North Little Rock: City Council signs off on 2020

Typically, the consent agenda for a North Little Rock City Council meeting are the easiest items for the members to deal with. But 2020 hasn’t been a typical year and Monday night’s meeting was far from typical.

The contention, such as it was, was over the reappointment of Norman Clifton to the city’s Planning Commission, a body with little to no authority in North Little Rock’s form of government.

In North Little Rock, it is the City Council that ultimately decides while the Planning Commission only makes recommendations.

Clifton, who was first appointed to the commission by then and now future Mayor Terry Hartwick on April 25, 1988, has served ably and most recently as chairman.

City Clerk Diane Whitbey included a total of 80 emails on Clifton’s reappointment as part of the agenda for the City Council with the vast majority of those emails, 52, were for, while 15 were against and three were neither.
After a lengthy public comment session conducted virtually, the City Council voted 5-2 for Clifton’s reappointment. Ward 1’s Debi Ross and Beth White both voted no, while Ward 3’s Ron Harris was absent.
Ward 4’s Jane Ginn spoke in Clifton’s defense and said the city was “very fortunate” to have him serving on the Planning Commission.

The other item of business that took up a considerable amount of time was a proposed Special Use ordinance that would allow a property at 608 N. Vine St.,m to be used as office and classroom space by Shorter College.

It was sponsored by Ward 2’s Maurice Taylor and amended at the meeting to be only office space. Jerome Green, president of Shorter College, said that the house would be extensively renovated and would be used as offices for campus security.

It passed, as amended, unanimously.
It wasn’t the only item of business on the agenda for Shorter College as a resolution authoring the city and the school to enter into a program management and lease agreement with property at 1201 E. 4th St. also passed. 

The Council also approved a rare vote expungement over a zoning classification at 3000 North Hills Boulevard. 

With only four yes votes, Ordinance 113 needed a yea from Mayor Joe Smith for passage and by doing so would have hundreds of mini storage units at what Ward 1’s White called the “city’s front porch” and was opposed by a significant number of people who live in that area.
Smith, instead, pushed for an expungement saying he thought the issues had been, “all worked out with the Lakewood bunch.”
If it had been voted down, it would have had to wait 12 months before it could be reintroduced, but by expunging, it meant, “Mayor [Terry] Hartwick can reintroduce it at the beginning of the year,” SMith said.

Smith then expressed his appreciation for the Council’s action and said, “thanks y;all for taking that monkey off my back.”

All other new business passed 7-0, while Debra Roberts was reappointed to the North Little Rock Historic District Commission and Mark Ruble was reappointed to the Lakewood Recreational Area Improvement District No. 4 Board of Assessment.

Todd Adams was appointed to replace Jim Julian to the North Little Rock Airport Commission and the North Cedar Street Municipal Improvement District No. 32 was dissolved.