Chicken-hearted regulators | Arkansas Blog

Monday, November 27, 2006

Chicken-hearted regulators

Posted By on Mon, Nov 27, 2006 at 4:39 PM

Driving out Highway 10 the other night, I remarked to somebody that it was impossible to believe that the strip was part of an "overlay" district that  was supposed to provide for compatible, planned growth. It's turned into a developing mess, with a growing jumble of commercial uses, curb cuts and murderous traffic, rarely distinguished by handsome landscaping and other amenities.

Today, you get a small, but telling indication of how these things happen in Little Rock.

It was a meeting of the Board of Adjustment. The fast food chain Chick-Fil-A, wants to put a store in the former Casual Corner property on Markham across from Park Plaza. As city officials tell it to me, the developers promised to abide by the "overlay" rules adopted not long ago to promote rational redevelopment of the University Avenue area. This is going to be critical if, as hoped, a major redevelopment of University Mall is undertaken.

Never mind all the loose talk. Chick-Fil-A, in the person of property owner and developer John Flake, got a waiver on the required number of parking places for the property despite opposition from 1) the city staff, 2) the Midtown Redevelopment Advisory Board and 3) City Director Stacy Hurst. Board of Adjustment decisions aren't appealable to the city board. The chicken chain earlier had gotten a waiver from sign rules. Their argument: they couldn't make the deal work without more parking. The vote was 3-1. Other land owners include Planning Commissoner Jeff Yates, Director Hurst said.

And so it goes in Little Rock. The next property owner seeking redevelopment in this area will say, "Well, if you can bend the rules for a chicken joint, why can't you bend them for me?" And if history -- from Asher to Rodney Parham to Highway 10 -- is a guide, you know what the answer is likely to be.



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