ECHO Village gets planning commission approval
After months of planning, the Echo Village is closer to becoming a reality.
The Eureka Springs Planning Commission heard from Dan Bell about the affordable housing community on Passion Play Road on Tuesday, Dec. 12, with Bell describing what the project will entail. It will include 24 homes ranging from 400 to 800 square feet, Bell said, and eight of the homes will be designated for certain individuals.
“There will be two of the homes for transient homeless, two of the homes possibly for prison release, two of the homes for mental health issues and two of the homes for disabilities,” Bell said. “The other 16 homes are intended to be for people who live there permanently, a mix of young and old people who want to assist others and live in an ideal community.”
Volunteers plan to visit Eureka Springs to build seven of the homes in June, Bell said, and it should be easy to get those done. He said a grant will pay for one of the homes, the Methodist church will help build another and one individual in town has agreed to pay for their home.
“We think the first seven can be done relatively inexpensively,” Bell said.
At the end of the project, Bell said, the homes will be surrounded by a circle drive with a central gathering place in the middle. He plans to make the project as energy-efficient as possible, Bell said. Planning Commission chairwoman Melissa Greene read letters from fire marshal Jim Kelley and public works director Dwayne Allen saying they support the project.
Commissioner Ann Tandy-Sallee asked if the houses would be for long-term or short-term residents, and Bell said some residents won’t stay long but others will live there on a permanent basis.
“The core, the 16 families … they may live there more permanently,” Bell said. “That’s the core of the long term.”
Tandy-Sallee asked if the residents would be required to follow guidelines to live there, and Bell said they would.
“So it’s going to be kind of like a halfway house?” Tandy-Sallee said.
“Not exactly,” Bell said. “It’s going to be a help to those who need help.”
Does that mean individuals who have been arrested for a sex offense, Tandy-Sallee asked, wouldn’t be allowed to live there? City preservation office Glenna Booth said the planning commission can’t make decisions based on that.
“He can rent to whoever he wants to. You’re looking at infrastructure,” Booth said.
“He’s also looking at rules and conditions,” Tandy-Sallee said.
“Not from your standpoint,” Booth said. “You’re looking at the infrastructure of the project. Who he rents to is his business. You don’t go around and tell other people who they can rent to.”
Bell said the project has the community in mind.
“What we’re trying to do is meet a need for the community,” Bell said. “People can’t find places to rent right now.”
Commissioner Tom Buford moved to approve the application for the project on the stipulation that parking requirements be included in the plan and a document will be filed saying the project will comply with the provision regarding the maintenance of common areas and the streets. The commission voted unanimously to approve the project.
The commission adjourned and moved into the Board of Zoning Adjustment meeting where Bell presented an application for a tree removal permit for the project. Commissioner Doug Breitling recalled a site visit to the area where the houses will be built, saying he was impressed by how few trees will be removed during construction.
“I think they’ve taken a great deal of effort to minimize the number of tree cuts that are involved,” Breitling said. “That is a very heavily wooded lot, so to do anything there is going to require a number of tree cuts. This is probably minimal impact.”
Bell said he has taken several measures to be sure the project doesn’t involve cutting down more trees than it needs to.
“We don’t want to cut any trees we don’t have to. We want this to be a low-impact, environmentally friendly project,” Bell said.
Breitling moved to approve the tree removal permit, and the commission agreed to do so.
The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, at The Auditorium.