Multi-family housing units have been a hotly debated topic in Jonesboro during the last several years, and two recent controversial projects were denied by the Jonesboro City Council on Tuesday night. The council voted 12-0 to deny a rezoning of 1.6 acres of land on Loberg Lane owned by Chris Ishmael. He planned to build 12 townhouse units. Before the vote, Ishmael made a plea to the council to consider his request. He said he planned to build 900-square-foot townhouses that cater to young professionals.
“I’m a developer. This is what I do for a living … this is how I feed my family,” he said.
Several residents who live near the property fired back, saying the development would reduce property values, cause drainage problems, increase traffic count hazards, and could increase safety issues. Resident Jeff Webb told aldermen there are 75 houses directly on the road, and more than 700 homes in the general area. If each house lost $1,000 to $2,000 in value, it would mean millions of dollars in property losses in that part of the city.
The units would have families and those families’ children would be playing near a road with no shoulder, and it could become a safety issue, he said. Runoff from excess rainwater is already a problem, and there would be no place for visitors at the townhouses to park, he said.
“Some day people will ask ‘Who thought this was a good idea?’” he said.
A second ordinance to build six multi-family units on East Johnson was also denied by the council. Aldermen discussed the need to create better guidelines for those with multi-unit proposals so the application and approval process can become more unified. A meeting with public input will be held to formulate new standards in December.
In other business, Mayor Harold Perrin told the council he recently attended a national mayor’s and city council members’ conference. The number one concern across the country is the opioid epidemic that has erupted in recent years, he said. Perrin has met with Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott and opioids are a growing problem in Northeast Arkansas’ hub city. The mayor said he and the police department will have to form a comprehensive plan to deal with the issue.
“This problem is not going away … we are not immune,” he said.
Council members voted to change language and administrative changes to the city’s salary plan. Job titles were added, and parts of the salary plan were re-written to dictate the new step plan adopted by the council last year. No monetary changes were made to the step plan in connection with the changes approved Tuesday night.