Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TOP STORY > >Roads still sticky issue in Sherwood

Leader staff writer

Will Maryland Avenue be completed anytime soon? Will Hemphill Road ever be extended?

Those two questions have been long- standing items on the Sherwood City Council agenda and will stay on the agenda at least one more month.

After more than 30 minutes of heated, and even testy, discussion that went around and around, Alderman Becki Vassar asked if the mayor could set up a meeting with the council, the developer, Cypress Properties, and area residents to resolve the issue.

Cypress Properties, owned by Andy Collins, has developed subdivisions along Maryland Avenue and Hemphill Road and still has land in those areas to develop. According to city ordinances, a developer does not have to construct or extend any streets until that area is developed, and Cypress Properties has no plans at this time to develop their remaining land, meaning the company does not have to extend either Maryland Avenue or Hemphill Road.

The city wants at least one of those two roads completed to give Sherwood another thoroughfare, but as long as the developer is not building the subdivisions, the city can’t force him to open up either roadway.

Mayor Virginia Hillman has been working with the developer on a plan to open Maryland Avenue and suspend for a period of time any requirement for the developer to open up Hemphill Road.

The latest compromise, presented to the council Monday night, had the developer, Cypress Properties, constructing the portion of Maryland Avenue that is set to run through its property and the city completing the remainder of Maryland to give Sherwood another major east-west thoroughfare.

In exchange for building its portion of Maryland Avenue, Cypress Properties would receive at least a seven-year moratorium on building the rest of Hemphill Road.

Building either section would cost the developer between $350,000 and $500,000.

“I don’t think it’s the city’s job to negotiate with a developer to build streets that they are supposed to build,” said Alderman Ken Rankin. “I’m not going to compromise,” he added.

Alderman Charlie Harmon supported suing the developer. “He should have already built the roads. Let’s sue him now.”

Looking at the proposed compromise, Harmon added, “He never has to build Maryland—the seven years doesn’t start ticking until it’s built and there’s no completion date.”

Vassar added, “The developer has let his residents down. He has let us down. Let him tell those residents that he’s not going to build the road.”

Hillman said, “We need to be willing to compromise to get this road done. Right now we have nothing and we can’t afford to build the entire road ourselves.”

Alderman Butch Davis called completion of Maryland Avenue “critical.”

A number of aldermen were concerned that Cypress Properties was able to develop its properties out of sequence and avoid building the two roads. The mayor said everything the developer has done to this point had been approved by someone in the city. “He got the blessing from somewhere.”

“You’re pointing fingers at previous administrations,” Harmon said, “and other mayors have not done that.”

Alderman Sheila Sulcer said, “If we are fussing about this developer, then we need to look at what other developers have done to the city. I’ll be happy to spill names, but it’ll clear the room.”

Vassar reiterated she wants to meet with the developer. “I want the council to be there, the residents and the press. Lets open it up and get something done.”

City Attorney Stephen Cobb said he would arrange the meeting “sooner rather than later.”