ES council tables request to reduce number of planning commissioners

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs Planning Commission’s request to reduce the number of members from seven to five hasn’t been denied, but it hasn’t been approved either.

On Monday, Jan. 14, the Eureka Springs City Council addressed the request to cut down the number of commissioners. Alderman Bob Thomas said he understands it’s hard to fill those positions, saying he’s not comfortable with the commission’s request because that would mean three people could make all the decisions for the commission.

“If there is a problem finding members, that’s something council should address but not by reducing membership,” Thomas said.

Alderwoman Melissa Greene agreed with Thomas and said she understands why the commission has trouble maintaining membership. Recalling her years of service on the commission, Greene said it’s tough to keep seven commissioners when council members are disrespectful to them.

“We’ve had great people on it. They’ve worked really hard at a lot of things,” Greene said. “They’ve come to the city council and a lot of times they’ve been horribly disrespected. We lost two chairs in a row because of how they were treated.”

Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said she’s heard constituents say they don’t like how planning commissioners also serve on council.

“People were upset about that, because every time it came to the B&B vote, we had planning commissioners on council,” Schneider said.

Mayor Butch Berry said that’s not the issue. The planning commission has asked to reduce the number of members, Berry said, because it’s tough to have a quorum with so few members. It takes four people to have a quorum on a commission of seven, Berry said, while it would only take three people on a commission of five.

“There are times where we may not have had a quorum,” Berry said. “Right now, we have four people on the planning commission. We have three vacancies. If one of those people are sick, that means there won’t be a quorum and no business will be done.”

Greene suggested tabling the issue over the next couple of months to see if the open spots are filled. She moved to defer the request until council’s first meeting in March, and the council agreed to do so.

Also at the meeting, Schneider asked the council to consider adding aggregate to the list of accepted sidewalk surfaces. Schneider said she’s been fighting for 10 years to add aggregate to the list, saying shop owners are responsible for repairing the sidewalk outside their property and it’s too expensive to use limestone or printed concrete.

“The aggregate that’s right over here on Benton Street … was laid at the same time as the limestone down here,” Schneider said. “It’s still in perfect condition, nothing wrong with it. It’s historical. It’s as old as the limestone, and it’s affordable and doesn’t break.”

Schneider continued, “Almost every town in the country has aggregate. We can actually get our sidewalks safe again after all these years of people not complying because they can’t afford to. This gives them a third option that is much more affordable and just as historic.”

Greene said she wasn’t sure about that. She remembered working on the sidewalk ordinance, saying printed concrete is an affordable alternative to limestone.

“It was a much, much cheaper alternative,” Greene said. “I’m just really afraid of going there. We’re losing more and more of our historic district and the integrity of it.”

Schneider said she’s a huge supporter of the historic neighborhoods in Eureka Springs.

“Like I said, aggregate is as old and as historic as limestone and what we’re looking at right now in regards to our sidewalks, especially our limestone, is no one can afford it,” Schneider said. “We have visitors tripping and falling. Aggregate is affordable, historic and if it’s not on the list, it sure as heck should be.”

Alderwoman Susan Harman said she has no problem with aggregate but would like to research it before committing to a vote. Schneider moved to defer the issue to the Historic District Commission, and the council agreed to do so.

In other business, the council approved a proposed ordinance for collection of expenditures for clean-up on a second reading, appointed McClung and Harman to the City Advertising and Promotion Commission and approved the meeting dates and rules of procedure for 2019.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, at The Auditorium.

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