Leader Blues

Friday, August 22, 2008

TOP STORY > >Developers must finish work faster

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

An ordinance now before the Cabot City Council could force commercial developers to move quickly on the work they have asked the city to approve.

The ordinance, which was read once during the Monday night council meeting and will have to be read two more times before it is passed, would give developers six months to start projects that the planning commission approves at the site plan level.
If there are circumstances that could reasonably slow the starting of a project, the staff at public works could grant a six- month extension. But if work isn’t started by then, the project would have to go before the planning commission again.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said the ordinance is needed because developers often get plans approved and then wait several years to build.

The commercial development at the intersection of Highways 5 and 89 was approved 10 years before it was built and by that time there wasn’t enough water available to adequately fight fires. The Waffle House on Main Street was approved five years before it was built, he said.

Williams said unless the law is amended, the city has no way to stop commercial development in areas where water and have sewer capacity has been used, traffic is too heavy and the laws about curbs and gutter have changed.

In other business, the council heard a presentation by Capt. David Walton with the fire department about a new emergency vehicle that was put into service July 15. It cost $15,000 to convert a pickup formerly used to fight brush fires into an emergency medical vehicle equipped with everything needed to stabilize heart attack victims or pry motorists from their mangled vehicles.

The fire department rolls on every emergency medical call, just like the ambulance service. And often, the fire department gets there first. Walton told the mayor and council that the pickup fits into tighter spaces than the fire trucks used previously. It also is more economical to drive and using it saves wear on fire trucks.

The 60-feet of hydraulic line used to operate the Jaws of Life enabled rescuers to park on the pavement and cut a man out of a car that had left the road and landed in a tree near Ward. Before, the heavy equipment would have been carried in.

“It has worked beyond my wildest dreams,” he said, adding that the department would like to equip more trucks of SUVs.

The council voted unanimously to reappoint Ron Craig to the planning commission, but not without some controversy.

The mayor said shortly after he took office that he would replace commissioners whose terms expire rather than reappoint unless there were extenuating circumstances. In the case of Craig, he said the extenuating circumstance was that he hadn’t served a full term but had replaced another commissioner who had resigned.

Matt Webber, who was replaced on the planning commission a year ago when his term expired, told the mayor that he took him off the commission not because of a desire to allow new people with new ideas to serve but because he dared to challenge developers. Williams assured Webber that he had no idea what he was talking about but also told him, “As the mayor, I reserve the right to change my mind. Only a fool would say he wouldn’t change his mind.”