UPDATE: As I got wind of before the meeting, MAPCO didn’t have the votes to win Little Rock City Board approval of a gas station and convenience store at Third and Broadway.
Lance Hines the west Little Rock director who’s been one of the leading advocates to drop this bad idea in the middle of a government and convention zone, moved for the delay. Gene Fortson, who I’m told committed to realtor Dickson Flake on the deal before all hell broke loose, seconded the motion.
The theory is that the MAPCO people want to work with the Board to improve the proposal to meet objections.
Brad Cazort put it plainly. The objections aren’t about design, hours or other issues — it’s simply about putting a gas station and convenience store at Third and Broadway, used most recently as a bank branch. He said he didn’t think three months would solve that, but said he wouldn’t oppose the motion.
Director Stacy Hurst, facing some potential political blowback in her race for state representative if she supports an idea that drew a roomful of opponents, asked if the proposal was changed substantially would it have to go back to the Planning Commission before it returned to the board. Maybe, City Attorney Tom Carpenter indicated. Three months puts the decision at the first of October; a Planning Commission sidetrack would move it beyond Hurst’s election bid in November.
Director Joan Adcock said it was rude that Hines had an indication a week ago that MAPCO was talking about altering their proposal and members of the public who came out expecting a hearing and vote had wasted their time. Hines said while the letter from MAPCO had been sent a week ago, he didn’t know until the last 24 hours that MAPCO would request a deferral.
Director B.J. Wyrick also said she’d spoken with Dickson Flake, the realtor representing MAPCO, as late as 11 yesterday and he’d made no mention of a deferral.
It’s clear that Hines, Doris Wright and Erma Hendrix remain firm in the MAPCO camp. Finding three more votes won’t be easy. Mayor Mark Stodola continued to give little indication of where the strong mayor stands on the measure. It’s his planning commissioner who blew life into a bad idea solidly opposed by city staff. Only Dean Kumpuris and Ken Richardson didn’t speak. The deferral motion was approved on a voice vote, with some audible nos, but no one called for a roll call when Stodola declared the motion passed.
I suspect Dickson Flake will be making a lot of phone calls the next three months. But he’ll have some ground to regain from city directors, sounds like. And the neighborhood opposition can be counted on to return in force.
What I wrote earlier this afternoon:
t twist has apparently arisen on the Little Rock City Board’s planned consideration tonight of a MAPCO convenience store at Third and Broadway.
It appears, though I don’t have official confirmation, that the company may seek a deferral of tonight’s vote. If so, that would be sign that they don’t have the necessary six firm votes to ratify the Planning Commission’s approval of the development, which otherwise has drawn widespread condemnation. Dickson Flake, the real estate man who’s been representing MAPCO, referred questions to MAPCO. I have left messages with people able to speak for the company. Flake said he’d be at the meeting tonight.
The measure has been deferred once already.
Another deferral would require an affirmative vote of approval by the City Board. The Board might provide that out of deference to Flake, a long-time power in Little Rock City Hall politics and Chamber of Commerce leader. The company would argue that it needs more time to address concerns and tweak the plan . Its last effort was unpersuasive. I don’t think any changes will sway city administration opposition to the proposal. The problem isn’t the product offerings or the hours or the willingness not to sell 32- and 40-ounce beers (22-ouncers OK at last report). The problem is a convenience store at a dangerous intersection with all the attendant issues convenience stores present, only four blocks north of an existing convenience store and across the street from the county administration building; one block from the historic county courthouse; one block from another county office building; and two blocks from City Hall and the soon-to-renovated Robinson Auditorium.
Downtown doesn’t need it. It’s an aesthetic negative. It’s opposed by the Downtown Little Rock Partnership and the Downtown Neighborhood Association and many others. The county government would be interested in the site for more parking and offices if available.
More if I get it before the meeting. Otherwise, I’ll be watching.