Jonesboro zoning hearing set for tonight

By Ed Brock

Citizens of Jonesboro will have their chance tonight to speak their mind about changes to the city's zoning ordinance.

A public hearing on the zoning changes is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the Jonesboro Police Department headquarters on Main Street, and already some citizens are voicing complaints.

The proposed changes include new development regulations that would, for example, limit the application of vinyl siding to residential buildings only, and that would have to be high grade siding, City Manager Jon Walker said. Some residential zones would be changed to allow for high density cluster homes.

Some of the biggest changes will come in the development of two historic districts and what will be allowed there.

One change would be a restriction on new development in what is called "lawyer row" on Main Street, so named because most of the historic buildings lining the road house offices for lawyers and some other businesses. The new ordinance would restrict new development on the first floor of those buildings to commercial and retail use and would limit office space to the second floor.

"I'm interested in what people will say about that," Walker said previously. "It's to promote downtown becoming a commercial district again."

Also, the ordinance would allow owners of certain historic homes along McDonough Street and Main Street to use their homes as either office space or residences by right. That means they can sell a residential home to a person who would use it as an office, and that person could then sell it again for residential use, or they could live above their office.

Members of the Jonesboro Pride Civic Association say they attended a council meeting on the proposed changes last week and were disturbed by what they heard. The regulations requiring high quality vinyl siding on homes and other things would place too much of a hardship on the city's poor and elderly, said Jonesboro Pride member Nancy Coffman.

"As long as you don't do anything you're fine. But if you want to do something it's going to be bad," Coffman said.

She was also worried about the requirement for commercial and retail development on the first floors of "lawyer row."

Walker said the kind of siding that would be required under the ordinance is about 10 to 20 cents more expensive per square foot than regular vinyl siding.

"We've looked at the costs and that's something we'll talk about Monday night," Walker said on Friday.

Citizens also have the right to ask the city council for an exemption or variance to the ordinance.

Jonesboro Pride members were rallying citizens to attend the hearing to protest the changes.

"This should be the most urgent matter on your mind at this time," Roger Grider wrote in a letter that appears in today's editorial page of the News Daily. "Please do not be blindsided again."