Property values, buffer zones, safety, privacy, light pollution, litter and traffic issues surfaced Tuesday, March 12, in possibly the most vocal of the townhall-style meetings on the proposed sales and use tax refunding and improvement bonds. This was the third meeting, with one more meeting set for 7 p.m., March 26, at Junior High School South.
Mayor Bill Cypert hosted the meeting, held at Westside Elementary School, which focused on the North Terminal Interchange, the proposed Parks and Recreation improvements. Representatives for all the proposed projects were available to answer questions.
The refunding and improvement bond issues are to be placed before voters in a special election, set for April 9. If the refunding is approved, the current one-cent city sales tax would continue beyond payment of the 2005 improvement bond for which it was established, and would be used to pay up to nearly $40 million in improvement bonds for six proposed projects.
The projects are the Parks and Recreation improvements — $13.5 million; North Terminal Interchange and Connector to the railroad overpass — $9.5 million; wastewater system improvements — $8.2 million; Community Center renovation and expansion — $5.5 million; library expansion and renovation — $2.6 million; and Highland area drainage improvements — $500,000.
If all the bond issues are approved, the total of the individual bonds, including $11 million for the 2005 improvement bond, would be about $51 million. Each project is a separate question on the special election ballot.
Alderman Kevin Davis presented the proposed North Terminal Interchange and connector project. Begun about 12 years ago, the project would build a new interchange with U.S. Highway 67/167 and Arkansas Highway 367 between Cabot and Austin, which would connect with the railroad overpass.
Parks and Recreation Commission chairman Maggie Cope presented the proposed improvements for the city Parks and Recreation Department.
Those improvements include new parks facilities throughout the city, but primarily it would build a nine-field baseball and outdoor swimming pool sports complex on 50 acres facing Bill Foster Highway/Arkansas Highway 321, near the intersection with Kerr Station Road. The complex would include an exit to Kerr Station Road.
Most discussion on the evening focused on the sports complex. Most the concerns of the residents who attended the meeting spoke to fears for safety and a loss of privacy.
Cope, in her presentation, assured that the pool complex, sometimes referred to as a water park, would not be a commercial-level facility. "It will not be like Wild River Country," she said.
There would be three pools, with a "lazy river," bathhouse, shade facilities and a playground, Cope said. The pools would serve all age levels, she said.
There would also be a walking track encircling the sports complex.
The improvements for the Community Center would include a 24,000 square-foot addition, between the current building and Polk Street, Cope said.
The addition would include a banquet/meeting room, permanent stage, 5,000 square-foot exercise/fitness room, commercial kitchen, and two racquetball courts.
Victory Lane resident Chris Schaefer posed concerns about security and use of the walking track. "When is the track going to be open … who is going keep the gates locked and the area secure for homeowners in the area?" she asked.
Cope said the track would operate similar to the track around the Community Pond at the junction of Campground and Kerr roads. But there would not be a security person at the site, she said.
Schaefer said she is concerned that, with the site so far removed from the highway, police would not be able to see vandals or anybody at the far side of the walking track. Also, without security persons on-site, "It leaves homeowners in the area open," she said.
On use of the party facilities, Cope assured that the facilities would be used only when the complex is open with parks and recreation personnel on site.
Walking track lights will likely not be visible from nearby homes, Cope said, replying to Schaefer’s concern of illumination for the track.
Schaefer said she believes the safety of homeowners is not being considered. Portions of the complex are so far from the road as to be hidden, she said.
Schaefer called for the protection of homeowners to be considered, and to protect "Our quality of life… Up until two minutes ago, we lived in the country."
Kerr Station Road resident Jim Snyder pointed out that the entry/exit on Kerr Station Road is going to cause problems for him and his family. Snyder also faulted the notification of residents about the public meetings.
"I’m going to be having people driving up there, putting their headlights in my house. Until when? What time are they going to be getting out? 11? 12?" Snyder asked.
Litter is already a problem because of vehicle occupants "jettisoning" beer cans and the like as cars approach the highway, Snyder said.
Snyder asked how homeowners were notified of the meeting, "Because I can’t find it nowhere… I didn’t find out until about three hours before."
Cypert said it was published in newspapers and posted on the city and parks and recreation Web sites, and social media.
Snyder said he did not use social media, and did not read the newspapers. There should be ways to ensure all residents are informed, he said.
Cypert said more public meetings can be arranged if people request it.