Joe Busby, president of the University District Neighborhoods Association, told me this afternoon that City Director Ken Richardson had agreed to ask the Little Rock City Board tonight to consider the group’s proposal to rescind approval of the Murphy Oil gas station and convenience store at 12th and University and to study the proliferation of mega-stores in the city.
The Murphy store was approved 6-5, with Mayor Mark Stodola breaking a tie on the 10-member board. Backers were Brad Cazoert, Gene Forston, Lance Hines, Stacy Hurst and Dean Kumpuris. The neighborhood groups think an independent party should study the impact of the stores on crime and other factors and that a moratorium on new stores should be put in place in the meanwhile.
Busby’s cover letter to Richardson:
Attached is a letter from the University District Neighborhoods Association asking you to lead the rescinding of the Boards vote on the re-zoning of the former Brandon House site at 12th St. and University. We ask that a professional third party study of the economic, social, crime and property values of this type of development in an urban environment in neighborhoods have begun revitalization be performed. We ask that the city place a moratorium on all large multi-pumps convenience store’s developments and projects until the city has completed the study on large multi-pumps convenience stores.
Working for a better neighborhood,
University District Neighborhoods Association
It sounded like a longshot to me, given the clout that Murphy Oil holds in Little Rock. But …
UPDATE: City Director Dean Kumpuris, one of those in the majority on approval of the store, said he would move to rescind the Board approval at a city board meeting in two weeks. As one of the six who passed the measure in the first place, this would appear to be enough to get the job done. A simple majority is required.
It looks like the neighborhoods may win its fight to stop the store. Mayor Stodola had written an apologetic letter for his vote to neighbors. He didn’t volunteer to take it back, but he did promise to veto a proposal to put an extended stay hotel on adjoining property.
Mike Childers, a lawyer for Murphy Oil, objected to the action. He said the Board didn’t have authority to rescind its approval. He said Murphy had begun investing in the location, with $10,000 to $15,000 in architectural plans. Stodola said ordinances don’t take effect for 30 days and City Attorney Tom Carpenter said Murphy doesn’t yet own the property so the Murphy complaint isn’t persuasive.
Neighbors from University Park, the middle class black neighborhood that is most affected by the development and was the most outspoken when the board passed the measure with all black members voting no, were on hand for tonight’s meeting. I think they’ve been persuasive.
Pam Powell, owner of one of the houses closest to the station site, said UALR would be studying the impact of such developments.