Eureka Springs council approves Sonic project appeal

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs City Council voted Sept. 28 to approve an appeal for a Sonic Drive-In at 104 Huntsville Road. The plan had failed to gain approval from the planning commission on Sept. 8 for lack of a majority.

Council member Harry Meyer kicked off the discussion by asking city attorney Tim Weaver if the application meets city code and Weaver said “it meets the specifications and requirements of the code.”

Council member Mickey Schneider then asked if the council has an image of a proposed roundabout near the Sonic’s location and Mayor Butch Berry said “there’s no plan for the roundabout yet.”

“If we approve, we go against the planning commission. Police have said no. Fire has said no. Public works has said no. The state has said no,” Schneider said. “All these different entities have said no, so if we say yes, what happens?”

Berry reminded the council that three of the four planning commissioners who voted on the application voted to approve it.

“Because it did not have four positive votes, the motion failed,” Berry said. “It doesn’t mean they were against it, so we don’t need to put words in their mouths here. The roundabout has nothing to do with this issue at this point in time.”

Council member Susan Harman said the proposed roundabout would come to the council for approval since it would mean spending taxpayer dollars. If the council approved the application for the Sonic, public works director Dwayne Allen said, it would cost the city $400,000 to move water and sewer lines to build the roundabout in the future. That’s because the roundabout would be moved to accommodate the Sonic, Allen said.

Allen said the city couldn’t “hold that against” the Sonic developers, but the project would require additional money from the city to build the roundabout at some point in the future.

“All the additional costs you’re talking about are based on if it’s approved in the future?” Harman asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Allen said.

Harman asked “where the roundabout discussion started” and Berry said he’s been talking about it with the state highway department for four or five years. Allen said the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) asked the Sonic developers to move the entrance and exit to Jordan Street instead of directly on Highway 62.

“They made that decision based on safety. Their decision was not based on the roundabout or our wishes as far as the driveway,” Allen said.

Council member Bob Thomas asked to speak with Tom Buford, the one planning commissioner to vote against the application on Sept. 8. Buford said the planning commission approved initial plans for the Sonic in February but received a revised application after ARDOT asked for the entrance to be moved.

“There was some information in the letter from public works that they were still waiting on ARDOT to get back to them on why they turned down the 23 South and Highway 62 entrance there to the property,” Buford said. “I just felt like until public works worked out with the developer on who was going to pay the cost of utilities, planning shouldn’t sign off on it.”

Council member Terry McClung said the city has no commitment from the state to fund the proposed roundabout and Meyer said it’s speculation on when the city would have to move water and sewer lines to build the proposed roundabout.

“The city hasn’t done anything. We didn’t get any drawings or proposals,” Meyer said. “It’s speculation until that comes before us. I don’t see why we need to speculate.”

“If you’re only planning for tomorrow, it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Allen said.

McClung said he couldn’t turn the project down based on the information presented to the council.

“I don’t see how we can restrict this,” McClung said.

McClung moved to approve the application “contingent upon a mutual agreement to the completion of the street and curb at Jordan Street.”

“It’s got to be mutually agreed upon,” McClung said.

“I think your motion is you want to approve this conditional upon the improvement of Jordan Street,” Berry said.

“Right, to the satisfaction of the public works director,” McClung said.

The council voted 5-1 to approve the motion, with Schneider voting no.

Also at the meeting, the council agreed to add a nepotism clause to the upcoming employee handbook and approved an ordinance waiving bidding for a bucket truck on all three readings, as well as the emergency clause.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12, at The Auditorium.

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