Due to the holiday and city offices being closed, the Maumelle City Council met on Tuesday this week.
The first item of business was an ordinance that would change the zoning map and rezone a parcel of property on Commercial Park Drive from C3 (heavy commercial use) to C2 (lighter commercial use). In my opinion this is a proper rezoning request since the council recently approved a residential development for a parcel of land across the street. You would want to have lighter commercial zoning across the street from such a development. That said, this ordinance was tabled until the second meeting in October. I asked about a proposed change that would need to go through the planning commission that would only allow multi-family housing in a C2 zone if they apply for and are granted a conditional use. As our zoning currently stands, you can build multi-family housing in a C2 zone by right. If we approve of a new ordinance to be presented soon, the council will have the ability to review multi-family projects as a conditional use. In other words, it gives us an additional vote where we can review a plan and decide on that specific project.
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Under new business, the council unanimously approved a conditional use permit to allow for a mini golf facility to be constructed in Maumelle. This will be located off Murphy Drive on the northern end of the city. The family that is developing this project are long-time residents of the city and have put a lot of thought into bringing this mini golf project to reality. I certainly wish them the best and look forward to taking my family there in the years to come. Expected opening would be Summer of 2022.
The most interesting discussion of the evening came on Resolution 2021-17 which involves a request for Entergy to disclose records regarding their business practices. Let me catch you up on the issue at hand. The Crystal Hill Road renovation project is at a complete standstill due to Entergy’s refusal to remove (at their expense) the power lines from the city right of way. If you have traveled that way lately, you’ll know that the road has been torn up on both sides and is currently only a 1-way street to accommodate the construction. Construction has been essentially halted since Entergy has not been responding to the city’s requests. City Attorney Melissa Krebs and Mayor Caleb Norris have made multiple requests to Entergy for information on how we can get this resolved and there has been little progress. Additionally, the City Attorney has received little communication from Entergy’s attorneys on their legal basis for why they are declining to remove their lines from the city’s right of way. The mayor reported that some progress was being made in recent weeks to at least let construction move forward and we’d resolve the cost issue later. That has apparently fallen apart in recent days as the city has placed these information requests on our agenda.
In a related agenda item, Ordinance 1036 was introduced that would update our franchise agreement and require public utilities operating in Maumelle to move their equipment at their expense. This ordinance was based off a similar ordinance that Cabot has enacted. When Cabot passed their ordinance, Entergy did not challenge the changes. However, Entergy has said they would challenge our ordinance if it is passed, but that remains to be seen if they will follow through with a challenge. In previous testimony before the Public Service Commission, one of the statements Entergy made when asking for a rate increase was that they needed to charge a higher rate due to the cost of equipment relocation in public right of ways. Yet here they are refusing to pay for costs related to moving equipment and they are saying it’s the responsibility of the city. We will see what comes of this in the next few weeks and months, but for now, the Crystal Hill project is at a standstill due to the Entergy equipment in the way of the new road.
Under new business, Norris informed us that the traffic committee approved of marking Riverland Drive with pedestrian and bicycle lanes. This road is frequently used by pedestrians going to the trails and since it is so wide, it will be greatly beneficial to have lanes on the sides specifically marked for pedestrians.
The mayor also used this time to tell us about the city agreeing to a new technology agreement with a new vendor. In future years, this will add $70,000 to our annual technology budget, but the city has lagged behind in this area as we’ve grown, and our city has more demands on technology than our current contract can provide. For the time being, outsourcing our technology service is still the best move financially since we get the strength of a tech firm without having to hire our own employees to provide our technology services.
Contact Chad Gardner at 501-529-1336 or firstname.lastname@example.org