Full transcript of City Council on the Village Development Hearing (the 3rd Reading Sept. 16, 2014)

Ordinance Number 14:052

 

 An Amendment  was adopted at the beginning of this city council meeting,  but the decision to approve or disapprove the village development  was postponed with a "postpone temporary" vote.  Only two aldermen voted against the postponement of the village development, Vance and Frierson. That amendment can be found at this link: http://jonesboro.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=3258474&GUID=0D5C6167-DF9F-4BD8-B052-49F236E99EA0

 

Mayor Harold Perrin then asks for opposition to come and speak and state your name and address. 

 

Tom Reeves:  Honorable Mayor and city council.  My name is Tom Reeves, and my wife and I have been residents of Jonesboro since 2000 after we retired and moved here from Houston, Texas.  I oppose the Greensboro Village because I think it is wrong for Jonesboro and wrong for our country. Stated in its simplest form, it is part of a nationwide regionalism plan to silence voters and local officials so that unelected regional officials can dictate what happens in our local area. If you do not understand that regionalism plan and how it works, you will not be representing Jonesboro's citizens if you approve the Village without that understanding.

 

It makes me very uncomfortable to say what I am about to say because I am not a self-touting person; however, I believe it would be beneficial for you to be aware of the experience from which I speak. I am an attorney, member of the State Bar of Texas; my status is retired.  I am a Certified Public Accountant in the States of Mississippi and Texas, retired status also. I spent more than 35 years working for one of the largest multi-national corporations in the world.  Early into my career I was chosen to participate in the economic evaluation of some of the largest pipelines in the world, including the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System, the purchase of businesses that would be included in the Fortune 500 and countless other multi-million dollar projects. [This paragraph may not be exact but very close.  Tape was muffled and I had to put this paragraph together with the help of Tom's notes]

 

One of my responsibilities during the last one-third of my career was to protect our company from loss due to bankruptcy of our customers. I was involved in many high profile multi-million dollar bankruptcies, including Enron.   I have seen many companies ruined by theft, defalcations, greed, mismanagement, and debts they could not pay.  Attempts to deceive were ever present. 

 

I am going to only make one comment regarding Agenda 2, and that is that the village is a classic Agenda 21 (3P)  public-private partnership. It has every characteristic.  At least one village  developer  has a serious conflict of interest and a strong tie with Jonesboro's Vision  2030 which began as a verbatim  Agenda 21 document. To approve the village without an understanding of the Agenda 21 connection fails to protect our citizens, whose best interest you have the responsibility to protect. 

 

The excessive cost of the village is a warning to you. A disproportionate share of a public- private partnerships across the US have failed.  One of the most prevalent characteristics in 3P's project is that the private investors go bankrupt midway through the project, leaving taxpayers on the hook and city leaders with significant problems to deal with.  The excessive cost should be a warning to you. In fact, it says to me that something is not right.  It's so blatant that I don't think you can ignore it.

 

About the only thing I really have time to do is just to leave you with some questions that I think you need to consider. Some of them are

 

·       Do the developers and private investors have sufficient unencumbered assets to complete the village?    

·       Has the City Council made enforceable arrangements with the developers and owners and the ‘private investors’ to insure  that they  do not drain their corporations' financial capabilities through excessive salaries and bonuses during completion of the Village – thereby forcing them into bankruptcy? 

·       Has the City Council required that the all the developers and private investors personally and corporately indemnify the City of Jonesboro and its taxpayers from loss of any kind that would be associated with the completion of the village?  If the private investors are not willing to do that, then that should raise some questions in your mind.

·       Have any of the developers or ‘private investors’ declared personal or corporate bankruptcy in the past?  If so, what assurance does the City Council have that they can complete the Village without doing so again?

·       And one of the most challenging questions I think you are going to have to face is that if the "private investors" become bankrupt at any time during the construction of this village, what are the city council's plans for completing the village and who pays for its completion?

 

No matter what degree of trust you have in these developers and private investors, my experience is that it is not prudent to enter into transactions like the village without adequate security for the full and complete performance of all the developers and/or private investors.

 

Of all the economic evaluations that I have been involved in, I have never seen a single one that did not have at least one significant factor mitigating against starting the project. Yet what we have seen from the developers is not one single factor mitigating against this project. From their point of view, it is risk free.  It can only be risk free if they have shifted those risks to someone other than themselves, and that someone else can only be the city of Jonesboro and its taxpayers.  

 

We keep hearing that private investors are funding the project and assuming all the risks.  That doesn't impress me a lot.  The implication is that if anyone is a private investor involved in a project, then that investor has the financial capability to complete it. I would like to remind you that Enron was a private investor.  Their success was touted by their CEO, institutional investors, and  mutual funds all across the country - they were so enamored with Enron's apparent success that they failed to do their due diligence; and they caused the loss of millions of dollars for thousands of people. And they ruined people's lives in the process of doing that. 

 

A characteristic, and this is my experience from my first years, of a shaky company is that the more they tout their capability, the less likely they are to be able to perform.  I have seen that happen time and time again.  That should be a huge worry to you guys.

 

To protect the city and their taxpayers from loss I recommend that 3P's should not be allowable for funding housing projects or mass transit systems without clear disclosure of the cost and taxpayer obligations over 40 years and full approval by the citizens of the area that is involved in this process.  What we are seeing is an exact opposite of that. 

 

I want to thank you for listening to what I have to say, and I request that you deny approval of the village completely.  I don't think it is in Jonesboro's best interest, and I don't think it ever will be. I request that you allow Jonesboro voters the opportunity to approve or disapprove this project.  Thank you very much.   

 

[A guest editorial on the 3P's ( private/public partnership) and further information can be found at this link: http://www.wpaag.org/Agenda%2021%20-J'boro%20village%20guest%20editorial%20by%20retired%20attorney.html ]

 

Mayor Perrin:  Thank you Mr. Reeves

 

Chris Moore: Mayor, I would just like to say to Mr. Reeve's statement that this is a public/private partnership that to my knowledge and your statements at the last two  city council meetings that this is NOT  a public/private partnership, and would you once again reaffirm that for everyone in attendance here tonight.

 

Mayor Perrin:  This is a private development.

 

Alderman Chris Moore: That's correct.  Strictly a private development with no taxpayer money.

 

Tom Reeves: - They all start that way.

 

Phillip Cook: My name is Phillip Cook.  I live at 5216 Richardson Drive and I agree with the fellow [referring to Tom Reeves who spoke just before him]. I totally oppose this plan.  I have not seen or heard anything where they are going to guarantee the city is not going to get stuck footing the bill. I'm a taxpayer; my taxes are high enough in this town.  Our police officers do not get their raises; the firemen do not get their raises; and other janitorial and sanitation department people do not get their raises.  Yet we find things to do with our  money that we supposedly don't have.  (There was another sentence or two but my tape cut off at this point.)

 

Comments by Debbie Pelley: (And I forgot to give my name and address again as I am supposed to do)

 

Debbie Pelley: The first thing I want to mention is the complexity that is involved with all of this. I know that in our society there is a move to circumvent elected officials.  There is a move to do away with school board officials, for example.  What you have, as I have studied this, and I know there a lot of areas that I don't have knowledge of;  it is very complex, so complex that as working individuals that don't have time to give your complete time to this, there is no way for you to keep up with all the complexity.  Therefore, what you wind up doing is you hire city planners who have degrees in urban planning, etc where they have been taught all this stuff, and they come back and recommend things to you.  You  see part of the picture, but you don't see all of it because they do it in such incremental stages that you don't know what the end result is  going to be.  But they do;  and they know what they are doing with the increments.

 

Another one  is that I think that this village is going to set a precedent.  And according to Harpole, he did say "Greensborough Village will redefine how development is done in Jonesboro and Northeast Arkansas."  (By the way, Gary Harpole understands all this.  I know he does.) "This is the region's first true master plan mixed use development"  he says and "it will set new standards in every category." And then in their application [the developers' application they submitted to city planners] they were asked what is the purpose of the proposed rezoning and why is rezoning necessary and their [developers] answer was "TO PROMOTE PEDESTRIAN ORIENTED MIXED USE (RESIDENTIAL/COMPLEMENTARY COMMERCIAL) DEVELOPMENT GROWTH IN JONESBORO."   So it is not just one.  I know in the MAPC hearing they talked about this being just one development; but it is not; there will be others come forth.  You wait and see. [Underlining added, but questions on the application were typed in regular font, but developers' answers were in Caps]

 

Another one is lack of transparency.  I noticed on their application, there is a question that says, "How do neighbors feel about the proposed rezoning?  Please attach minutes of the neighborhood meeting held to discuss the proposed rezoning or note from individual discussions.  If the proposal has not been discussed with neighbors, please attach a statement explaining the reason.  Failure to consult with neighbors may result in delay in hearing the application." Their answer on that application was simply:  "MEETINGS WERE NOT HELD TO DISCUSS THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT."  And people who live in that area have told me that they noticed they started the project from behind and only later went to the front, and they felt that was to hide from the community what was going on.

 

Another one on the application which says, "How would the proposed rezoning affect nearby property including impact on property value, traffic, etc.  Then they answered, "THIS REZONING SHOULD NOT ADVERSELY AFFECT ANY OF THE ABOVE.  Everybody knows it is going to affect the traffic.  Everybody knows it is. So I think they [developers] put false information in there [the application.] 

 

And why the city planners allowed them to go forward with this application without the neighborhood meeting, I don't know.

 

Another one is the density and the crime. On the density on their application they [developers] said, "NOT KNOWN AT THIS TIME."  And it appears from the Land Use Plan [and the Town Center Overlay description] they can legally have up to 14 units per acre, and that would be 56 people an acre if there were four people to a unit. They talk about it [the village]  being built according to the Land Use Plan.  And that is what the Current Land Use Plan says.

 

And then the conflict of interest. I know that Gray Harpole oversaw Vision 2030 and the Multifamily Study which came back and said there should be no limits on multifamily. I know that Jerry Halsey was appointed to the Advisory Committee on the Land Use Plan which was necessary for this [the village] to happen, and that was in 2013.  Both men [developers] have said that this [village development] has been in the planning stage for two years so he knew at the time he was appointed to the committee that this [village] would be planned.

 

And then Mayor, I asked you four questions in an email, and I didn't get an answer.  I wish you would answer them for me tonight.  I know you say this is a private investment.  I think there is a lot more to it than that, and one of the questions I asked is, "Are there or will there be any city funds or taxpayer money given to the developers of Greensborough village?

 

Mayor Perrin:  The answer is no.

 

Debbie Pelley:  Okay, are there any kind of grants or tax breaks being used for this Greensborough Village development of which you are aware, and will the grant writer for the city be involved in acquiring grants in any form for this project in the future?

 

Mayor Perrin:  There are no grants at this time at all for this project.

 

Debbie Pelley:  But you can't say about the future?

 

Mayor Perrin:  Well, I would say.  Right now I can't tell you Yes  or No on that, but I don't see any for the future.  There is no grant.  We got approximately 19 FOI's today, and it's amazing that all those same questions are the same ones from different people scattered from Tennessee all over Arkansas.

 

Debbie Pelley:  I am glad (interrupted)

 

Mayor Perrin:  Just a minute, let me finish; and I will let you do that. On that deal the question was "is there any grants ever been applied for on that project?"  The answer is absolutely No.  And Heather Clements has already sent her request back with answers to all those questions; that will be coming out on the FOIA.

 

Debbie Pelley:  I am glad you mentioned that because I forgot to mention that the information that came out from Secure Arkansas, I had nothing to do with that.

 

Mayor Perrin:  I am just saying (interrupted by Pelley)

 

Debbie Pelley:  I want to make that clear.  I know Keith [Jonesboro Sun reporter] did email me, and he had called me; but I was out of town yesterday; and as soon as I got his email, I told him that was their research; I haven't sent it on to anybody. I don't pass on anything that I haven't researched myself, and I had nothing to do with the FOI.

 

Mayor Perrin:  I understand, and I sent you a note this afternoon. You can check that.

 

Debbie Pelley:  I will do that. On the grant itself [I said grant but changed to application] on the application this is what they [developers]  said on it.  "Usable outdoor space shall be privately owned and maintained by the developer or property owners' association." And then it says, "However, if...a particular usable open space serves not only the patrons of the development but the greater community as a whole, the City may provide assistance to aid in the development and maintenance of the public space." [Underlining added] So it wouldn't take very much to meet that threshold - for them to get assistance [from the city]. That is what is written in their [developers'] application. Can be found at this link, under (g) 5 [this comes under the Town Center Overly (TC-O) requirements listed in the application. .5http://jonesboro.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=3210730&GUID=23144870-CFEA-4CF1-86E3-7E24A80F0849

 

Debbie Pelley: Okay, then we asked before how many units of housing will you have for the approximately 2,500 people and what is the square footage of the smallest unit you will have? We did not get an answer on that. We would like that.

 

These developers have described these apartments as affordable housing and also as upscale community.  In terms of rental value of the apartments, what will be the cheapest apartment for rent - that's an estimate of course?

 

I want the developers to answer, " Have you applied for grants, awards, or any other  type help from the government or private foundations? Or do you plan to do so in the future?  Because I know, and that is what Tom Reeves knows, from past experience that there all other kind of grants and different things they can get.

 

 [We learned later according to newspaper articles  that the developers did ask  that a possible five lane street to ease traffic problems  paid for by the city be run through their village, but the Mayor told them the city could not take funds and put it on a private development, but evidently the state can according to the Jonesboro Sun:  "Tax money could travel through Greensborough Village, but only if it works out for the benefit of the state highway system, a member of the Arkansas Highway State Highway Commission said Friday.  One of the options for reducing traffic congestion at Old Greensboro Road (Arkansas 351) and East Johnson Avenue (U.S. 49) is a proposal by developers of the proposed 201-acre mixed-use development to build a five-lane road through the property."  AHTD is quoted as saying, "When there's ever an opportunity to do it as a public-private partnership, we love those," Scott said in a telephone interview. (This was in relation to the possibility of the five lane street (Highway 351) running through the village. But the decision has not been made yet, at least not made public yet.]

 

Then the last point, this development is being done in ten phases [I should have said five phases over a period of ten years], and it looks to me like if you rezone the property that you basically lose control -  because when they do the first phase or two, and you are not happy with it or you have unintended consequences, then what are you going to say?  "We are going to leave it uncompleted" - because that may be a worse problem than the unintended consequences are.  And then I think other developers  will come forth and ask for this [village type development] also.

 

Mayor Perrin:  Check your email.  I did send you one on that,  and I appreciate you letting me know that. [that meaning I had not written the posts on Secure Arkansas website as implied in the newspaper article]

 

Debbie Pelley:  I believe you.

 

Mayor Perrin:  Thank you very much.

 

Man from Sage Meadow [I did not get his name. I believe he said he was a board member at Sage Meadows but not sure. Sage Meadows is a development fairly close to where the Village is supposed to be built.  I have been told that Sage Meadows is quite similar in some ways to what the Village might be like if it is approved]  The only objection that I have has to do with traffic.  The reason I have a concern is  - you will remember that a few months back we had a concern with the apartments and their traffic.  And this council and the Mayor failed to ask - we asked to have a hearing for you to hear us.  You did not choose to fight that judgment, on the reports  and so - by the way, the road out that  was promised at the Mayor's office to be completed in March; it's still not completed;  it's still there just like we knew it would be.  But anyway, that's why I have a concern.  This morning at 7:50 from the stop light at the NEA hospital to the next stop light which is at Dairy Queen and Burger King,  the next stoplight at Kum & Go, the next stop light at Johnson, it  was 100% full. No cars could get through, except what could get through a  light,  that far back. And we hear the traffic is going to be looked at, but we have not been told how it's going to be corrected;  and I don't see how we could go to such a structure as this village and not have the infrastructure to help with the traffic.  We are concerned with this traffic.  This council has not helped Sage Meadows.  This development is more for the city.  I would ask that you would take care of this, the traffic problem, before you allow any housing development on that property.

 

Mayor Perrin: Let me comment to you while you are at the mic there,  please.  You say that this council has failed to complete that road on that deal, and that is a joint effort between the city and the county. It is subject to the developers getting all his roads, and we told him that.

 

Man from Sage Meadows [Interrupting]  In your office we were told that it would be completed in March, you and, I am just saying.

 

Mayor Perrin:  Excuse me.  Only after - that's where this thing gets off deal; only after the developer, Kelly Copeland, completes that ­­­(a couple words I could not understand) so where we hook on to it, then we will do that;  and we are still ready to do that.  It may be November; it may be next year.

 

Man from Sage Meadows: I've been there five years, and this road has not been completed.

 

Mayor Perrin:  Well, you need to be talking to the developer.  I just want you to understand when you make a comment like that.

 

Man from Sage Meadows: We came back and asked you'll to hear us, and you said No.

 

Mayor Perrin:  That was based on a legal issue and I won't get into that because I cannot comment on it.

 

Man From Sage Meadows.  You still said No.

 

Mayor Perrin: I just want you to understand that.  Thank you very much.

 

Mayor Perrin: Anyone else in the audience.

 

Rick Cheshier:  I'm Rick Cheshier, and I live at 205 Hillpoint Cove,  here in Jonesboro, Arkansas [near the village development]  There's not a lot I can add except my concern with what everybody else has said.  You just heard a good example of where developers are not following through because as you just said, Mayor, you're waiting on the developer so what's liable to happen with this [village]  just happened in Sage Meadows development.

 

I think we're all foolish here to not realize that this property is going to be developed.  I mean I've heard this property between where Stadium is on out towards the hospital is called the golden corridor now.  My biggest concern is just there are too many questions that have not been answered up here. Just like the last ordinance that you'll adopted for this;  we have definitely not been told what the answer to this  property is going to be.  I've  got here Otis Spriggs' comments from his last notes that he had as to what it should be;  look you know nobody has said what this is going to be.  You're fixing to drop 80 acres -  population is somewhere between Brookland, Arkansas and Harrisburg, Arkansas on us .  Is this really the best use of this property?

 

As I said, I am not against this property; I know it is going to be developed, but it needs to be developed properly.  You know there needs to be some kind of good requirements because this is one of the major, if not the major, corridor that people coming into Jonesboro are going to see.  You have said that there is going to be a five-lane road through here which is really not going to help the traffic coming into Jonesboro from 351.  If anything, it is going to impede it because number one it's going to be a longer distance since it is kind of serpentine through there.

 

And  also since this is a brand new development, what is going to be done about the residential on one side trying to cross into this area on the south side where all the businesses are. [ Developers' map shows a five-lane road running through the village that is probably Highway 351 with the residential on one side of the five-lane street and the commercial  on the other side for this supposedly quite little walkable village. Cheshier had pointed that out at the MAPC hearing on this issue. ]  

 

As it stands right now, it is pretty dangerous.  I would like to see you'll trying to cross the road up there at Hilltop during the busy hours with what's going on there.  As I said, number one, there's not been any kind of answers at all as to the number of lots and what the total density is going to be.  I think you'll as city council members should weigh that into this. Also based off the last reading of the resolution, I'm confused as to what building codes now will be utilized to develop this property.  Have you'll been told what the density and the lot sizes are going to be?  I've heard 70% is going to be dedicated, if that is correct, to single family dwellings.  Just how many lots can you put on 80 plus acres and how big are the lots and streets out there? That's my big question is how is it going to be developed with this going into Jonesboro like that?  That's all I have. Thank you.

 

Mayor Perrin:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Anyone else want to speak on that?  All right.  If you will, please come to the podium and state your name and address for the record, please.

 

Garland Martin:  Hello, my name is Garland Martin  I reside at 4204 Sage Meadows Boulevard, Jonesboro.  I am going to be real short, and I am not talking about physically either [he was a short guy and everyone laughed with him]  I just ask everyone of you to ask yourself one question.  If this was within 200 feet of your home, would you support it?  We have entirely too much high family density on the north side of town.  You're just letting it run rampant.  If you are going to do this, how are you going to continue to protect that southwest side of town which doesn't seem to get that much because how can you ever oppose any other developer that wants to do high density in that golden Valley View School District that seems to get supported.  So I just ask if that [the village] were within 200 feet of your home, would you be glad to see it; would you want them for your neighbor?  If you can't say yes, you had better vote no.  Thank you.

 

Mayor Perrin:  All right, thank you.  Anyone else.  Yes, if you would, please come up and state your name.

 

Sheryll Cheshier:  I missed very first part of hers - only a sentence or two]  One of my questions is who is going to maintain all this landscaping, light bulbs, and everything else in the subdivision?  Who?   [Gives them time to answer, and no one does.]  If they can't get or keep enough property owners to fund the Property Owners' Assocation, who's taking care of all this?  Anybody? (waiting on someone from council to answer.) You don't have an answer?  They're going to have trees that touch over the top [of streets]. Leaves are going to fall off those trees.  Trees are going to get damaged in windstorms and ice storms. Light bulbs will need changing.  Trails need to be maintained.  No one can give me an answer?  Pauses again for answer.

You need to think about these things people.

 

Mayor Perrin:  Anyone else.

 

Delores Kohler:  I waited until the last and I almost chickened out.  [this was a fairly lengthy discussion between her and the Mayor so I am transcribing some of the main points. She said she has lived in Jonesboro more than 40 years.]

 

This project, to me, just to me personally, seems like it has been kind of rushed through and forced on people that are going to be the people that live around this project…

 

I can't say that I understand this whole project and concept of it, but it seems to me that it has been sold as a project where people can have a sense of community; they can know their neighbors; they don't have to go miles to shop for groceries or for entertainment - where they just have a community atmosphere. But the irony of this project for me has turned out to be that we are now probably, almost assuredly going to have a four or five lane highway going through this nice little supposedly quiet little neighborhood where people are just  going to live in you know, a nice little community.  That's just so ironic to me…

 

I feel like that having watched the replays of this council meetings and the questions that have been asked and not answered that the people who are going to be most affected should have their answers.  Because if you can't give them these answers, how can you possibly make an informed decision on how to vote…

 

Is there anyone sitting here who can tell me or can describe for me what would be the typical resident in this community.  Who would be the person that this village would be marketing to.  Is there anybody? [Pauses giving them time to answer.]  I thought not.  I am sorry to say I thought not.  We don't know what we are getting folks.  I mean I just really don't think we know.  We are trusting and relying on the things that are being told to us by those who have the most to gain…All of this in Jonesboro has led us to be divided over this because it has led us to think that you'll aren't telling us everything, but I'm beginning to think that you'll just don't know everything; and that's even worse.  Because we are depending on you'll to represent us…I beg you, don't let us down.  Give us an opportunity to have our questions answered.

 

I would just like to ask the Mayor a question. With everything that has been going on in terms of letters to the editor; articles written in the paper; people having expressed what they feel in terms of what has led us, because we can't get answers, to believe that you guys don't know the answers or that you are unwilling to give the answers.  Neither of those is a good thing, and it leads people to believe that we're being sold a pig in a poke so to speak.  And I just wonder if you would take this opportunity to just address the fact as to why we feel this way and why we shouldn't?

 

Mayor Perrin: First of all, let me just say this.  This is a rezoning on this property. The council, I believe, on June 3rd, passed an ordinance for mixed used development to be there.  Obviously, the council and the Mayor studied that ordinance at that time.  That's number one.  Number two, the proposed  application for this development regardless of what it is, you have an application in front of you for mixed use development.  And that is what is before us tonight, do we approve or disapprove this mixed use development on that piece of property.

 

Delores Kohler:  For that person?

 

Mayor Perrin: That's correct, for that purpose.

 

Delores Kohler:  No, for that purpose or that applicant?

 

Mayor Perrin:  That is what I am saying, for that applicant. That's correct.  Now, there are a lot of things that have been brought up tonight in the deal which all of us I am sure, I can't speak for everybody - only myself, is to look at the traffic, to look at all the things that you have said tonight, no question about that.   And again, just like the traffic study, I'm assuming that in this ordinance it is required that they have to do a traffic study in order to proceed on and get approval to do any section of development within that area.  That's number one.  Number two, anything else that we have in here and what was done tonight, I don't know if everybody knows what was done, is that basically the amendment to this ordinance basically what they done is they restricted - there was so much conversation the first time I think that this was read about multifamily housing.  Everybody was concerned about the number of multifamily units to be put in there.  Tonight they restricted themselves,  correct me if I am wrong, but they corrected themselves and restricted it to 30% [multifamily] only and 70% residential. The second thing is that the other restrictions on there is that if any of these people change any part of that development as it is presented today, it has to come back to this body, to this council for approval regardless of what they try to change or what they have already submitted to the Planning Department and the MAPC.  So anything or any change on that would have to come back to this body to be approved.  So you are asking me, and that is exactly what I am saying.   

 

Delores Kohler:  But what about the perception?  The growing perception that there is lack of transparency about all of this?

 

Mayor Perrin:  What do you mean by growing?  I need to understand. (interrupted)

 

Delores Kohler:  There is more and more -  more letters to the editor about conflict of interest and about  lack of transparency and about an agenda that is not apparent.  What about all of that?  What would you say about that that maybe might make us feel like you  know - It just hasn't been addressed.

 

Mayo Perrin: For the transparency; we've had this on three different readings, and we have looked at that and we have even added the addendum tonight. On conflict of interest I don't understand.  I guess your definition of conflict of interest -   I don't know what you are saying there.

 

Delores Kohler:  I am not making the allegation (Interrupted)

 

Mayor Perrin:  I understand that.  But what is the conflict of interest?

 

Delores Kohler:  Well, from what I have heard,  this man Gary Harpole has a personal financial interest in something that he has been able to more or less lay the paving for up until now for him to make it easier for him to do this development. Is that what I am hearing? Am I hearing this wrong?

 

Mayor Perrin:  I don't know what you are hearing.  First of all, Gary Harpole served as my Operations Director.  During that time this city wanted to do a comprehensive plan. What they have done in the past is they planned in segments and never did anything in a total comprehensive plan.  The 55 members commission board that I appointed for that which Mr. Dover co-chairs along with Mr. Harpole.  We pulled out in the audience Mr. Mark Young, that was in there about a conflict of interest; but there was absolutely no conflict of interest, in my opinion, at all.  His job is economic development; he has expertise; he has certified planning in that area.  The second thing is that we looked at every segment of this economy on Vision 2030; that is what we're talking about.  We looked at health care, medicinal care, we put in Dr. [I couldn't understand his name] who is the dean of probably the best college of nursing in the state of Arkansas.  Number two, we looked at  and had people on there that are highly trained on the professional end of highway and traffic.  Every seam of this economy, the quality of life was in that Vision 2030.  Vision 2030 is only a guide that we are looking at as we try to recruit for the economical development for this city.  It was not passed by the city council and is just strictly a guideline that we used to recruit industry and things of that nature. [My note: However, this village development plan came right out of Jonesboro Vision 2030]

 

This city received the quality of life award, the state award last year.  The year before that your city won the workforce planning city award for the state of Arkansas.  Another award that this city won was a quality of life, workforce training, and there was another one we have been trying to do.    I want to tell you that the infrastructure of this city is very much a big priority of mine.  There are two things:  quality of life and infrastructure - that is getting people through our city safely; and that's why this city has put in a lot of right turn lanes; we've hired traffic engineers; we have synchronized stoplights there.  We are the only city in the state of Arkansas out of the whole United States to get a $1.2 million Tiger grant to look at the overpass on Highway 18 and Highland.  I will be attending the Highway Commission meeting tomorrow, which I attend every Highway Commission meeting in Little Rock. We have done extensive work in traffic in this town.  However, in my opinion, we have six projects with the highway department right now that they're studying. This is one of them, on that road and Johnson, and Highway 49.

 

The highway department has not come up with specific recommendations, whatsoever.. They don't know that yet. Will  you go under the highway, and come back to decelerated lane; will  you do a loop over on that curve; they have no idea yet.  I was with them in Little Rock Friday; I will be there again this Wednesday to look at about seven projects in the city.  I want to tell you the city has right now a need of over $100 million of traffic infrastructure that we need tomorrow.  Your town is growing at 21/2/ to 3% per year.  I do not see anything out there that will cause that growth to go down. Okay.  Why and what happened to Highway 49 was because Baptist put a hospital there and what happened to both sides of those roads?  They were always residential, and everyone of those today are what?  Commercial.  What's going to go behind there?  Residential, okay.  That's why we put the stop light at Clinton school road to try to deteroriate some of that traffic and slow it down.

 

We need an eastern bypass to connect to 49 all the way over to 63.  There's no question in my mind that we need that.  Now there's a lot of things that we are going to have to do in this city to get to where we are at, okay,  and that is in the traffic area. I cannot tell you what we need to do today or tomorrow; we are just simply planning to do the best we can with the use of highway department, federal highway transportation.  In fact, I've just been invited to go next month to St. Louis Federal Highway Transportation Authority to come up with ways in which to plan and do comprehensive planning for the future.  The highway trust fund is broke; the federal government will tell you that trust fund is broke; there's no money in there as of August of this year.  And the people that you and I elect as your congressmen and senators have got a real tough decision to correct that problem.  Because what they do now is strictly on the gas tax that we send to them and comes back. Okay.  I have no idea what they're  going to come up with.  We have looked at it and study it every day in my office.  But I am just telling you that we are doing the best we can on all the things that you just asked me for. 

 

[My note: One of the reasons the highway trust fund is broke is because they gave all these grants to bike paths, sidewalks, public transit,  and other things other than to highways. And why add all the traffic that 2,500 people in this village will add to an almost impossible traffic situation as it is even now?]

 

Delores Kohler:  Not exactly all the things I asked you for. It sounds like and I agree that the city [lost a few words here]not  It doesn't matter how many awards are won; it doesn't matter how many studies have been done; it doesn't matter how many meetings you attend here, there and yon.  It just doesn't matter.  If the people in this city, the homeowners who have asked questions for two or three weeks cannot get their answers; these all are just bells and whistles.  I mean it's wonderful; don't get me wrong; I'm not against you'll; I am not against this project.

 

Mayor Perrin:  I understand that.

 

Delores Kohler:  I just know there have got to be answers, with all this work and all this study, and all these meetings that are done, we ought to have ready answers. (Interrupted by city councilman Gene Vance)

 

Alderman Gene Vance:   Mr. Mayor,  Might I say something about that right there?

 

Mayor Perrin:  Yes

 

Alderman Gene Vance: Before the first building permit is ever given, before the first street is ever to be built, the city engineering department will go through all that.  All those answers [questions I think he meant] will be answered; all that is there right now is their proposal to do that.  And in order to go to spending multi hundreds of thousands of dollars, they have to have zoning, or they are spending that money with the possibility of the zoning being turned down.  We have a fifteen minute requirement set with the council.  We are about seven times that amount of time, and I think we probably ought to let the proponent speak at least for five minutes.

 

Delores: Kohler:  As she leaves to sit down, " So I guess we have to pass it before we know what's in it, right?"

 

Mayor Perrin:  Thank you.  Okay.  All right.  We will have the side FOR to speak on that.  If you would you please come to the mic and state your name and address for the record.

 

Mr. Charles Downham spoke next.  His presentation to the Metropolitan Area Planning Committee was more thorough.  I have already transcribed it before.  You can find that presentation at this link. http://www.wpaag.org/Agenda%2021-Village%20MAPC%20Mtg%20Transcribed%208-12-14.html Link to MAPC transcription.  The MAPC had voted unanimously to approve the village but then it has to be voted on by the City Council.  

Charles Downham: (an engineer with Nashville-based Littlejohn Engineers) Mayor and members of the council,  my name is Charles Downham, Chief Operating Officer for Littlejohn Engineers  Associates based in Nashville, Tennessee.  If it is okay with you, I would like to take the five minutes allocated to try to address some of the key points that have been raised tonight by citizens as well as members of the council. 

I'll start with the multifamily reduction which was announced and was acted on with the amendment which you have before you. The developer was very much in concurrence with that -  after  having met with the school board, it was determined that in order to address the impacts of the population that could result from multifamily that it was best to try reduce the amount of multifamily; and in doing so we have curtailed the residential development of this property to 70% single family, which could be single family detached homes, much like what most of you'll probably live in, as well as town homes.  And that the remaining balance of residential, 30%, would be multifamily.  What that does, it significantly reduces the amount of residential development that will likely take place within the property, and that was done voluntarily and through the initiation of the applicants themselves.

One of the other things that I try to qualify in that is the amount of residential development that might take place over the top of ground floor retail for office building, to try to limit the number of stories for residential to take place above that, again with the intent of trying to manage residential growth and the impact it could  potentially have on the community -  although we have found through our experiences in our firm that mixed use development, where you have a mix of residential typologies as well as residential above ground retail, that they are in fact very attractive in terms of bringing in retail and office space but also that they pay for themselves in terms of the tax base.

There was a question raised about common open space.  I'll address that by saying that one of the things the developer will initiate as part of the planned development process is the creation of a property owners' association.  We've seen a lot of different versions of how that takes place.  It could be a single entity that manages all the real estate within the project, or it could be a residential property owners' association or a non residential property association or whatever the mechanism is that they bring forth. The intent is to manage all the property within there and also to set out certain assessments so that the common open space, the green space, plazas, etc. will all be well cared for, manicured, etc. so that they don't become a burden to the city of Jonesboro.

There was a question raised about traffic studies.  I appreciate councilman Vance's comment on the planned development requirements, and I'm sure the city attorney as well as the planning director, correct me if I am wrong, the Town Overlay District provides very clear guidance in terms of the traffic study.  The traffic study is part of the planned development package.  That package is going to include subdivision plats, planned ____________, you have a guideline book that is part of this rezoning amendment compilation; all that is wrapped up and inclusive of a traffic study as well.  So any phase of the development the council is going to have that traffic study before any of that development is allowed to take place. 

In terms of pedestrian crossings, one of the things that we as are very sensitive to, as well is the traffic consultant, is to make sure that the development itself is very pedestrian friendly.  There is a very good question raised about how you get people from one side of the road to another.  And that is getting done through a number of different means, probably most common which is signalized intersections where you have a pedestrian crossing that is integrated as part of the design of that intersection.  We could show you countless examples in and around the Nashville area;  and we can show you countless examples all throughout the state of Arkansas  where you have two lane, three lane , four lane, as much as five lane cross sections where you have controlled access from one side of the street to the other to allow pedestrians to cross from one side to the other.  From our perspective we will introduce those traffic calming measures, those pedestrian crossing measures to make sure people can get from one side of the street to the other so that it is a true mixed use environment as people live, work and play there.

In terms of residential densities as I pointed out, the  residential densities  because of the amendment tonight, we will see less residential development taking place within the project.  If you do the simple math in terms of what is allowed,  50% of the  land mass could  be devoted to residential use.  We will then make sure that the zoning lots,  the zoning lots requirement etc. are all in accordance with the requirements as well as the provisions set out specifically in the Town Center Overlay which very clearly stipulates minimum lot size, _______requirements. We will make sure all the lots conform to those requirements.

But a key point there in terms of residential densities is that we want to make sure there is the required mix of housing. This is not just a single family neighborhood; it's not just a multifamily development. This is a mix of housing because if you go around the community, you see a mix of housing.  People want the opportunity to be able to start their life with an affordable unit, but they may also want to make the choice themselves to live in that same community throughout much of their lives.  We can show you countless examples of projects not only in the Southeast and throughout the United States where you have families that make a conscious choice to go into a community, and that's where they stay for their entire life.  They have generations that move on, and they live in that same community.  You sit back and you look at Jonesboro as a whole, you have a lot of people that make a commitment, a choice to live in Jonesboro itself. They may live on one side of the community vs another; but they made the choice to live within the same part of the community.  We want to be able to provide people that opportunity within Greensborough Village. 

In terms of the planning process itself, I'll say that a lot of care and attention has been given by the applicant in the planning of this particular community.  It toured a lot of communities, not only around the Nashville area where I work; they have gone to great lengths to make sure that the community they're trying to create is one that is going to have a lot of value to the community as a whole; it's going to be a place where people are going to be attracted to live there but also more importantly where people want to invest in this community;  they're going to want to invest in terms of a place where they work; they're going to want to bring the businesses there; they're going to  want to raise their families in a community like this.  So a lot of attention has been given to this;  and as you see the process evolve over time, you will see a lot of that same time and attention being given to each phase of the project as it moves forward.

I'll close on the one other point that was mentioned in terms of the phasing strategy.  When the zoning takes place on this property, we certainly recommend that you move forward favorably with it, you won't see development happen overnight on this project.  It's going to take multiple years of commitment and investment on the part of the developer and the development community as a whole.  Each of those phases of development, unlike the subdivision process as well as the planning development  process, all have very specific requirements, including bonding  requirements on all  public infrastructure.  So roads, utilities, etc. as each of those phases of development occur,  you will see bonding that will be required as part of the development process.  The developer of that particular phase will be required to post those bonds.  In the event that the developer defaults on the commitment, those bonds can be liquidated whether it is a letter of credit or whatever means that they have as means of providing assurances.  All those could be used basically so the city does not have  to solve _______. So again the city does not have any obligation.  It's the developer that has the responsibility not only through their own  requirements but also by the sureties that are required as part of the process. Mayor, I would be happy to address any other questions.

Alderman Todd Burton:  First I would just like to make a comment to one of your comments just to clarify for the record.  First I would just like to make a comment to one of your comments just to clarify for the record.  You mentioned Nettleton School Board and I think to be correct with that I don't think the Nettleton School Board as a whole came out on a position of this.  I think that was just a member or two at this meeting that took place. It's actually, I think, my belief that the Nettleton School Board was asked for a letter of support on this project, and they declined and decided to remain neutral. So I just wanted to clarify that. 

 

Burton Continuing: I had one of the questions that I really want to make tonight, and I'm getting off the multifamily questions and move forward to the residential part.  My question to you is which I think is a new concept for Jonesboro, Arkansas.  And that's this idea that the town homes are attached single family housing. And I think my first question would be, I know the intention a lot of times is different from reality, but is the intention for that to be single owned housing, or are developers going to own several of those and rent them out?  _____________________ [I believe Burton's questioning points out that developers had deceptively reduced the multifamily housing and increased the single family housing, but in reality the single family housing included what is usually known as multifamily housing.]

Developers' Representative, Chuck Downham:  I believe the intent would be to have them - we're talking about  duplexes, triplexes, town homes.What you have is a single contractor coming in and erecting a group of town homes.  Or you could have multiple contractors coming in building them.  ______________ Typically you have a single contractor that will come in and build a phase of the development.  That's not to say that you can't have multiple builders working within the same

Alderman Todd Burton:  Not a one developer owning a series of them?

Alderman Todd Burton:  If that happens, would that be considered into your percentages of multifamily, in that 30% or not?

Developers' Representative, Chuck Downham:  The multifamily, if you look at the definition provided in the   provisions, it makes it very clear what that constitutes. I don't believe the issue of tenancy whether it is owned or occupied for          rental  is part of the definition ______

Alderman Todd Burton:  Todd Burton:  That question about the residential.  There's been talk about the residential, but on the density of the residential, help us understand that if you would because we're used to a level of zoning; and I believe our current zoning levels are like R-1, R-2, R-3; in the simplest form I think that's like one house per acre, two houses per acre, etc.  Would this density in the residential would that be included in this amount of acreage, what would that relate to for us, would it be like  R-7, R-8; how many houses per  acre?

Developers' Representative, Chuck Downham:  What you find when you look at the Master Plan itself.  We have provided a mixed residential typology, everything from front loaded residential which would typically be your R-2, R-4, and we also have more dense single family detached residential, basically rear loaded on narrow lots,you can see anywhere from six to eight units to the acre and very similar to what you find in town homes uses, which range anywhere from six to eight  to and acres or  as many as twelve to sixteen  depending on the building itself.

Alderman Todd Burton: _________about 4,000 foot square lots would come to about ___________ Would that be correct?

Developers' Representative, Chuck Downham: Agrees

 

Alderman Todd Burton: I think along those lines, tonight I was ready; I had several suggestions for amendments to this ordinance that I am not sure how we go about trying to discuss those to see if we could put those on but I would offer suggestions.  The first reading I asked if we were going to have an impact traffic study before this final reading, and I understand it's going to be 30 days out.  I would suggest that we table this until we have that. When we are within 30 days of the traffic impact study with something this controversial in the city of Jonesboro, I think we would want that. I would entertain a motion that we table this until we have that.

Alderman Charles Frierson:  You don't have the right to entertain a motion, but go ahead.

Alderman Todd Burton:  Well, I am offering this suggestion.  Maybe you could help me through this, Mr. Frierson.  How would you go about that?

Alderman Charles Frierson:  Talk to the Mayor.

Alderman Chris Moore:  The appropriate motion for you to offer  would probably be postpone temporary.

Alderman Todd Burton:  I will make that motion then,  postpone temporary.

Mayor Perrin:  There's a motion and a second for approval on the deal  [to adopt the village development] on the floor now. We have had the discussion. Is that correct?

Alderman Chris Moore:  As a point of order; temporary postpone takes precedence over a motion to approve or any other motion.

Alderman Chris Gibson: I would second that motion [meaning Alderman Burton's motion.] (Could not understand the rest of his comment.) 

Mayor Perrin:  State your motion again if you would, Mr. Burton.

Alderman Todd Burton:  Help me with the wording again.  I would motion to postpone temporary.

Mayor Perrin:  Motion to postpone temporary. Okay,  I understand that you made a second on that, is that correct? [To Chris Gibson] Okay

Alderman Chris Moore:  If we are fixing to vote on that, this is a non debatable motion. We have to vote on it before we move forward so I ask that you call the roll.

Mayor Perrin:  For this one here?

Renell Woods:  What are we voting for?

Mayor Perrin:  You are not approving or disapproving.  You are just simply postponing the decision on this rezoning is what you are doing. Okay. There's been a motion, and there's been a second on that and so

Alderman Darrel Dover:  We cannot discuss on this at all?

Alderman Chris Moore: The postpone motion states that the postpone temporary is non debatable.  So you have a motion and a second; you need to decide that before you can go forward.

Mayor Perrin:  Right.  We also have a request, and I was going to do the same thing, for a call for a voice vote on this.  So again to make sure everyone understands is that what we have on the floor now is a motion and a second to postpone this, to postpone temporary.

Alderman: How long is temporary?

Mayor Perrin:  Well, there's been no limitation that has been set on this now.  Normally, on this, we normally we bring it up if I am not mistaken, at the next council meeting; or if you put a determinate on there or if you tie it to something such as a traffic study or whatever.  And  what I am hearing Mr. Burton say though is that it's not just the traffic; he may have some other things he possibly wants to add in to that so what we are doing tonight, the motion is and a second is to postpone it temporarily.  Again we had a request tonight that we need a voice vote on this.  So madam clerk, will you please call the roll?

Order the roll was called:  Mr.Burton:  Aye, Mr.  McCall:  Aye,  Mr. Woods:  Aye,  Mr. Dover:  Aye,  Mr.  Street:  Aye,  Mr. Gibson:  Aye, Mrs. Williams:  Aye, Mr. Moore:  Aye,  Dr.  Coleman:  Aye, Mr. Vance:  No  Mr. Frierson:  No  [Alderman Mitch Johnson was absent]

Mayor Perrin:  The Aye's have it so we will postpone it temporarily.

Alderman Darrel Dover:  Before we leave tonight, let's make sure we know what we are doing. I mean, I  know you say you have some recommendations so you're ­­­­going to give those to [addressing Alderman Todd Burton]

Alderman Todd Burton: It was my understanding tonight is we were going to have an amendment that this would go through some more readings so we would have an opportunity to hopefully maybe add some more. Because we just got this today so obviously we haven't had a chance to look at it very closely.  I'd add some other suggestions to amend the original ordinance. I think there are some other suggestions that might be helpful.

Alderman Charles Frierson: We have already had three readings to do some of that stuff, and I just think we need to GET IT DONE. (emphasized the word DONE]

Mayor Perrin:  All right.  We'll move on to the next item.