Corley Street project dies on 3-3 vote

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

EUREKA SPRINGS -- The request to open Corley Street on East Mountain was not granted during the City Council's marathon meeting Monday night, when a motion to open the street failed to garner more than three votes from the six aldermen.

The long-awaited environmental assessment from Dr. John Van Brahana, a hydrologist with the University of Arkansas, was presented to the council. The study concluded that construction of a 15-foot-wide road, unpaved and constructed on a geomembrane, would have little effect on the Laundry (Onyx) Spring below it.

"This is not a horrible event provided it is done right," said Dr. Brahana.

Among comments made during the presentation were:

* Mayor Kathy Harrison questioned the ability of a non-paved, 15-foot-wide road being able to provide access to a lot to deliver building materials.

* Barbara Harmony, coordinator for the National Water Commission, questioned the effect on drainage and the spring if approximately 40 fairly large trees were removed for construction of the street.

* City Attorney Tim Weaver gave the opinion that the street proposed in Dr. Brahana's report would not support an 85,000-pound fire truck.

* Alderman Aaron Falotico voiced opposition to allowing an unpaved street to be constructed when citizens have been asking the city to pave existing gravel streets.

However, the council in previous meetings heard from two separate engineers who said the steep terrain of the proposed street would create erosion and drainage problems. Plus city codes require all new streets to be constructed to minimum standards, which include paving.

Alderman Terry McClung made and Alderman Butch Berry seconded a motion for the city to grant a 30-foot-wide easement to the persons making the request, and allow them to construct, at their expense, a 15-foot-wide, unpaved drive in accordance with Dr. Brahana's proposal, and that landscaping features be included by the couple for water retention.

While Berry cautioned the council that denying the request might be seen as the city favoring a no-growth policy, resident Mildred Krebbs, who lives on Steele Street below the proposed new street, voiced opinions of a different nature. "To think that one person could make the council jump through hoops is appalling," she said. Krebbs said that there were plenty of existing houses on the real estate market in the city plus a lot of vacant lots suitable for building that already had access. "Let's take care of what we have now instead of building a new street for one house," she added.

Mayor Harrison read a letter from former alderman Karen Lindblad to which a petition containing approximately 180 names was attached, urging the council to deny the street construction request.

When the vote was called for, only Berry and Alderman Rick Rojek joined McClung in supporting the measure. Aldermen Aaron Falotico, Beverly Blankenship and Lori Weaver voted against it. Mayor Harrison, who did not cast a tie-breaking vote, declared the motion dead.

In other matters, the council:

* Approved the new lease for the Harmon Park Community Center building between the city council and Eureka Kids, Inc. The lease is for 5 years with two three-year renewal options. The youth group will pay the city $1 per year for the lease, and both parties have a 90-day period in which to renew or cancel the lease. Eureka Kids must provide its own $1 million liability insurance and make the building available for use by others in the community. The council voted unanimously to sign the lease, after minor wording changes, and to rescind an earlier withholding of funds for repairs to the center.

* Announced the closing on the purchase of the property at the top of Planer Hill for a municipal parking lot and tourist facilities. Mayor Harrison said intervention by U.S. Senator Blanch Lincoln helped move the federal grant approval process along.

* Approved Ordinance 1996 on grease traps on its third reading after an explanation by building official Jason Fuson that materials and technology not included in the state plumbing code must be approved by the state. Fuson assured aldermen that he saw no reason to parrot state code requirements in the new city ordinance.

* Approved Ordinance 1973 on a 4-2 vote on its third reading, after a proposed change in wording concerning limestone sidewalks was defeated by the same margin.

* Approved an allocation of $25,000 to the Fire Department to have the architect for a new fire station at 144 E. Van Buren prepare plans and bid documents. Fire Chief David Stoppel later received council approval to use $1,000 of that allocation as a down payment on the Fire Safety House the department has received a grant for. The remainder of the city's portion of the 90/10 grant will be allocated in next year's budget.

The last item of business was a proposal that the city settle a lawsuit against it by the owners of bed and breakfast Inn at Rose Hall on Hillside Avenue. Matt Bishop, attorney for the building's owners, made an offer that the suit would be dropped if the council would issue a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), the owners pay the city a sum of $5,000 and the council issue a CUP to the prospective buyer of the business.

The Arkansas Municipal League attorney handling the case for the city would not recommend for or against the settlement offer, saying the city must weigh the pros and cons of such action. But he asked that should the offer be accepted, he be allowed to revise some of the wording in it. Alderman McClung made and Berry seconded a motion to allow the attorney to make the requested changes. That motion passed 5-1, with Weaver dissenting.

Former mayor Beau Satori was granted permission to address the council, since much of the seven-year history of this dispute took place during his time as mayor. He alleged that the business owners had originally applied for a building permit to construct a single family dwelling, but had, instead, built the three-story inn. He said the five previous city councils and the Planning Commission had consistently refused to grant the owners a CUP. Such a document is required for a business to operate in a residential-zoned area. He said the owners had continuously threatened the city with a lawsuit if they did not receive a CUP. He urged the council to say no to the proposed settlement. "We will not negotiate," he added.

The motion made by McClung to accept the offer was met with another split vote, with Mayor Harrison again declining to cast a tie-breaking vote.

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