Council has marathon session; overturns P&Z decision

By Staff, 02/22/17 8:01 AM


PRESCOTT – February’s meeting of the Prescott City Council proved to be a marathon session lasting two-and-a-half hours Tuesday.

Two items on the agenda resulted in the lengthy session. The first was a discussion concerning the demolition of the Holly’s Health Care building on Elm St., as it shares a wall with the Curley Wolf pocket park. The other was an appeal from Malisa Malone about a decision made by the Planning and Zoning Committee to deny allowing a double-wide to be moved onto property on Ash St.

Starting with the pocket park issue, Mary Godwin, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, reminded the panel there are two pocket parks on Elm Street. One on the side near Ronnie’s Barbershop and the other across the street.

She said Ryan Harvey bought the old Holly’s Health Mart building and wants to tear it down. The problem is, she told the council, one wall of the building abuts the pocket park and also helps hold up a brick archway at the park’s entrance. She said if the building is demolished, the remaining wall won’t be able to stand on its own. This could become a safety hazard, especially as the arch would also fall should the wall collapse.

The other building involved, where Judge Duncan Culpepper’s offices were, is now owned by Clark Crellin who, she said, plans to make improvements to the structure.

City Attorney Glenn Vasser said his concern was more about the arch and how there could be a domino effect should the city’s wall fall and damage Crellin’s building. He said Harvey would need to have proper insurance should something happen.

Harvey spoke up saying he’s willing to work with the city and Crellin. He told the council the building, at this time, is being torn down by hand as the ceiling and floor have rotted. “It needs to be demolished. I’ll do what I can not to hurt the park.”

In the end, Harvey agreed to sign a contract with Crellin and the city to make sure everything is done according to law.

Malone addressed the council about being rejected by the P&Z committee after applying for permission to move a double-wide onto her property on Ash St. Malone was appointed to the P&Z committee at the council’s January meeting, but resigned citing personal reasons.

Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver told the council it had three options. It could grant her request to put the double-wide on Ash St., it could uphold the committee’s decision, or request more hearings by sending the appeal back to the committee.

Malone told the panel she began applying in September, 2016, filling out all the paperwork required. She said she called city hall daily for three months checking on the status of the application, but received no response. Eventually she was told to contact the Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce, where she was told to call Meredith DeWoody, who’s on the P&Z committee. Malone added she’s been living at the Ash St. address 25 years, but needs to replace her current home as it’s falling apart. She said she mailed out 10 registered letters and got nine back, with two people objecting to having a double-wide moved in. “I want to do better for me and my family.”

It was pointed out two people objected to the double-wide, one letter was returned as being undeliverable as the address was a vacant lot, and seven had no response. Councilman Susie Meeks said those who didn’t voice an opinion basically approved. However, the council was informed several pieces of property in the area are owned by mortgage companies and these companies rarely, if ever, respond.

DeWoody reminded the council of the ordinance it passed in 2015 concerning mobile and manufactured homes, stating the committee used this ordinance along with the one passes in 1979 on making its decision. DeWoody told the council the committee has been in turmoil the past year as four members have had to be replaced. The problem, she continued, is the committee getting the applications in a timely manner so decisions can be made more quickly.

Meeks asked how the committee could justify denying the application if there were only two owners disagreeing while seven didn’t respond.

She was told those owners weren’t the only reason the application was denied. DeWoody pointed out there are no other manufactured homes on that block, which consists of brick homes and multi-family structures.

Lauren Doucet, a member of the P&Z committee, said the committee was making sure all the “I’s” were dotted and “t’s” crossed, and part of the problem was the application hadn’t been notarized as required. Doucet added Malone was informed of this.

Councilman Jerry Hightower said there were other manufactured homes in the area, adding the committee should have done more to help Malone. He was informed the owners of the other manufactured homes didn’t go through the application process, and the city, basically, violated its own ordinance by hooking up their utilities. However, he began, saying there was an ordinance in place at the time, and repeated it several times, apparently ignoring the fact it wasn’t enforced by the city.

Councilman Bobbie Brown said the city has zoning ordinances and an application process that need to be followed.

During the application process Malone was, according to Doucet, asked if she had an alternative site where the double-wide could be placed if the application were denied. Malone said she did, but wanted to live on Ash St. where she’s been for 25 years.

“The committee’s decision,” Doucet said, “was based on the application being incomplete, and the double-wide not being compatible with other homes in the neighborhood.” She reminded the council the committee has denied other applicants in the past.

Everyone agreed the ordinance is confusing and needs to be rewritten. They also agreed there needs to be better communication between City Hall and committee members on getting the paperwork looked at more quickly. DeWoody told the council she and the committee didn’t get involved in this issue until December because they knew nothing about it.

Hightower said the current process works because he went through it. He asked if the committee would reconsider the application if Malone got the paperwork notarized Tuesday night, calling for the committee to hold an illegal meeting to make the decision. The meeting would have been illegal as it would have violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, which requires the media be given 48-hour notice for a regular meeting and two-hour notice for a special meeting.

DeWoody said the committee can’t base its decisions on emotion, but has to follow the ordinance and law because there are policies in place.

“I’m sick of it,” said Pat Grimes, a member of the committee. “We don’t get paid. You get $400 a month and are here 30-35 minutes a month. You’ve done nothing about electricity. We only voted on what the ordinance said, this isn’t a black and white issue. You act like we’re the bad people here, but we’re just following the ordinance.”

Councilman Howard Austin said he believes in following the rules, admitting the existing ordinance is confusing and needs to be cleaned up. However, he did a 180 by saying Prescott needs positive things to happen, and “if a double-wide is put in the middle of Prescott and it’s beautiful don’t mess with it.”

Brown and Councilman Tommy Poole, both asked what the point of having a P&Z committee is if the council won’t support it and the ordinance. They received no answer.

In the end the council voted 6-2 to overturn the committee’s decision and allow the double-wide to be moved onto the property. Brown and Poole were the dissenting votes.

Brown said the vote didn’t settle anything.

Members of the committee asked the city to suspend taking any more applications for manufactured homes until the process can be streamlined. It was pointed out part of the problem is at city hall, where Bruce Bean, office manager, and Connie Beard, code enforcement officer, haven’t been getting the applications to the committee in a timely manner.

Oliver said if the city stops taking applications, it’s telling people to go somewhere else because they aren’t wanted in Prescott. He began the meeting by asking the council to expedite things because he didn’t want to miss his Tuesday night shows.

In other business, William Colbert got the bid to mow downtown this year. His was the only bid received. Colbert also was the winning bidder last year. His bid was unchanged from 2016 at $290 per mowing.

The council also approved a resolution on the Nevada County Ambulance Service’s contract. Vasser pointed out the only change in the contract was the county reduced the amount of its donation while the city’s donation remains the same.

Perry Nelson explained about the water projects the city needs to refinancing its bonds to do. He told the council over the years the Water and Sewer Department has done projects to maintain and replace parts of the system, but due to financial constraints, portions of the projects were trimmed. The time has come, he continued, when these projects need to be done.

The top three, he added, are: the sewer on E. 3rd N, Hwy. 67, and on Webb St. “The first we heard was we could get $300,000 to do the projects, but this was increased to $600,000.” Nelson said the lines on Walnut and Elm streets are cast iron and are continually being repaired. The problem, he continued, is there are more projects needing to be done than the $600,000 can cover.

The council adopted a resolution to refinance the city’s bonds so work on the projects can begin. It was pointed out at best, work on these projects won’t begin until toward the end of the year because of the process involved. First, the bonds have to be sold, then engineers have to develop the plans. The project has to be let for bid and a contractor hired before work can begin.


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