Neighbors who live near two schools spoke against the proposed rezoning of property that once was an urban farm from R-1, single family residential to MF-2 multi-family, where construction of 71 townhouses was proposed.

Citing the lack of a clear plan, problems with traffic near the schools and “an inappropriate use of the land,” the Planning Commission on Tuesday night voted 6-0 to deny the rezoning request.

Mike Grimes told the commission that his family wants to sell the almost 4 acres to developer Chris Thornton to build townhouses on Hubbard Road.

The property is on the north side of Carl Stuart Street, south of Eastport Circle and west of Hubbard Road.

It is immediately north of Carl Stuart Middle School and Marguerite Vann Elementary School.

Thornton said the development would be two-story townhomes, convenient to the University of Central Arkansas.

“There are few opportunities remaining to provide convenient housing for faculty and staff at UCA,” Thornton said. Continued growth of UCA is expected, and “they will need a home somewhere. If it’s not nearby, then they’ll be out on the roadways, sharing red lights with us.”
He said the property is “about 400 yards as the crow flies” from the campus, or 800 yards by street.

“These people are most prone to ride a bicycle or even walk to campus,” Thornton said. “This is a way to grow smart and grow green.”

Objections came from neighbors, led by Blake Tyson, a UCA music professor.

“In the best case, this would be a bad idea,” Tyson said, adding 140 cars would increase the danger to children walking to and from the schools.

“I work with mature and responsible students every day,” Tyson said, but if the housing market wouldn’t allow for strictly home ownership, the townhomes would likely be occupied by student renters with loud parties in the neighbors’ backyard.

Bill Helton, a resident of Carl Stuart Street for 65 years, said if the developers keep the townhomes “upscale,” they may not have the problems the Conway Police Department deals with in new apartment complexes nearby.

“But it’s out of hand now,” Helton said.

Kent Mathis, commission chairman, told Grimes that the commission’s decision can be appealed to the City Council at its meeting on Nov. 1. Should the Council also deny the application, the developers must wait a year before reapplying.

In another decision, the commission approved, 6-0, a request from Superior Chevrolet for a conditional use permit for a car dealership for property zoned C-4, large shopping center, at 1300 Exchange Ave., with Superior Dodge to the north and Caldwell Toyota to the south.

The only condition added was that use of the dealership’s exterior sound system be allowed only between the hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The commissioners heard from City Planning Director Bryan Patrick that several people have been nominated to serve on the commission. Deadline for nominations is Oct. 31. Four positions are open. Nomination forms are on the commission’s website at www.conwayplanning.org.

(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at becky.harris@thecabin.net and 505-1234.)