As expected, the Little Rock City Board last night rescinded, 9-0, its approval of a massive Murphy Oil gas station at 12th and University, the subject of broad neighborhood opposition when it was originally approved 6-5.
You have to wonder about Mayor Mark Stodola, Stacy Hurst, Lance Hines, Dean Kumpuris, Brad Cazort and Dean Fortson, who voted against the neighborhoods originally and in favor of Murphy, the powerfully connected family enterprise that also controls Deltic Timber, developer of Chenal Valley. If it was such a good idea then, why not now? An explanation for the change of heart was in order but lacking. (Cazort was absent last night and the mayor votes only in the case of ties, as was the case in the original 6-5 approval.)
If there were any legal threats from Murphy over this change of heart, none was reported. That’s perhaps because Murphy wanted to keep its powder dry for another simmering dispute reported here Saturday. Neighbors to a planned Murphy installation at the difficult Taylor Loop and Highway 10 intersection had some hope the City Board might follow through last night on mentions of a comprehensive study of giant gas station/convenience stores and even a moratorium while such a study was done.
No such luck.
Directors Ken Richardson and Joan Adcock said a study was a good idea but could muster no significant support. Lance Hines, who’s never met a business development he doesn’t like, no matter how damaging to a neighborhood, said he’d fight it to the bitter end.
That leaves the neighbors around Taylor Loop to the not-so-tender mercies of the Little Rock Planning Commission, which meets Thursday. It would be a departure from custom if it were to disapprove the planned Murphy installation on Highway 10 — a monster with up to 24 pumps, which would make it the biggest fuel terminal in the city. Not to worry. Anybody who drives on the five-lane speedway that is Highway 10 — through the thicket of curb cuts and negotiating the conflicting needs of traffic in the uncontrolled center lane — knows this is one of the city’s best designed and controlled scenic corridors. It is easily able to handle a vast convenience store on an undersized lot at the awkward confluence of a major state highway and an arterial street carrying an ever-increasing load of cut-through traffic to Chenal Valley. (Snark intended.)
The city planning staff, after initial resistance, has signed off on the latest design of the Murphy installation at Taylor Loop. Not that the Planning Commission pays any attention to planning staff recommendations. It has overridden them on two previous proposals — the 12th and University Murphy pumper and a MAPCO pumper at Third and Broadway.