LR Board delays vote on vets center ordinance | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

LR Board delays vote on vets center ordinance

Posted By on Tue, Mar 6, 2012 at 6:22 PM

SEEN BUT NOT HEARD: A supporter of Main Street vets center outside City Hall with an Occupy Little Rock supporter. They werent told ahead of time that the mayor planned to put off discussion of vets center.
  • SEEN BUT NOT HEARD: A supporter of Main Street vets center outside City Hall with an Occupy Little Rock supporter. They weren't told ahead of time that the mayor planned to put off discussion of vets center.

NOT TONIGHT: Mayor Stodola
The Little Rock Board of Directors, at Mayor Mark Stodola's suggestion, deferred action tonight on a new zoning ordinance aimed at making difficult, if not impossible, for the VA to put a new day center for veterans at 10th and Main.

Stodola said there were further legal questions that needed to be ironed out, particularly pertaining to facilities that already have plans in motion. Such as the vets center.

It was a typically underhanded city ploy. Stodola apparently told city directors of his plans to seek a delay in an e-mail earlier in the day, but didn't tell the public. A big crowd had gathered to be heard on the ordinance. They were sent home without a chance to comment except in the public comment at end of the meeting.

UPDATE: Here's Stodola's memo, with questions he raised about the ordinance. it includes whether the new brain injury center that has opened in the vet center site grandfathers in that use for the location.

ITS ABOUT THE VETS: Erma Hendrix
The deferral didn't deter some directors with criticism for what was afoot. Director Erma Hendrix, in whose ward the vets center would be located and who supports it, said it was clear the effort to block the vets center was the only reason for the ordinance. She said it should be withdrawn altogether.

The measure — which requires a conditional use permit for community welfare centers and also for certain alcohol retailers — came up solely because of the vets center, Hendrix said. She said protest of alcohol permits can already be waged successfully at the state ABC. Hendrix's comments prompted an angry outburst from Director Doris Wright, who said Hendrix was calling her a liar and she wouldn't stand for it. Stodola gaveled for order and decorum.

REMONSTRATING: Doris Wright
Wright said she'd long wanted restrictions on alcohol sales. Yes, but as Director Ken Richardson and Hendrix noted, the city has done precious little on her anti-alcohol push until the vets center came along. Richardson noted, too, though city officials tried to dance around it, that the ordinance had been changed to allow continued by-right zoning for large retail operations selling alcohol, but not ones of less than 5,000 square feet. This quieted convenience store lobby opposition.

The ordinance was set to come up again at the first meeting in April.

Noted: Stodola refers repeatedly to the vets clinic in speaking and letters as a homeless center. It is much more than that. He knows it. His use of the word is intended to inflame, not solve.

ALSO TONIGHT: The city board heard from several thoughtful members and supporters of the Occupy Little Rock camp. They defended the cleanliness and order of the site and urged the city to continue to stand up for their demonstration of free speech. Adam Lansky said he'd like to talk about a move to a different location come summer, when conditions on the gravel lot will be hot.

SUPPORT FOR VET CENTER: Sign bearers outside City Hall.
  • Brian Chilson
  • SUPPORT FOR VET CENTER: Sign bearers outside City Hall.

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