Leader Blues

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TOP STORY > >Jacksonville has a glut of apartments

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Plans for rental developments are starting to fall on deaf ears at the Jacksonville Planning Commission.

The commission approved only one of two rezoning requests it heard Monday night.

“If it can’t be said that it’s doing something good for Jacksonville, I’m going to start denying the requests,” said Commissioner John Herbold as the first rental idea was being discussed.

Herbold took a few minutes to talk about the current rental glut in the city. “Across the United States, 34.8 percent of homes and apartments are rentals,” the commissioner said. “In Arkansas the average is 27.2 percent, but in Jacksonville it’s 52.7 percent. That’s quite high.”

Herbold said a lot of people say the high number is because of the air base. “If you take out base housing and exclude all the base people who live in Jacksonville, we are still at 45.6 percent. I can’t get it lower but I can try to keep it from getting higher.”

With that said, Herbold agreed that plans for a 21-unit senior housing complex on “the old Gwatney” property on James Street across from Second Baptist Church was positive for the city. “This fits and I’ll vote for it.”

But a second project, duplexes in the Meadows subdivision off South Hwy. 161, was turned down.

“I don’t see what this provides for Jacksonville that Jacksonville doesn’t already have,” Herbold said, as he and the rest of the commissioners said no to the necessary rezoning for the project.

For the first rental project, the commissioners approved rezoning the acreage from R-0 (single-family homes) to R-3 (multi-family). The land is owned by the church but will be developed by Dickie Penn.

Plans call for 21 closely placed two-bedroom, 850-square-foot homes to be built, along with a clubhouse, on 2.69 acres. The complex will be open to those age 55 and older. Commissioners approved the rezoning dispute despite some citizen concerns over falling property values, traffic and drainage.

The commission will consider approving another senior complex at a special meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 26.

The developer of this senior citizen facility near Military and Loop roads is seeking state and federal grants and tax credits and needs approval before Feb. 1 to comply with deadlines.

At the same meeting, the commissioners will also consider granting conditional use to the owners of a proposed daycare center on South First Street next to the Eubanks Veterinary Clinc.

Tammy Topkins and B.J. Burroughs, who own all 111 lots of the Meadows subdivision, had requested that 30 of the back lots near the railroad tracks be rezoned for duplexes. Burroughs said the duplexes would act as a buffer between the tracks and the single-family home lots.

The entire subdivision was approved last year for single-family residences and all the utilities went in with that in mind. City Planner Chip McCully said numerous borings under the street would have to be made to run water lines to the additional structures.
Tompkins, defending the duplex plans, told the commissioners that she works in real estate and is constantly getting calls for rentals. “Your numbers may be high, but we still need rentals,” she explained.

When it was clear that the project was not going to pass, Tompkins suggested that she and Burroughs would sell the individual sides of the duplexes rather than rent them if that would help.

But City Attorney Robert Bamburg said that the requested R-3 rezoning was for rentals and to build and sell the duplexes as if they were townhomes or condominiums would require an R-4 rezoning.

In other commission business, com-missioners approved a conditional- use request by Greg Bradley to build a vehicle-storage facility at 8315 Hwy. 161 for his wrecker business. Bradley said the stored cars would be hidden by a six-foot privacy fence.

Commissioners also approved the preliminary plats for Northlake Gardens, a cul de sac of garden or patio homes, and Northlake subdivision, Phase XIII.