May 14, 2015 – El Dorado News, By Tia Lyons
The El Dorado Planning and Zoning Commission is considering rezoning issues for the future planning of the city. During a regular meeting on Monday, EPZC chairman Michael Rogers said zoning questions have arisen periodically about a couple of areas of town.
He cited the area of Eighth and Murphy, which has a mix of residential and commercial properties, including the Rufus N. Garrett Army Reserve Center, which was shuttered several years ago as part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure program.
Referring to a statement made by past EPZC president Larry Moser, Rogers said, “When they did zoning, they did a windshield assessment, which means they drove around and looked and if they saw commercial businesses, they zoned it commercial, and if they saw residential, they zoned it residential.”
He noted that College Avenue is zoned commercial, likely because the lots at the intersection of U.S. 82B/Hillsboro are commercial lots. However, residential properties are also dotted along the avenue.
Rogers said the U.S. Army emails him annually about the reserve center. “Because it’s in a residential area, they want to make sure that if a buyer wants to make it a commercial building, he can. He has no choice but to make that building commercial,” he said.
A church located just north of the center sits partially in a residential zone and partially in commercial zone, Rogers said. Commissioner Vicky Dobson noted that an apartment building and auto repair garage are across the street on the west side of the reserve center. Rogers said that while the issue could probably be handled with a variance, the Arkansas Municipal League has cautioned him that a “variance is not the best way to handle certain things.”
He said the commission may want to start its conversation about future rezoning with the area of Eighth and Murphy.
“The U.S. Army wants to make sure we’re having that conversation. We have to be very careful and look at if we’re going to be finite in our zoning,” Rogers said. He also mentioned the Timber Hills area, which includes residential and commercial development around Stars Cinema.
Undeveloped land just north and east of the cinema could lean toward either commercial or residential growth. The area is now zoned A-1 (undeveloped, agricultural) and Rogers listed R-1 (single-family residential) and C-2 (general commercial) as possible designations. He also said the area could remain A-1 until a proper-use proposal comes before the EPZC, adding, “I don’t want to get into property values. I want to protect the residential area and call it residential and protect the commercial area and call it commercial.” Rogers said the commission should avoid issuing variances when possible. “If a major development happens, I don’t want this commission to hold anything up,” he said. In other business, Rogers told the group he recently attended a visionary meeting for plans to widen U.S. 82B/Hillsboro through El Dorado. “There is no exact design at this point. The city wanted to get input from citizens,” Rogers said, adding that he submitted questions about the project.
“I will keep everyone updated on that so we can be involved in it and look at it down the road if rezoning is needed,” he said. He said drawings showing various options and lane designs were available for viewing during the meeting and are still posted in the lobby of City Hall. Commissioner Kelly Halstead asked if a stoppage of federal highway funding will affect the project. State highway officials received word on Monday that federal funding for highway projects in Arkansas will end on May 31 when funding for the Federal Highway Trust Fund expires.
Congress did not reauthorize the fund following months of uncertainty about its future. “I don’t know how it will affect projects that have already been approved,” Rogers said. Commissioners also discussed attending planning and zoning workshops that will be held next month in Hot Springs. The sessions will focus on signage, Rogers said.
The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.