In my two and a half years on the council, I believe this might have been our longest agenda to date. That said, let’s dive into the topics of this week’s meeting.
To begin, Mayor Caleb Norris recognized Jason Bargiel as the city’s employee of the month for February 2021. Jason started working for the city in 1996 and has been with Maumelle for 25 years. He currently serves as Street Department Supervisor and played an instrumental role in helping our city through the winter storm event this past February. Thanks to Jason for his many years of service to the city!
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This month’s department report came from Nicole Vogler, Director of Maumelle’s Center on the Lake. She reported that attendance is holding steady at the Center from 2020 to 2021. The virtual programming options offered by the Center on the Lake has increased its attendance substantially from 2020 to this year. With the pandemic continuing in our community, the Center on the Lake is still able to provide many resources to our seniors including curbside and dine-in meals.
Moving to unfinished business, the council tabled an ordinance that will change how Maumelle regulates utilities operating in our public rights of way. With Entergy filing a complaint against Maumelle with the Public Service Commission, the Mayor asked this to be tabled while the complaint is resolved with the PSC. We will revisit this ordinance again in October.
Under new business, we had six items related to annexation of property into Maumelle. The first three items were for an annexation of land called the Pinnacle Heights Property. This property is located due west of Ridgeland Drive and to the north of Maumelle Valley Estates and Breckenridge Drive. The property owner has proposed a development that will bring 186 new homes into the city. I think it’s important to state that the property owner has the right to develop this land even if it remains in the county and isn’t annexed. Personally, I think it’s important for the city to approve this annexation so this development will be inside the city of Maumelle. This will allow Maumelle to have more control over the development process and make sure the design and construction of the neighborhood and homes follows city code. If the property were to remain in the county, it could still be built and all of those residents would still use Maumelle roads to come in and out of their neighborhood. With the annexation being approved, the city would also benefit from the increased property tax base of having all those homes in our city.
The second three items regarding annexation were for another voluntary annexation of the Bradley Property. This property is located on the north side of the railroad tracks along Old Maumelle Road and Hwy 365. There have been no proposed plans put forward for what this landowner wants to do with the property, but they would like to be included in the city of Maumelle. On this request, I think there is value in the city continuing to grow and expand where we can. Especially when property owners come to us and voluntarily ask to come into the city limits. Our city is limited in where we can grow since we are bound by the Arkansas River to the south and North Little Rock to the southeast. The most natural areas for us to grow would be to the north and east along Interstate 40. The Bradley Property annexation would allow the city of Maumelle to touch Hwy 365 and have future commercial opportunities along this corridor.
One of the reasons I ran for city council was to help the city be more proactive when it comes to future growth and planning. I’d rather see the city take a proactive stance in controlling our future rather than taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to future growth. When your city is only a few miles from the state capitol and neighbors with two of the largest cities in the state, it’s not a question of if Maumelle will continue to grow. We will. This growth will bring a lot of opportunities and challenges for us to deal with and I’d rather we address them now and take an active role in planning our growth rather than getting bypassed while other cities grow around us. You’ll hear more from me on this in the coming months since there are several projects currently taking place in our city to help shape our city’s future. The fact is, we can’t bury our heads in the sand and try to ignore growth that is going on around us. To protect Maumelle and grow responsibly, we need to address these issues up front so we can shape what our city will look like in the coming decades.
Following the annexation discussions, the council approved a preliminary development plan for the Devoe Bend subdivision. This will be a nice subdivision with larger lots than you typically see in new developments in Maumelle. This neighborhood will be constructed in Country Club of Arkansas and nestled just to the south of White Oak Bayou and to the north of Corondelet Lane.
The council approved a Preliminary Development Plan for a small commercial center to be built along the east side of Country Club Parkway and to the northwest of the Maumelle baseball fields. This commercial project will have space for five tenants. During the planning commission’s hearing on this property last month, the realtor representing the project said they’re fielding calls from possible tenants to include financial services, insurance, pharmacy, etc.
The council approved (7-1) a resolution to change the street name leading to the Center on the Lake to Jackie Johnson Cove in honor of the late Jackie Johnson. Mrs. Johnson was the wife of Maumelle’s first mayor, Burch Johnson, and she was a tireless advocate for our city. She and her husband Burch have been very supportive of our city and our Senior Services department, so I was glad to see her honored in this way. One side note to the name change is that the current address of the Center on the Lake is 2 Club Manor Cove which is often confused with 2 Club Manor Drive (Google it… you’ll see what I mean). The private home along Club Manor Drive often has mail, packages, and guests show up at their home thinking they’re arriving at the Center on the Lake. In addition to honoring Jackie Johnson, this name change will help clear up address confusion.
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