city. As the population pushes 75,000 residents, housing availability, especially multi-unit family housing, will become a bigger problem, Mayor Harold Perrin recently told Talk Business & Politics. Up to 1,200 multi-units could be built across the city on pieces of property already zoned for that purpose, but in targeted instances developers want to build on properties not zoned for that purpose, Perrin said.
Members of the Nettleton School Board, the school district in which the property is located, sent a letter opposing the change, and Alderman John Street voiced concerns. Houses could be built on the property, but it would take years for the traffic impacts to be felt on Hudson Drive, Street said. It could take less than a year to build 96 units and the impacts would be immediate, and the road was not built to withstand the volume of traffic and it would be a safety hazard, he said.
It was unknown if Caldwell will challenge the city’s decision in court.