Council approves Sonic project appeal

Thursday, October 1, 2020

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs City Council voted Monday night to approve an appeal for a Sonic Drive-In at 104 Huntsville Road. The plan had failed to gain approval from the planning commission on Sept. 8 for lack of a majority.

Council member Harry Meyer kicked off the discussion by asking city attorney Tim Weaver if the application meets city code and Weaver said "it meets the specifications and requirements of the code."

Council member Mickey Schneider then asked if the council has an image of a proposed roundabout near the Sonic's location and Mayor Butch Berry said "there's no plan for the roundabout yet."

"If we approve, we go against the planning commission. Police have said no. Fire has said no. Public works has said no. The state has said no," Schneider said. "All these different entities have said no, so if we say yes, what happens?"

Berry reminded the council that three of the four planning commissioners who voted on the application voted to approve it.

"Because it did not have four positive votes, the motion failed," Berry said. "It doesn't mean they were against it, so we don't need to put words in their mouths here. The roundabout has nothing to do with this issue at this point in time."

Council member Susan Harman said the proposed roundabout would come to the council for approval since it would mean spending taxpayer dollars. If the council approved the application for the Sonic, public works director Dwayne Allen said, it would cost the city $400,000 to move water and sewer lines to build the roundabout in the future. That's because the roundabout would be moved to accommodate the Sonic, Allen said.

Allen said the city couldn't "hold that against" the Sonic developers, but the project would require additional money from the city to build the roundabout at some point in the future.

"All the additional costs you're talking about are based on if it's approved in the future?" Harman asked.

"Yes, ma'am," Allen said.

Harman asked "where the roundabout discussion started" and Berry said he's been talking about it with the state highway department for four or five years. Allen said the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) asked the Sonic developers to move the entrance and exit to Jordan Street instead of directly on Highway 62.

"They made that decision based on safety. Their decision was not based on the roundabout or our wishes as far as the driveway," Allen said.

Council member Bob Thomas asked to speak with Tom Buford, the one planning commissioner to vote against the application on Sept. 8. Buford said the planning commission approved initial plans for the Sonic in February but received a revised application after ARDOT asked for the entrance to be moved.

"There was some information in the letter from public works that they were still waiting on ARDOT to get back to them on why they turned down the 23 South and Highway 62 entrance there to the property," Buford said. "I just felt like until public works worked out with the developer on who was going to pay the cost of utilities, planning shouldn't sign off on it."

Council member Terry McClung said the city has no commitment from the state to fund the proposed roundabout and Meyer said it's speculation on when the city would have to move water and sewer lines to build the proposed roundabout.

"The city hasn't done anything. We didn't get any drawings or proposals," Meyer said. "It's speculation until that comes before us. I don't see why we need to speculate."

"If you're only planning for tomorrow, it doesn't make a lot of sense," Allen said.

McClung said he couldn't turn the project down based on the information presented to the council.

"I don't see how we can restrict this," McClung said.

McClung moved to approve the application "contingent upon a mutual agreement to the completion of the street and curb at Jordan Street."

"It's got to be mutually agreed upon," McClung said.

"I think your motion is you want to approve this conditional upon the improvement of Jordan Street," Berry said.

"Right, to the satisfaction of the public works director," McClung said.

The council voted 5-1 to approve the motion, with Schneider voting no.

Also at the meeting, the council agreed to add a nepotism clause to the upcoming employee handbook and approved an ordinance waiving bidding for a bucket truck on all three readings, as well as the emergency clause.

The council's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12, at The Auditorium.

View 2 comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • So, anymore on the evidence of alleged corruption by the commission that was presented by Mr. Denoewer or is that something the state has to investigate?

    -- Posted by ksrt1950 on Thu, Oct 1, 2020, at 6:24 PM
  • This looked like a very good council meeting. Usually, it's a pain watching the council overturn a commission decision, but this was a thoughful and correct vote by the city council. Mr. McClung did a fantastic job at breaking it down and making it clear for most of the rest of the council and the public. I don't know if Ms. Harman is an attorney, but if she isn't, she should be. She broke through the smoke and mirrors pretty effectively. If Sonic doesn't come here, it won't be because of a red herring roundabout plan. It will be because of those who, for selfish reasons, continue to badger businesses wanting to come here. It's not like they're arriving in droves and you can't demand more services, better things, improvements, etc. while chasing away the very activity that pays for it unless they're willing to take up that expense.

    -- Posted by clptravel on Fri, Oct 2, 2020, at 6:41 PM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: