At its first meeting of the year, the newly elected Eureka Springs City Council plunged eagerly into its first agenda, approving a CUP appeal for nightly lodging at 10 Alamo St., as well as dealing with a handful of issues left on the agenda by the departed council last year.
A line of citizens came forward during the public comment portion of the meeting to defend or argue against a Conditional Use Permit application that was denied at the last meeting of the Planning/BOZA commission for a nightly lodging facility at 10 Alamo St., owned by Joe and Melissa Greene.
At that meeting, Melissa Greene, who sits on Planning and recused herself from voting on the issue, had applied for the CUP for the rental property. The property is already being rented out by the week by the Greenes.
As City Council determined last year following several meetings over what constituted a weekly rental and where it could be done, weekly rentals -- as opposed to tourist lodgings -- can be operated in R-2, or contemporary residential zoning areas. There are no weekly rentals in R-1, or Victorian residential zones, without a CUP.
"She has met all 19 conditions"
Greene said she felt as a courtesy to neighbors she should have the CUP. While the current situation is in compliance with the law, she said, operating with a CUP would clarify the situation for everyone.
Some did not disagree. Approving a CUP currently requires four to pass. Greene did not vote, and Commissioner Ken Rundel voted against the application, citing a concern that not enough time had been allowed for concerned neighbors to come forward. Editor's note: See related article on Page 13 on Rundel's resignation from Planning after the Monday council meeting.
Greene responded she had met all 19 requirements for applying for a CUP, including announcing the application to all neighbors within 200 feet, to give them an opportunity to voice problems or concerns.
David and Margie Anderson, who have lived on nearby Emporia Street for 30 years, came forward again to protest the application. "Although we have absolutely nothing against this property or these people, who do a great job keeping up their monthly rental, we just feel we should preserve our neighborhood as is," said David Anderson.
Mrs. Anderson also brought forward a petition of homeowners in the area who were opposed to the application.
Alderman Terry McClung protested the petition, saying it had not gone through the proper channels, i.e., the mayor's office.
Alderman David Mitchell quoted the part of city code saying only neighbors within 200 feet need be notified, and Greene pointed out only one person on the list fit that requirement. The others were blocks away.
"If this property was actually closer to Emporia, I wouldn't be applying for a CUP," she said, "because it would affect their neighborhood. But it doesn't."
A strong letter of support from Planning Commissioner and Vice-Chairman Jim Morris was read into the record. In it, he said, in part, that while he respected Rundel's opinion, he felt it must not take precedence over the rule of law and reason. "I question whether this was turned down because of a private agenda," Morris said in the letter. "Further delays are a hardship to the applicant. She has met all the necessary conditions."
Commissioner Joyce Zeller agreed. "What bothers me is that by denying this CUP, we're interfering with her ability to do business, because she clearly has the right to have that kind of property in an R-2 zone. She meets all the requirements. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Morris and his opinion; what disturbs me is he detected some evidence of personal prejudice and malice, because that is a common occurrence in this town, and it worries me we're denying her the right to do business, which makes us culpable legally. We don't have a leg to stand on and neither does Planning. I don't see we have any recourse but to overturn the Planning Commission and grant this CUP."
The rest of council agreed, and the appeal was approved unanimously.
The council took up some leftover items from the previous council, including the issue of whether it needed to form a solid waste advisory committee.
"This sounds like one of those waste of time committees," Zeller opined. "Table it in perpetuity."
In the end, council decided to table it for at least one meeting, until City Attorney Tim Weaver could determine whether or not the city is even required to have such a committee.
Weaver also agreed to draw up a short ordinance for next meeting to change the wording in code so that "city-permitted" events, rather than only "city-sponsored" ones, can legally sell T-shirts or other paraphernalia associated with such events. At present, only events technically sponsored by the city are allowed to do this.
Additionally, Weaver agreed to draw up an ordinance approving adjusting the city's budget slightly to more accurately reflect its contents.
McClung nominated absent Alderman James DeVito as mayor pro tem, which means he can sign checks and other mayoral duties as necessary in the mayor's absence. The nomination was approved.
"That's what he gets for going on vacation," McClung said with a laugh.
Finally, McClung and DeVito were approved as council representatives to the City Advertising and Promotion Commission. Four of the CAPC commissioners are owners or managers of businesses in the tourism industry, while two are members of the City Council, one is a qualified voter appointed by the CAPC.
City Council meets the second and fourth Mondays of the month at 6 p.m. at City Hall.