We can’t understand why anyone would oppose renovating the old Greystone mansion that’s nestled in thick woods off of Cherry Street at 40th Avenue. In the words of the late, great Andy Griffith, “Boy, that ‘shore’ is a mighty fine place. Mighty fine.”
We had an opportunity to explore the property this week and were struck by its old-world charm. Inside, thick carved wooden panels adorn many walls, and antique crystal chandeliers, which have no doubt hung above countless dinner parties and spirited conversations over the years, leave impressions like no modern home could.
Alderman Win Trafford and business partner Tom Reilley are asking the city to rezone the property of the historic home — Reilley is the chairman of Highland Pellets and a board member of the Pine Bluff Rising non-profit. Greystone is located in a neighborhood zoned R-1, for residential purposes. Trafford, a realtor who owns many local properties, is asking the city to change the zoning of the property to R-B, Residential – Commercial in order to operate it as a business.
Reilley mentioned the potential bed and breakfast in January at a community meeting of Pine Bluff Rising. He said then that Kaki Hockersmith, a Little Rock interior designer who decorated the White House during the Clinton presidency, had been contracted to decorate the interior of the Greystone residence in an effort to provide an upscale place for visitors to stay.
The Pine Bluff Planning and Development Commission on June 27 approved the re-zoning request by a 5-1 vote, with two commissioners absent and one abstaining. At a meeting Tuesday of the City Council’s Development and Planning Committee, assistant to the mayor Keidra Burrell repeated her opposition to the project, which she originally expressed at the June 27 meeting.
The Development and Planning Committee, comprised of Alderwoman Thelma Walker, Alderman Bill Brumett and Chairman Glen Brown Jr, voted to forward the proposed zoning change to the full City Council with no recommendation. Brummet supported the proposal, Walker opposed it and Brown abstained from voting on a recommendation.
Burrell, who said her home borders the Greystone property, said she was concerned about consistently applying zoning decisions, about a potential negative impact on surrounding home values and about “spot zoning,” or “the unjustified special treatment that benefits a particular owner.”
Burrell noted that in 2014 the planning commission unanimously rejected a request by Pamela Thomas of Pine Bluff to re-open a restaurant, event center and swimming pool at Eden Park, a former country club bordering the Greystone property that closed in the early 2010s.
With all due respect to Burrell, a quaint bed and breakfast would hardly draw the traffic or activity that a restaurant and events center would. You are talking about hundreds verses dozens of people. To us, there is no comparison.
We have investors who are willing to pour countless dollars into one of our city’s historic, grand old homes. It’s a no-brainer, really. So we ask that our City Council carefully study this issue and approve the property re-zoning. Remember, we are trying to move our city forward. And this is one way to do just that.
Our city’s old homes are windows into the past and can be gateways into our economic future. They must be preserved, if only we will allow them to be.