As opponents of a proposal to rezone approximately 10 acres on Bobo Road from single family to multiple family housing continue to express their opposition, the developer has asked the Pine Bluff City Council to give him a chance to improve the city. Before the proposed ordinance was read for a second time Tuesday night, Darren Hale of Black Thunder Investments said his company has spent more than $1 million in developing housing in the city.
“Lots of communities seem to be moving forward, but here in Pine Bluff we don’t seem to be making any progress,” he said, listing businesses like Sears, Southwind Milling, Garfield’s, an auto dealership and others that have either closed down or moved out of the city.
Hale said that he had seen some attempts at life but mentioned another investor group that sought to have property in central Pine Bluff receive a resounding no because residents believed their property values would go down.
“Don’t send a negative message,” he said. “Vote in favor of rezoning.”
Because of the New Year’s Day holiday, the council met Tuesday.
While Hale asked for a yes vote, several residents asked that the council vote no, including Bill Smithwick, who said the area in question is currently zoned for single-family housing, and “duplexes will not enhance our property.”
Also asking for a no vote was Charlene Wright, who said she and her husband have lived in the Windsor Place area for eight years and chose that area because it was zoned R-1 (single family housing).
Wright said the area along Bobo Road has experienced electrical surges resulting in power outages and problems with trash collection — she believed those problems would increase if the area was rezoned.
“We feel we would be violated if elected officials change the R-1 zoning,” she said.
Ted Davis, the chairman of the Jefferson County Democratic Central Committee and a resident of the area, also spoke, saying that it would be naive to think that the city doesn’t have a housing crisis. He said part of the problem is that “we don’t have a comprehensive housing plan so that people won’t be confused about what type of purchase they were making.”
Davis spoke after the meeting, using the time that former Pine Bluff Alderman Glen Brown Sr. normally takes.
The ordinance will be read for the third and final time on Tuesday, Jan. 16, when the council meets at 5:30 p.m.
Monday of that week is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and city offices will be closed.
The council’s only other business on Monday was the adoption of a resolution allowing Mayor Shirley Washington to sign a contract with BKD, LLP to conduct a required 2018 federal audit of grant monies received by the city.
Finance Director Steve Miller said the city has used BKD in the past to do the audits but this time put it out on bid. Two other companies also submitted proposals, but Miller said after city officials compared the qualifications and experience of the three companies, they recommended BKD.
A proposed ordinance that would have implemented a marriage provision for certain retired Pine Bluff police officers was pulled by the city attorney’s office for further consideration before it could be read for a third time.
Two other proposed ordinances, one to increase the clothing allowance paid to Pine Bluff police officers and the second to give officers with more than 20 years of experience an extra day of vacation up to four days, were also pulled and will be sent back to the Public Safety Committee for consideration.
Alderman Donald Hatchett was absent Tuesday night. Washington said Hatchett was in a Little Rock hospital where he had undergone surgery.