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NLR Land Use Task Force discusses potential uses of municipal property

North Little Rock residents observed and listened Thursday as a mayoral committee appointed to come up with recommendations on what to do with public lands within the city limits held a public forum to get input.Buy Photo
North Little Rock residents observed and listened Thursday as a mayoral committee appointed to come up with recommendations on what to do with public lands within the city limits held a public forum to get input.
Shannon Harris of the North Little Rock Visitor’s Bureau lists to a presentation presented Thursday by the North Little Rock public land use development committee which currently is taking input about what to do with various lands owned by the municipal government. Photos by Greg RayburnBuy Photo
Shannon Harris of the North Little Rock Visitor’s Bureau lists to a presentation presented Thursday by the North Little Rock public land use development committee which currently is taking input about what to do with various lands owned by the municipal government. Photos by Greg Rayburn

The North Little Rock Public Land Use Development Task Force will continue to meet in the coming weeks as it puts together recommendations for the City Council about what to do with tracts of lands owned by the city.

That was what a crowd of about 45 people was told last week at the Patrick Henry Hays Senior Citizens Center during forum called by the task force to get public input.

“The Public Land Development Task Force has met several times since October 2012 to review 140 City-owned parcels,” said Committee Chairwoman Connie Philips. “We want feedback from residents of the City before presenting our final report and recommendations to the City Council on April 22, 2013.

Task Force Members present at Thursday’s forum were Phillips, Chair, Ward 3; Joel Buckner, Vice-Chair, Ward 1; Thomas Pownall, Secretary, Ward 4; Kathleen Rea, Mayoral appointee; Roger Marlin, Mayoral appointee, Vicki Stephens, P&R Commission; Debbie Strobel, Ward 1; John Crow, Ward 2, Evelyn Creal, Ward 2; Alderman Steve Baxter. Ward 3, Kevin Newsom Ward 3; Alderman Charlie Hight, Ward 4, David Holsted Ward 4

Former Mayor Patrick Hays established the Task Force in the Fall of 2012 to review the parcels of public land owned by the City of North Little Rock.

Phillips said the Task Force’s Report would make recommendations such

1. Which city property must remain in public use for its current purpose (Examples: City Hall, Library, Airport, and others.),

2. Which city property seems best suited for development as a park, green space, neighborhood garden, conservation area, or for other public use?

3. Which City property should be sold for economic development and income?

“Many of the public properties should continue to serve the public,” Phillips said. “Examples are City Hall, libraries, wastewater facilities, NLR Airport, police and courts buildings and other similar properties. Other parcels should be sold for economic development or income. Other parcels should be held for some type of public use.”

A part of the committee’s study is to look at what to do with areas such as parks.

“Most parks are restricted for use for park purposes,” she said. “Parks are often enhanced with Federal funding that requires adherence to federal rules and regulations. Development of park property, even for indoor recreational activity, requires a land conversion process – new park acreage of equal value is acquired to replace acreage lost to non-park activities.”

Parcels for Thursday’s discussion included:

• Burns Park property proposed for a lodge and other commercial use.

• The Big Rock Quarry.

• Pike Avenue Open Space.

• Vacant tract east of Baring Cross Bridge.

• Tract near Roundabout west of Baring Cross Bridge.

• Smart House Way tract.

• Former NLR Electric Department Office.

• Southern Cotton Property.

• Young Road tract.

• Residential tracts.

The North Little Rock Parks and Recreation Commission, receives about $7.1 million worth of funding. Of its funding, some of that revenue comes from the Parks and Recreation Hamburger tax penny ($2.06 million), Advertising and Promotions hamburger tax penny ($1.77 million), capital improvement hamburger tax penny ($1.77 million), and Parks and Recreation fees and charges ($1.5 million).

About 65 acres of Burns Park property has been proposed for a lodge and other commercial uses to support sporting events, family reunions and outdoor retreats.

The task force also is looking at potential uses for the Big Rock Quarry.

The Big Rock Quarry was purchased with city funds with no particular use in mind. The river trail was constructed along the Arkansas River bank and many think it is now part of Burns Park. The Quarry and riverbank provides about 60 acres, and recommending a future use of this property is a primary mission of the task force.

The committee is also looking at open space along Pike Avenue, where there is a residual right-of-way on the west side of Pike Avenue that could be used for some purpose. The potential lots are only about 120 feet deep.

There are between 1.5 and two acres east of the Baring Cross Bridge. Rail noise is a negative concern at this location.

The Smart House Way parcel provides 5.8 acres of urban infill property. The property has been cleaned of pollution; power line relocated and has been for sale for the past few years.

The City Electric Department has moved to Maryland Ave. This two-block property at 8th and Main St. is available for reuse or economic development.

The City also owns about five acres south of the Pike Avenue roundabout.

The City owns property off Buckeye Street that is also known as the Southern Cotton Tract that has been leased for warehousing and rail yard purposes.

About 18.85 acres off Young Road has been available for redevelopment. This property is north of Northshore Business Park near the Maumelle Blvd./I-430 interchange. It has limited utilities and access off Young Road.

In addition, residential lots are often donated to the City to avoid future taxes or lots are reserved because of poor site conditions. The Committee recommends putting these properties to a public or private purpose. Potential uses include: Consider for use as a neighborhood garden, offer for sale to the public, or offer to merge with adjoining lots.

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