Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TOP STORY > >Gravel Ridge developer outraged

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Developer Greg Heslep made it clear at the Sherwood Planning Commission meeting last week that he was not happy that his two development plans north of Gravel Ridge were pulled because the proper paperwork wasn’t filed.

Two other Gravel Ridge projects were pulled, while two others were approved.

“I’m appalled that you are holding up a multi-million-dollar project,” he barked.

“I supported annexation from day one. I initiated this annex ation (of 2,000 acres north of Gravel Ridge). I’m developing my property as we speak. Why should I wait for the city?”

Heslep was upset that the commission pulled his two projects from the agenda and that the city planner Dwight Pattison had recommended that the commission hold off on and rezoning projects in Gravel Ridge until the land- use plan and rezoning map was updated to include Sherwood’s two recent annexations—most of Gravel Ridge and the 2,000 acres north of it.

When an area is annexed into a city, all of the annexed area reverts to an R-1 (single-family home) zoning, then the city must make adjustments based on what kind of businesses and multi-family units are in the annexed area while keeping the integrity of the overall plan and growth for the city.

“You need to be prepared. I shouldn’t have to wait. You should have already done a land-use plan,” Heslep said.

Feeling he was being picked on, Heslep called the action, “just an excuse” not to deal with his property. City Attorney Stephen Cobb made it clear that Heslep’s two projects and two of those submitted by Kenny Meckfessel were pulled because the requirements spelled out by state law were not followed.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman said the city has to follow the state requirements or it opens itself and the developer to possible lawsuits. The city is already entangled in four major litigation issues.Heslep was on the planning-commission agenda seeking approval to rezone part of his acreage on the east side of Hwy. 107, north of Gravel Ridge and south of the Bayou Meto Creek, from R-1 to R-3 for apartments and another section from R-1 to C-4 for heavy commercial. The only areas currently zoned C-4 in Sherwood are the frontage roads along Hwy. 67/167.

Heslep said he had this all worked out with the former mayor and also implied that in meetings with Hillman that his projects were to be fast-tracked. Both Heslep and Meckfessel have corrected the paperwork problems and it is now up to the planning commission to call a special meeting or have the developers wait until the next meeting scheduled for Aug. 12.

Heslep voiced the majority of his opposed after planning commission chairman Freddie Hudson announced to the audience that the items were being pulled. Most of the audience had objections to either Heslep’s or Meckfessel’s plans, but left after the items were pulled.

Heslep argued for his plans to be put back on the agenda, saying that the residents weren’t at the meeting to oppose him, but Meckfessel.

Meckfessel was seeking R-3 (multi-family) rezoning for 2146 Hatcher Road and 7225 Jacksonville Cut-Off.

He planned to put a 56-unit complex on Jacksonville Cut-Off next to a daycare there. A number of residents were at the meeting in opposition of this apartment plan.

Commissioner Wayne Smith agreed with the city planner about deferring projects. “We’ve got a lot of apartment requests and it would be good to defer these requests until the land use is in place.”

But later in the meeting he said, “We shouldn’t hold up developers based on our inactivity.”

The city planner said he would have a land-use plan and rezoning map ready for review for the next commission meeting.

Once the commission approves the land-use plan and rezoning map, the council will have to review and approve it.

“It could take 45 to 60 days,” Pattison said.

Heslep still wanted to know who was going to cover the $6,000 to $8,000 in interest he’ll have to pay on his projects while the city works on the map and plan.

The commission did approve two Gravel Ridge projects presented by Minton Engineering.

One was to rezone a lot of land near Hwy. 107 and Hatcher Road from R-1 to C-3 (commercial) and then rezone the land behind that R-2 for duplexes and triplexes.

The commission approved the two requests because the county had already approved the project and work was ongoing. All the streets and utilities had been installed in the multi-family area.