After nearly three hours of discussion, the Conway City Council denied an appeal by business owners to amend a planned unit development that would house an indoor playground for children. The amendment was already denied by the Conway Planning Commission in December.
Following the vote, council members urged the applicants and the neighborhood representatives to continue to work together on a compromise.
The emotional pleas on both sides of the argument lasted until 9:30 p.m. with the opposition coming from members of the Scherman Heights and Windcrest subdivisions. Many in opposition were worried about the increased traffic, increased noise and decreased property values if "The Clubhouse" were allowed to be placed in the Scherman Heights PUD lot.
The council denied the request 6-2 with Aldermen Andy Hawkins and Wesley Pruitt voting against the denial. Pruitt said he thought the fact that city could place a similar business in the same spot but a private entity needed an amendment was damaging to small businesses.
Owners of Pediatrics Plus chose The Clubhouse to be a Private Commercial Amusement Facility, and after checking with the Conway Planning Department, they realized that they needed to ask for an amendment to the current PUD.
The Clubhouse is described as an indoor playground, which would have been started by the owners of Pediatrics Plus, a center for developmentally disabled children. The location of The Clubhouse would have been next to Pediatrics Plus on Lot 7D. Owner David Tapp cited the need for this area next to Pediatrics Plus for a number of reasons including access for therapists and their clients from one business to the other, the ability to lease a space with high ceilings and the ability to bring a different type of facility to Central Arkansas.
"I appreciate the concerns of those homeowners, but I think there has been a build up of fear of certain things that is just not going to occur," said Pediatrics plus owner Todd Denton. "We’re not bad business owners, and we have no intent of being bad neighbors."
Conway Mayor Tab Townsell pointed out at the beginning of the discussion that nearly everyone agreed that The Clubhouse was a great idea. He said that the question in front of the council was about the location of the facility. That did not stop supporters and opposition from speaking from the heart about family issues such as the needs of disabled children and the intrusion of businesses into residential areas.
Some on the council voiced concern over the lack of details such as operating times and the number of employees. Larry Taylor, who spoke in opposition to the amendment, said he had heard different answers during different meetings. "We are trying to retain the quality of our lives," he said.