A rezoning needed for a large housing development planned for Collins Jollie Road cleared its first hurdle Thursday night when the Conway Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend it to Conway City Council.
Although a community meeting about the issue held earlier in the week drew about 60 people, Thursday’s turnout probably included fewer than 20 people from the area and only five addressed the assembly.
Mike Wooten with DDC Engineering spent most of the time going over the plans for the development with the commissioners. The 828-acre parcel has an R-1 zoning designation and Wooten hopes to see 673 acres rezoned to a planned development district that will allow smaller lots.
The minimum lot size in the R-1 zone is 7,500-square-feet with a 75-foot width at the front. Wooten says the smaller lots he wants will have the same depth as an R-1 lot, but will be narrower, perhaps 60 feet across.
However, he said, the average lot size for the proposed plan is more than 7,000-square-feet.
He says changing the zoning will allow developers to add 26 retention ponds, an eight-acre passive park, a 25-foot tree buffer all around the property and four neighborhood commercial lots for a small business to keep residents from having to travel five miles or more to buy a loaf of bread.
Wooteen waved a 190-page traffic study saying the property owner is prepared to do whatever the traffic study says. It calls for Collins Jollie to be expanded to three lanes in some areas for turning. There will also be acceleration and deceleration lanes and sidewalks.
Bicyclist Kurt Schwinger might be responsible for one change in the plan that calls for sidewalks on both side of the road. Schwinger wanted a multipurpose path that is more suitable for the cyclists. He also wants to see a multipurpose path on Long Avenue.
Wooten then told the seven planning commission members that he thinks changing the two sidewalks into one multipurpose plan would work fine.
Schwinger said it’s hard to find places to ride now. Bicyclists can’t ride on U.S. 378, 701 or 501, due to the heavy traffic, he said.
But Collins Jollie has been a great place to ride, he said.
“Collins Jollie is a nice rural area. There’s no traffic,” he said, adding that riders can actually hear birds and occasionally catch a glimpse of a deer.
“Over time this is really going to create a lot of traffic over there,” he said.
Schwinger also supported Ara Leigh Beam’s concern about overstretching Conway’s police and fire staffs.
Wooten is promoting the idea of a development agreement that calls for a one-time $500 impact fee on every residence and an additional 4 mills of taxes added to each residence’s tax bill, forever.
Conway Police Chief Dale Long agreed that adding almost 2,000 residences will create some level of stress for his department, especially if calls are coming from the outer areas of the property or if the development is built out too fast.
Wooten estimates that build out could take 20 years.
Because the plan is for the development to come in phases, Long said it will be possible for his department to “upstaff” accordingly.
In an interesting sidelight Long says a robust economy isn’t good for him. When the economy is too good, people find better-paying jobs in fields other than police work, making it hard for him to recruit.
Part of the plan for the development is space for a new fire station, but Fire Chief Le Hendrick said a new station will add much more cost than just a building. He’ll have to have seven new firefighters and a fire truck. He is suggesting instead that the city move its Country Club Drive facility farther out Main Street where it will be close enough to the Collins Jollie area for the residences to able to be insured.
Conway City Council candidate Barbara Eisenhardt expressed concern about the retention ponds worrying that a child might fall in and drown. She wanted to know if the ponds would have fences.
Several of the people at the meeting joined in to explain that the retention ponds generally have v-shaped bottoms so they’re shallow enough around the edges that people can get out if they fall in.
The rezoning issue is on the agenda for a Conway City Council committee meeting Monday at 4 p.m. in the Conway City Hall.
Council will then hold two public hearings on the Collins Jollie question. Originally scheduled for Oct. 7 and 21, the meetings have now been delayed to Dec. 2 and 16 at 5:30 p.m. upstairs in the City Hall’s council chambers.