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Rogers reverses rezoning decision

by Alex Golden | March 24, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

ROGERS -- The City Council on Tuesday voted to rezone land it previously voted against rezoning after the city was sued.

The council in November voted 4-3 against rezoning about 9.6 acres west of North 40th Street and south of West Olive Street from highway commercial to neighborhood commercial at the request of Tallgrass Development, although the requested zoning would fit the city's comprehensive growth map. The map is a guide for where the city wants certain zonings.

Some council members said residents of neighborhoods around the land in question told them they were against the rezoning, mainly because they suspect apartments will be built on the land. Property owners don't have to say what exactly they plan to do with land or submit building plans to request a land rezoning. David Matthews, an attorney representing the request, said he doesn't know what will be built there.

Bonnie Bridges, the city's staff attorney, said after the meeting Matthews' lawsuit was seeking to have a circuit judge order the land to be rezoned. He argued the council ruled in an "arbitrary and capricious manner." Matthews' plan was to drop the lawsuit if council members approved the rezoning at Tuesday night's meeting, which they did, she said.

The council voted with members Clay Kendall, Gary Townzen, Mandy Brashear, Barney Hayes and April Legere voting in favor of rezoning and Mark Kruger and Marge Wolf against. Betsy Reithemeyer abstained from voting. She didn't vote on the rezoning in November, saying she works at Matthews' law firm. Townzen and Brashear originally voted against the rezoning. Legere wasn't on the council at the time.

"I don't understand why a vote comes to us for a yes or no if the rule is that we can't say 'no'," Wolf said. "It makes no sense to me."

Kruger said, "With a budget, it is a working document. It is a guideline. With the comprehensive growth map, yes, individuals and developers need to have a basis for planning. This is one of the few circumstances where I feel like what is legal and what is right aren't necessarily compatible, and it's a tough situation to be in, but one way or another we need to go ahead and address it."

The council also accepted $14,651 from the Rogers School District. Paramedics from the Rogers Fire Department helped substitute for nurses when the district had too many absences because of the covid-19 pandemic, said Cliff Thompson, deputy fire chief. The district doesn't need the paramedics to substitute anymore, he said.

Council members also voted to enter into a $143,481 contract with Cox Advanced Services of Springdale for utility work related to the widening of Walnut Street.


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