By a vote of 5-3, the Pine Bluff City Council on Monday overturned a decision by the Planning Commission to deny a use permit for mental health facility that wanted to locate at the corner of 17th Avenue and Olive Street.
The council decided to allow the owner of the facility to prepare a new application to answer the questions that caused the initial rejection.
Ronald Kirby, the CEO of the People Advocating Transition (PAT) Center owns the house which is located at 1700 Olive St., and told the council he was trying to open up a clinic at that location to go along with his other location at 620 S. Laurel St., where he has been for about 10 years.
In their denial of the permit, the planning commission cited several issues, including a lack of information about how the facility will operate and particularly about the lack of parking near the intersection.
Regarding how the facility will operate, Kirby said it will offer services to children, adolescents, adults and families on an appointment basis. He said there would be no walk-in’s, and services would be offered only between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Regarding the parking, Kirby said he had already started on that and had all the trees in the backyard cleared in preparation for a parking lot that he said would accommodate 14 vehicles.
Speaking against the request. Charles E. Bruce, who identified himself as the owner of property at 1717 S. Olive St., said while there is a need for a facility such as Kirby wants to operate, his choice of 1700 S. Olive is “probably not good.”
Among his objections was the perception of residents who feared what the center’s clients might do, a possibility that the location would bring property values down, and “a busy intersection, one of the busiest in Pine Bluff.”
“Were looking for businesses to move into the city,” said Council Member Ivan Whitfield, who made the motion to overturn the planning commission decision and give Kirby time to submit a new application with more information.. “One block to the south is a palm reader. One more block and there’s a bill paying place. Across the street is a music place.
Whitfield said the area is currently zoned for both residential and business and if Kirby had wanted to open up a bed and breakfast, he would not even not even have had to go to the commission.
Council Member Joni Alexander, who is one of two members who represent the area where the house is located said she had reservation, mainly about the parking or lack of it, but a renewed application would have to go through inspection and zoning and the Arkansas Highway Department (because Olive Street is also a state highway).
“He needs to bring his A game to the commission,” Alexander said, adding that if neighbors have a problem with the use of the house, they could show up at the planning commission meeting to oppose a permit.
Whitfield, Alexander and Council Members Win Trafford, Steven Mays and Glen Brown Jr., voted to send the permit request back to the planning commission while council members Lloyd Holcomb Jr., who also represents Ward 1 where the house is located ,along with Council Members Bruce Lockett and Donald Hatchett voted no.