Some quick news from the Little Rock City Board, in a long session that hasn’t yet gotten to the hotly contested proposal for a Regions Bank branch on lots currently zoned residential on R Street in the Heights:
* HISTORIC PRESERVATION, SI: The Board approved a $99,000 grant, half paid by the city, in return for a promise from the Quapaw Quarter Association to preserve the facade of the William E. Woodruff house in the East End.
* HISTORIC PRESERVATION, NO — OR AT LEAST NOT EXACTLY: The great Junior League window debate was resolved as I expected it would — with the Junior League getting its way. It has raised and spent $2 million restoring the historic Women’s City Club building at 4th and Scott. $20,000 came from a city grant for another promise to maintain the historic facade, known as a “facade easement.” But the Junior League wanted to replace the third floor windows in a rehabilitation project. Historic preservationists objected. A compromise was reached on the nature of the windows. But, for reasons still unclear, the Junior League decided it didn’t want to be encumbered by city regulation any longer. It wanted to buy back its easement for $34,000. It clearly had the votes. No preservationists appeared to object, though several directors asked and could not get a direct answer on why the Junior League wanted to back away from the compromise and not make a firm commitment on preservation for the future beyond general assurances. Extraction from the city bureaucracy in the future seems to be the reason. Done.
* DECISION DEFERRED THANKS TO DELTIC: Developer Larry Crain wanted quick approval of a deal to buy Arkansas Teacher Retirement land in Chenal Valley to develop a housing project for older people. The ATRS had similar plans but never got them off the ground and is anxious to get its money back. Crain has a profit from another land sale he’s anxious to roll over into a new investment for tax reasons. But Crain hasn’t been willing to go through the intensive design process required by Deltic Timber for Chenal Valley development. (He said it would cost $200,000.) Which Deltic made clear tonight through attorney Bill Spivey. Interim compromise proposed by lame duck Director Stacy Hurst — a deferral of the proposal until Crain could have a further opportunity to see if he could present a design plan that Deltic would approve.
More to come if I can stay awake. No guarantees.
UPDATE: Damn. The neighbors were right. The fix was in. The City Board voted 8-2 to override a unanimous Planning Commission and the city staff and allow Regions Bank to put a branch on R Street. There was conclusive testimony it will screw up traffic further on already problematic University Avenue. It will absolutely expand commercial development in a residential area. Nobody tried to find out what will happen with the three lots across the street. Maybe a massage parlor.
Money talks with the Little Rock City Board. Neighborhoods mean nothing in the face of Stephens and Regions might. Sad day. Man it was cold, too. This deal was cut before the meeting, as city board votes usually are. Nobody spoke for the bank except the bank.