Council upholds CUP denial for apartments
In another marathon session Monday evening, the Eureka Springs City Council upheld the denial of a conditional use permit (CUP) for an apartment building on Spring St., heard a request for a resolution to keep the Beaver Bridge in place and in use, rediscussed the fine points in three ordinances, and spent almost an hour niggling over who should sign the city's checks.
The Planning Commission/Board of Zoning Adjustment turned down a CUP request for a four-unit apartment building at 245 Spring St., the former Roy and Mary Jane Beggs home and art studio, at the end of February from co-owners Chuck Schmidt and Charles Ford.
A majority of the property owners within 200 feet of the property protested the CUP because of a lack of parking in the area and what they felt was an inappropriate use of the building. Many said they would like to see it used as a single family residence, not for multiple families.
The appeal of the denial has been on the council's agenda twice and postponed. If Schmidt or Ford didn't appear Monday, the issue was going to be dead.
Schmidt made a brief presentation to the council, citing the mixed business/residential use of the house since it's construction in 1947.
Schmidt maintains no one told him he couldn't remodel the building into four units when he got his original building permits.
Building Official Randy Mills said that was correct. He was new on the job at the time and didn't realize what type of renovation Schmidt was planning.
During the public hearing for the CUP in February,
Schmidt said he wanted four units. Neighbors said he had told them there might eventually be six units.
Municipal Code allows for the rental of two units in a house, without a CUP. Schmidt said Monday he had three units rented without having a certificate of occupancy from Mills, final inspections or safety inspections by the fire department.
Five neighbors registered their opposition to the CUP before the council.
Alderman Gayle Money said she had 11 letters of opposition to the CUP.
Alderman Bill Ott tried to get the council to return the matter to the Planning Commission as the hearing started. He said he was making the request on behalf of City Planner Richard Harper, who believed the commission would reconsider the application.
Planning Commissioner Eric Scheunemann said he would not reconsider the application and did not want it returned to the commission.
Five members of the council voted to uphold the commission's denial of the CUP, with Alderman Penny Carroll voting against.
Pat Matsukis asked the council for a resolution or letter of support to keep the Beaver Bridge in service and to prevent the widening/improvement of the 11 miles of Highway 187 from Highway 62 North to Highway 62 West.
She said there are now four alternate routes proposed by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) through the Beaver area.
She said she has tried to talk to Interim County Judge Mike Botelho, a resident of Beaver, about the county taking over the bridge or maintenance of Highway 187 and "he will not discuss it with me."
She has also talked with representatives of AHTD who have said they would be willing to wait until after the November general elections to see if the county's new judge might be more willing to take on the bridge and/or highway.
Council members asked Matsukis to draft a resolution and have it ready for the June 14 meeting.
She said she is going to talk with the city councils in Berryville and Green Forest as well.
The council spent nearly half an hour discussing the proposed ordinance clarifying responsibility for maintenance of stone walls throughout town.
Public Works Director Robert Forrest has made two lengthy presentations trying to explain the difference in private and city-owned walls and the responsibility for their maintenance at previous council meetings.
He brought photographs Monday night to try to explain the differences.
Alderman Money believes too much of the old ordinance is being replaced by the new ordinance, in spite of Forrest's repeated assurances everything in the old ordinance is the same.
Alderman Penny Carroll wants a list of all the "controversial" walls in the city and estimates of their repair costs.
The group finally voted to table the vote on the final reading of the ordinance with Alderman Karen Lindblad opposing any further delays in approving the ordinance.
Board of Appeals
Lindblad opposed the approval of the ordinance establishing a Board of Appeals on its second reading. She doesn't think the local ordinance embraces the same qualifications for membership as recommended by the International Building Code (IBC).
Alderman Robert "Butch" Berry, co-author of the ordinance, has explained to the council several times that there are not any registered professional engineers or tradespeople living in Eureka Springs.
There are many state-licensed tradespeople, but not registered engineers.
The IBC calls for a variety of professional persons to sit on the board, which considers rulings made by the Building Official when applicants question the official's decision. Berry has estimated the board will meet once a year, maybe.
The vote on the third reading of the proposed ordinance to establish areas for location of manufactured housing was tabled, pending identification of R-3, multi-family, zones within the city limits.
The Arkansas Legislature mandated the establishment of such zones for all cities with zoning districts by the first of October of 2003.
The proposed ordinance includes existing agriculture zones and R-3 zones which do not exist. The only two R-3 zones, on Pivot Rock Road, are just big enough to include the duplexes and apartment buildings within them.
The Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on additional R-3 zones Thursday evening.
Berry said he "will not be buffaloed by threats of a lawsuit" for the council not acting quickly enough to get the ordinance approved.
Council members want to keep the pressure on the Planning Commission to get the areas identified and rezoned to meet the state mandate.
City check signers
Ott, Money and Carroll continue to challenge the mayor's authority to take bids for the city's banking services, CD rates and ability to sign checks.
Mayor Kathy Harrison recently took bids to see which of the four banks in town could provide the best return on investments. Community First Bank had the best rates and Harrison has moved the city's money to that bank.
Ott and Bank of Eureka Springs President Charlie Cross have said the bid process was flawed and moving the money on the basis of the bids was inappropriate.
Cross cites his bank's 92-year relationship with the city as sufficient reason to keep the money with the Bank of Eureka Springs.
Monday evening, Harrison said the city stands to make an additional $60,000 a year in interest by moving the money to Community First.
Opening new accounts means signing new signature cards.
The council seems willing to allow Harrison and City Clerk Mary Jean Sell to be two of the signers, but they want a third, and possibly a fourth, person on the cards as well.
In the past, it has been the city's finance director. Harrison said she was willing to have the accounts supervisor on the signature card, once one is hired. Finance Director Diane Murphy resigned and left her position May 21.
Lindblad and Alderman Earl "Bud" Umland said they were satisfied with the mayor, clerk and accounts supervisor. Neither saw a need for more signers.
At one point, Carroll, Money and Berry wanted Transit Director Lamont Richie and Police Chief Earl Hyatt as additional signers.
Umland suggested they also have "the director of the auditorium and the guy at the post office as signers, too." He called the whole discussion ludicrous more than once.
The group agreed to wait for an opinion from City Attorney Tim Weaver on who was appropriate as a signer. They also want him to help them establish a bid policy for the city's accounts.
Weaver was ill and did not attend Monday's meeting.