Leader Blues

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TOP STORY > >Cabot puts limits on building plans

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council passed an ordinance Monday night requiring developers to follow through with commercial construction plans approved by the city within one year or go back before the planning commission for approval again.

Alderman Becky Lemaster voted against the ordinance saying large businesses such as Wal-Mart might need longer to begin construction after the site plans are approved. She said site plans should be good for two years, not six months with extensions possible with only review by the staff at Cabot Public Works.

She questioned giving the staff that authority without first approving the criteria they should follow.

Lemaster said she checked with other cities around Cabot and 18 months was standard.

“It just seems to me we’re trying to run off big business,” she said.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams assured her that the city wants new businesses. But he said site plans are approved based on the capacity of streets, water and sewer available at the time of that approval. If construction is delayed that capacity could be diminished to the point that the project is no longer feasible.

Williams also said that capacity is allocated when a project is approved, so it is possible that the city might eventually turn down projects because the capacity had been allocated to a project that was never constructed.

Ron Craig, planning commission chairman, explained it this way: “We’re just trying to make sure these things don’t just sit there and code change and everything and then they build it,” he said.

The ordinance also had the blessing of Jim von Tungeln, the city planner who said in a memo to the council’s public works committee that the six-month sunset with a possible six-month extension was reasonable.

“The site plan represents the final step before a building permit is requested,” von Tungeln said. “There should be no reason to anticipate further delay absent unavoidable events such as natural or man-made disasters.”

The vote to pass the ordinance was 5-1.

Aldermen Ken Williams and Tom Armstrong, who is in Florida for treatments for a brain tumor, did not attend the meeting.

The mayor read a letter from Armstrong explaining his absence.

“The outlook for full recovery is great and I am expecting just that,” Armstrong wrote. “I have also been assured that this will not require me to stop working or interfere with my ability to continue to serve the city of Cabot. I am feeling great and expect to continue to feel great….In the meantime, my campaign goes on.”

Armstrong’s challenger for his seat on the city council is former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh.

In other business, the council approved a voluntary annexation of 59 acres on Hwy. 5 but would not approve a sidewalk-waiver request for a commercial development at the corner of Dakota and Home Depot Drives.

The council also approved at the request of the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission the condemnation of 14 easements needed for upgrades to the city sewer system.