Benton County Planning Review Continues
Posted: September 9, 2013 at 3:17 a.m.
BENTONVILLE — Benton County’s “Blue Book” of planning and development regulations is near the end of a yearlong review, county officials said.
The draft of the new ordinance is scheduled for a final review by the Quorum Court’s Legislative Committee when that panel meets at 6 p.m. today. Three public information sessions also have been scheduled.
John Sudduth, county general services administrator who oversees the Planning Division, said he wants to complete the review before the end of the year.
The draft version of the revised Benton County Planning and Development ordinance may be viewed online at www.bentoncountyar.gov
“We’re hoping we can get it to the Quorum Court with all the changes finalized by the end of October,” Sudduth said. “That’s all pending review and comment from the Legislative Committee and then the Committee of the Whole before it’s sent on to the Quorum Court.”
Over the past year, the planning staff has worked closely with the county Planning Board to draft a revised set of chapters based on the following goals:
w Address structural problems. The staff noted the existing planning regulations were poorly organized and structured. The new draft regulations offer a new organizational structure that is meant to be easier to use and understand.
w Fix problems and shortcomings. Key problem areas identified were unreasonable lot split and tract split provisions, a burdensome “one size fits all” commercial site plan process called “Large Scale Development” that needs to be overhauled, subdivision provisions spread out over nine separate chapters and other omissions and contradictions.
w Clarify process and procedure. The new draft establishes the procedures applicants need to follow in a clear and concise manner. The application materials that are needed are spelled out in better detail and more reasonably matched with the type of application.
Ashley Tucker, Planning Board chairman, said the draft should answer the question the Legislative Committee has posed in the course of its review of the document earlier this year.
“For the Legislative Committee meeting, our intent is to show them how we’ve tried to respond to their comments and questions,” Tucker said. “We’ll give them an update on the changes we’ve made and process anything more they’d like the Board to address.”
AT A GLANCE
Public information sessions will be held to inform the public of changes to the Benton County Planning Ordinance. The meetings are to allow the public to voice any concern or make suggestions they may have regarding the proposed changes. The public information sessions for the draft ordinance are scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on these dates:
• Sept. 11: Quorum Courtroom in the County Administration Building, 215 East Central Ave. in Bentonville.
• Sept. 12: Northeast Benton County Fire Department, 14639 S. Wimpy Jones Road in Garfield.
• Sept. 16: Billy V. Hall Senior Center, 1870 Limekiln Road in Gravette.
Source: Benton County
Tucker and Sudduth both said the process remains open to comments and suggestions. The public information sessions are open to the public, but specifically targeted to those most directly involved in the planning process.
“We really want input from professional engineers, surveyors and landowners who may want to develop their property,” Tucker said. “We’re still soliciting feedback from stakeholders, including the Road Department and the Health Department. I hope we’ll have a good turnout.”
Tom Allen, justice of the peace for District 4 and chairman of the legislative committee, said he thinks the committee’s review of the ordinance will go smoothly.
“I met with John and the planning staff and I didn’t see anything that jumped out at me,” Allen said. “They’re supposed to have something that shows us all of the changes that were made in response to the questions we had.”
The public information sessions are another chance for anyone interested in development in the county to influence the process, Sudduth said.
“If anyone has any concerns, any opinions, we want to hear them,” Sudduth said. “Right now, it’s a draft of a draft. We’re looking for all the good suggestions and recommendations we can get before we finalize it.”