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Planning commission tackles master plan, blesses Parks & Rec in productive meeting

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Eureka Springs Planning Commission grabbed the city's vision plan by the horns at its Tuesday night meeting and shook it to see what fell out.

As Chairwoman Beverly Blankenship had explained at a prior meeting, the city's officially adopted vision plan, now 18 years old, provides a guideline for the development of the entire city, not just those particular issues that fall under the bailiwick of Planning.

Nonetheless, she said, it behooved them to go through the plan and set about bringing it up to date where necessary as well as putting portions of it in front of City Council to use in creating ordinances.

She listed a number of issues in the original plan that have since come to fruition. "It asks for the city to create a transit system, for example," she said. "That happened shortly thereafter. It advocates the city developing gateways or entrances. Just so you know, the top of Planer Hill hasn't looked so wonderful all its life. There used to be a used car lot at the very top. I'd love to see something like that by the train station. But these are all important things; we have to go back to the vision plan frequently and remember them."

The commissioners prioritized a list of items they felt needed their attention:

* Buried power lines

* Tree ordinance

* B&B specifics

* Parking of trailers

* Commercial landscaping and buffering zones

* Temporary

* Home-based business requirements

* Time shares

Leatherwood plan gets blessing

Parks and Recreation Director Bruce Levine came before the commission to get their official "blessing" on the recently drafted master plan for Lake Leatherwood Park.

Levine stressed education as the first priority at Leatherwood. "This is something that can be done relatively inexpensively," he said. "For a long time, we've had the idea on the table of bringing in graduate students in different disciplines, to have them come in and do an inventory or survey or whatever their needs are -- they can compile the data they need -- but at the same time provide educational seminars for the public, most especially for children.

"The plan heavily leans on support for our kids," he said. "It will help them gain an appreciation of nature, and the 1,620 acres of Leatherwood is the perfect site for that."

Levine described the physical work at Leatherwood as including a uniform design scheme in the style of the original CCC work, with heavy timbers and rock work.

He said the gateway to the park would be remodeled, with a kiosk near the entrance and new signage along the road, which is also a high priority for repaving and repair.

"We have 25 miles of trails presently, though some are not at their best," Levine said. "We intend to address those issues, re-route some trails for maintenance, build a few bridges."

Another major area of concern is that the south end of lake is silting in. "It's a natural process that becomes accelerated by what happens upstream," he said. "In time it will become a marsh. To prevent that happening, we need to bring in some professionals to take a look at it and tell us what to do."

Other priorities include re-purposing the old bathhouse to serve as an educational center, modernizing the 1950s-era cabins, and upgrading the camping areas to include two more handicap accessible camping spots.

"Although I'm not the political arm of Parks and Rec, there's a tax on the ballot for money to help implement at least some of these projects," Levine said.

Asked by Commissioner James Morris whether Parks had a "Plan B" in case the tax initiative fell through, Levine replied, "We've given that a lot of thought. Ultimately we came the conclusion that the only way we could do it would be through a tax initiative. Regardless, we'll try to implement what we can, based on our resources, but it would be a severe blow if we don't get this funding."

The commission unanimously gave Levine its blessing for the project.

Other business

In addition to approving a Conditional Use Permit for David Mitchell of 5 Summit Avenue to add one unit on site to his bed and breakfast, Planning decided to add a variance to the language in their recommendations on outdoor sales. The variance would allow one extra yard sale per year for special circumstances, examples being moving sales or hardship sales.

Finally, Blankenship asked for and received permission to withdraw an agenda items she'd presented Monday night at city council regarding sales at city-sponsored versus city-approved events.



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