Governor puts lobbyist on Capitol Zoning commission | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Governor puts lobbyist on Capitol Zoning commission

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 11:44 AM

click to enlarge THE MULLENIXES: Powers at the Capitol and, now, in the neighborhood.
  • THE MULLENIXES: Powers at the Capitol and, now, in the neighborhood.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson today appointed Julie Mullenix to the Capitol Zoning District Commission.

Interesting because Mullenix is, with her husband, former state Rep. Ted Mullenix, part of a powerhouse lobbying outfit that has a development proposal underway in the Capitol Zoning District.

We reported last fall on the Mullenix purchase of property at 204 Bishop Street, just off Third across the street from the north end of the Capitol, with plans to build a four-story office/apartment building including a top floor penthouse with Capitol view for the Mullenixes. They also bought the property at the corner of Third and Bishop for future development. The former service station/restaurant is currently vacant.

The Zoning Commission approved the project and clearance of the property has been done, but construction is not yet underway. They have one year from approval of the permit in September to begin construction. Compliance with plans approved by the Commission will thus occur while Mullenix is a member of the Commission.

I've sent notes to both the governor's office and Mullenix asking about the potential for conflict. No response so far. But it is not unusual for commissioners to have property or interests in the district. Commissioner Tommy Jameson, an architect, for example sometimes does work on projects in the district. When there are fiduciary conflicts, commissioners are expected to recuse from participation.

Said the governor's spokesman, J.R. Davis: "She can and should recuse on matters that could accrue directly to her benefit or to her detriment."

Capitol Zoning oversees zoning and other matters in neighborhoods around the Capitol and the Governor's Mansion. It was created to preserve the historic neighborhoods and replace Little Rock as the overseer of planning issues. It has been controversial. Some legislators have tried — and continue to wish — for the abolition of the agency. Its enforcement of design rules — such as the height of fences — has on occasion prompted some heated debates. It was a fence dispute that led to one legislative effort to kill the agency.

Boyd Maher, director of the Zoning Commission, said of the appointment, "We are happy to have her unique perspective." He noted the company is already a Capitol district business with rented offices on Woodlane across from the Capitol.

The issue, by the way, is not just personal projects. Match a lobbyist up with legislators grinding CZDC  axes and a lobbyist can do business for a whole host of unknown clients where interests converge. Among Mullenix clients: Arkansas realtors. They've been known to get crosswise with land use regulators, for example.

click to enlarge MULLENIX PROPERTY: Includes this former restaurant. They plan four-story building immediately to the north behind this property.
  • MULLENIX PROPERTY: Includes this former restaurant. They plan four-story building immediately to the north behind this property.

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