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Pine Bluff City Council overturns Planning Commission ruling regarding garage apartment in Rosswood Colony

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Pine Bluff, Arkansas – The Pine Bluff City Council reversed a decision by the Planning Commission denying the request of Pamela Nelson to establish a garage apartment at 602 W. 73rd after a heated debate between Nelson, her supporters, and residents of the Rosswood Colony who opposed the structure in their neighborhood.

Numerous citizens spoke at the meeting against the structure before several others spoke in favor of the structure, to include Ross’ disabled sister who currently resides in the apartment. Attorney Jackie Harrison was also present to represent Nelson at the meeting.

Residents who spoke against the structure stated that the structure does not meet the standards set by the Rosswood Colony Neighborhood Association.

Nelson contended that the Neighborhood Association was aware of the structure since 2013 but had not debated the use of the structure until early 2020. She also stated that the association had not had meetings for several years during that same time span.

In a letter provided to Deltaplex News Nelson requested permission from the Rosswood Colony Neighborhood Association to build a guest house on her property in 2013. The association granter permission, allowing construction to begin in December 2013. While a guest house was permitted according to the letter, it was not established that a garage apartment was being built.

The letter also states that in 2016 Nelson’s mother became ill, and she used the space as living quarters for her mother. The letter indicates that Nelson’s mother passed away in January 2020, then she moved her sister in a short time later after the sister suffered a stroke and could no longer take care of herself.

The letter states that the property has not changed during since it was constructed, and that the Rosswood Colony Neighborhood Association had taken no formal action to indicate that the structure on Nelson’s property failed to comply with their standards until early 2020.

City Attorney Aletha Scott supported Nelson’s appeal saying “The UPOR (Use Permit on Review Request) denial by the Planning Commission appears to be arbitrary, capricious or inappropriate,” in a letter to Zoning Administrator Lakisha Hill. Scott concluded that “further review” was needed by City Council on the matter.

During the meeting, Hill stated that in her inspection of the structure it did have an unapproved addition made to it, however, that addition could be brought up to code to fall in line with city requirements. Additionally, Hill stated that Nelson owns a substantial amount of property and has extra room for additions to the structure that would fall in line with city code because of the property she owns.

Following Hill’s statements Alderman Bruce Lockett moved to follow the guidelines set by the city planner, while Alderman Win Trafford seconded the motion. The motion received a unanimous vote to overturn the decision by the Planning Commission, which will allow Nelson to have the required work performed to ensure the structure meets city codes.

Following the vote, members of the Rosswood Colony Neighborhood Association stated that they believed the rules of the association were not followed. Councilmembers informed them that it is not the job of the council to litigate association rules, but to ensure city law is followed, and any further litigation would have to be handled by a civil court.

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