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GRAVETTE -- Members of the Gravette City Council held their February Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday, Feb. 11, at the Civic Center. Council members Rod Clardy and Margo Thomas attended remotely and the remaining four members attended in-person.

Due to the inclement weather, most city department heads submitted written reports and did not attend in-person.

David Keck, building inspector and code enforcement officer, gave the first in-person report. He noted that phase two of the walk/bike trail is significantly complete with only final touchups needed, including some minor reworking of the handrail. There is continuing strong interest in both commercial and residential development, he said, and Razor Box Storage has submitted its large-scale development plan for property on Banks Lane in Hiwasse. Planning commission approval has been granted for the project and development plans are now being reviewed.

Keck said two items will be considered at the Feb. 25 council meeting, a conditional use permit for property located at 14823 Cash Springs Road and proposed rezoning of 32.15 acres on North Mt. Pleasant Road, south of the Mt. Pleasant Church and cemetery, from A-1, agricultural, to C-2, commercial. Norma Mendez, the applicant for the conditional use permit, has applied in order to be able to park three dump trucks and other heavy work vehicles on the Cash Springs property owned by Dennis and Brenda Burk. Mayor Kurt Maddox noted that there has been some objection from neighbors who feel the property is too small for such use and the heavy vehicle traffic would be too hard on Gordon Hollow Road, which is off Cash Springs Road and is already in poor condition.

Sam W. Kerr and Marlene Kerr Bush, owners of the N. Mt. Pleasant Road property, request the rezoning in order to convert 20 acres of the property for use as a landscaping business. The remaining 12.15 acres would remain pasture for now.

Tim Dewitt, head of the city's streets and parks departments, reported that employees in his department have been attempting to keep up with the work involved during bad weather. He said planning is already being done to line up lifeguards for the city pool this summer and reported a grant has been received to help fund the construction of new bathrooms at Kindley Park.

The third reading of the proposed city unified development code and a discussion of the renewal of the city's contract for trash removal and recycling service will be on the agenda for the Sept. 25 council meeting.

Brief discussions of the Razor Box Storage large-scale development, the Cash Springs Road conditional use permit and the Mt. Pleasant Road rezoning were held. Phil Sciumbato, who lives at 13348 N. Mt. Pleasant Road, and Dewayne Wilson, who lives at 13388 N. Mt. Pleasant Road, were granted a few minutes to speak regarding the proposed rezoning. Both were opposed to the action.

Sciumbato requested the city not allow commercial development across the road from his home. He said he had a $200,000 investment in his 10 acres and he wanted to "keep it country." He said that he first bought the property in order to have a country lifestyle and he wanted to keep it that way. He argued that he had worked for a landscaping business and it should not take over five acres for such a business, so the rest of the property would probably be used for other enterprises, he said. He feared the rezoning would destroy the value of surrounding property, would cause taxes to increase and would start a "domino effect" where other property down the road would also become commercial.

Wilson said he has lived on his property for 28 years and he enjoys the peace and quiet of his surroundings. He wants to continue to see the cattle on the neighboring property as well as the many deer, raccoons, bobcats and other wildlife. David Keck pointed out that the planning commission has looked at the rezoning but has made no recommendation. He said the city's proposed future use for the surrounding property is residential development.

Carl Rabey, city finance director, gave financial reports for both December and January since he was in the hospital at the time of the January meeting. There was a $109,000 shortfall in December because of two extra payrolls and the employee covid payout. The city "basically broke even" in January, he said, with a $725 surplus for the month. Two resolutions will be passed at the Feb. 25 council meeting, one to approve an adjustment and close out the budget for 2020 and one to approve adjustments for the 2021 budget to allow for grant money left over from 2020 and for one new grant.

Rabey gave an updated report on the bond funds and reported the latest audit has been posted online and is the city's best ever. There were only two minor issues, neither of which was operational.

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