The Pine Bluff Planning Commission, meeting in regular session Tuesday afternoon, voted unanimously to disregard an unfavorable recommendation and forward a zoning change request on to the city council with a do-pass suggestion.

The Pine Bluff Planning Commission, meeting in regular session Tuesday afternoon, voted unanimously to disregard an unfavorable recommendation and forward a zoning change request on to the city council with a do-pass suggestion.

Ford Trotter of the Trotter Ford dealership here and local real estate agents Bill Ursery and Andy Lunsford addressed the commission in seeking the panel’s approval on a request to rezone approximately eight acres of property “generally” located on the southeast corner of Interstate 530 and Old Warren Road, east of Bobo Road. The site is currently zoned R-1 residential, and the requested change is to B-3 commercial.

Trotter Ford is seeking to construct a new dealership there. Only the body shop would remain at the firm’s current location on Olive Street.

Planner Alex Koenig of the Southeast Arkansas Regional Planning Commission based his unfavorable recommendation on the fact that the site “location is not designated for commercial development in both the long-range land use and transportation plans” for the city.

“The road network is not constructed for commercial traffic volumes or for larger commercial vehicles associated with the proposed use,” Koenig said in a written decision from which he read. “Other suitable sites are available within Pine Bluff for this use with similar or superior visibility to the subject property, such as the Olive Street and Harding Street interchanges. Moreover, the transportation infrastructure is already in place for these locations for commercial development.”

Ursery was representing the late W.E. Bobo’s family, which owns the 50-acre site on which the questioned eight acres is located. Lunsford was representing the Trotter family, which has not yet purchased the eight-acre site.

Ursery urged the commission to consider recent news accounts of Pine Bluff’s population decline over the past decade as the highest within the state. Actually, a recent CNN report stated that Pine Bluff has the nation’s fastest-shrinking population. Bemoaning a lack of business construction here and Smart Chevrolet’s relocation to White Hall, Ursery called the potential Trotter Ford construction “a multimillion dollar deal.”

Lunsford, a White Hall alderman, referenced Smart Chevrolet in telling commissioners that other cities are being proactive in recruiting new firms and Pine Bluff should make an effort to create “good news” in attracting more businesses.

Larry Gragg, who resides on Bobo Road near the projected building site, spoke against the development, saying it would bring “a total change of pace for the entire community,” which he described as “quiet.”

Koenig told the commission that “understanding the dynamic nature of plans and seeing long-range plans as both ‘snapshots in time’ and as guides to be modified as conditions change and opportunities are presented,” he realized the panel “might determine this location to be suitable for commercial development.”

Commissioner Steve Huselton motioned for the do-pass recommendation to the council, adding a qualifier that before occupancy is granted, necessary improvements be made at the site so that it satisfies city street department standards on additional traffic.

“We’ve got to bring more families in,” Huselton said. “We can’t lose any more business.”

Commissioner Joe Clement, an employee of Simmons First National Bank, recused himself from voting, citing a possible conflict of interest since a Trotter family member is a director of the bank.

Voting with Huselton were Evelyn Blunt, Frank Hartwick, Gordon Reese and Lou Taylor.