The Conway City Council has agreed to proceed with a plan for two roundabouts to access the Lewis Crossing shopping center planned to be built just west of I-40 and south of Dave Ward Drive.
The plan involves $3.6 million in state highway department money, but this money only comes if the city can match it with $2 million. The $2 million, like the roughly $18 million needed to build roads that the city obligated to build in its contract with Central Landing shopping center developer Wilson and Associates, would come from a bond rededication, and the bond rededication depends on the will of Conway’s voters this September.
The council’s decision on Tuesday night gives the highway department the go-ahead to start engineering and planning. If the bond rededication doesn’t draw enough votes, the city will be responsible for whatever the engineering and planning costs add up to at that point.
The council also voted 6-0 to deny a rezoning at 1601 Greenwood Circle. The planning commission had also voted unanimously to deny the rezoning. Developer Vernon Smith wanted a rezoning from R-1 to R-2 residential to build an up-market duplex apartment. A few neighbors spoke against the rezoning, citing concerns about traffic and the feared gradual conversion of a traditionally-single-family-home neighborhood to multi-family apartments.
The council also voted to accept a $133,000 Central Arkansas Planning and Development District grant to buy a security system for the new airport. The system will involve cameras and controlled access (keypad/swipe cards to get onto airport property and into certain areas) to hopefully prevent thievery and mischief in aircraft and buildings at an airport location that is more isolated than the current one.
Chief of Police A.J. Gary, who was the head security officer for Air Transport International, was involved in picking the system. He thanked Rep. David Meeks (R-Conway) for his work in securing the grant.
The council also got an update from finance officer Tyler Winningham on the city’s finances, which continue to operate on a general fund with "thin" margins. Townsell said that the two shopping centers depending, in whole or part, on the September bond rededication can be hoped to remedy the "flat" sales tax and tight budget. That Conway is no longer listed among the 10 safest cities in Arkansas, he said, reflects the need for more money for the city’s police and fire departments.
In other business, the council voted to accept a change order for the new airport’s sewer system (recommended by the health department) and to proceed with eminent domain for about 715 square feet of private property needed for part of the Favre Lane roundabout. The council heard that the property owner has not responded to attempts to buy the property, and the project needs to go ahead. A court will decide fair market value at a later date.