Although a proposed ordinance to rezone approximately 10 acres on Bobo Road was read only one time by the Pine Bluff City Council Monday night, residents of the area lined up and signed up to speak against it.
The proposal would change the current R-1 zoning, which requires single family homes, to an R-3 designation so that a developer can build duplexes on property he owns.
“We’re concerned about the neighborhood,” said Larry Rasberry, who said he lives in the 5300 block of Bobo Road and described the proposed rezoning as “a step down.”
Saying he was speaking for a large contingent of neighbors, Rasberry said the concerns ranged from vandalism, trash and running property values down. He also said the road is narrow, and he was concerned about an increase in traffic.
Another resident, Bobby Johnson, said he bought a house in the area because it was a single family area, describing it as “well established, with low crime and well-maintained yards” with its R-1 designation.
“I know the investors are looking to make money, but I don’t want to lose money,” he said. “Rezoning is not in the best interest of the area.” Also speaking against the rezoning was Dorcas Vanguilder, who took credit for producing two flyers, the first on Dec. 16, where she said housing that has been built by Black Thunder Developers was poorly built, and a flyer the following day recanting that statement.
Vandgilder said the information from the first flyer came from another person, and after hearing complaints, checked out work the developers had done and “needed to make things right.” She said there are plenty of places in Pine Bluff where the duplexes can be built and presented a petition bearing the signatures of 85 residents who opposed the rezoning.
Gerald Edwards, who owns the land and is the one wanting to construct the duplexes, said the first flyer “had a negative impact.” He said Olive Branch Baptist Church, which is in the same area, is not opposed to the rezoning.
“There are over 600 condemned houses in Pine Bluff,” he said.
“People deserve clean, safe and affordable housing, and that’s what I’m planning to build.”
The proposed ordinance will be read twice more during January meetings of the council before a final vote. On another issue, with Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington casting the fifth vote, a proposed ordinance that would give local companies a buyer’s premium of 5 percent when they do business with the city was approved.
Alderman Win Trafford was absent Monday. The ordinance’s sponsor, Alderman Bill Brumett, said the idea came up at meetings of the Pine Bluff Small Business Association, of which he is the vice president.
“Our theme is think local, and it’s important to think local when buying,” Brumett said, adding that studies have shown that spending $10 a month or more at a local business instead of a national chain could generate $3 million to the local economy.
Brumett said he had learned that Ft. Smith and other cities in the state had similar ordinances, and after obtaining copies of them, the city attorney’s office created the ordinance that was before the council.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
Before the vote, Chris Warrior, a local contractor, told the council they needed to pass the ordinance to “give homegrown contractors an extra edge when going up against contractors from out of state.”
Warrior also urged the council members to use their influence to see that local contractors are included in Go Forward Pine Bluff projects next year.
Alderwoman Thelma Walker and Alderman Steven Mays joined Lockett in voting no on the proposed ordinance, and on an emergency clause which would have made the ordinance effective immediately. Since six votes were required for the emergency clause, it will take effect in 30 days.
Alderman Bruce Lockett pulled his proposed ordinance on creating a purchasing manager for the city. Also Monday, a proposed resolution that would have done away with partisan elections for members of the council and return the elections to a non-partisan basis died for lack of a second.