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Quorum Court Update - June 11, 2023

NEWS AND UPDATE FROM LAST WEEK:


The Finance & Budget Committee of the Washington County Quorum Court met Tuesday evening. Please watch the meeting at this YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/live/JPQeXHTTdV8?feature=share


Because of some very important agenda items on this week’s Washington County Quorum Court agenda, I am not going into further detail here, but please do watch the F&B meeting as some of that will come over into the full QC meeting which I talk about below.


The Washington County Planning Commission met Thursday evening. Please watch that meeting here: https://www.youtube.com/live/RSO4a6m_ZNw?feature=share

During this meeting the Josh Ferguson and John Noack variances were approved, together with pre-large scale developments for Greenland Business Park Phase I and Shop Solutions on Sonora Road.



EVENTS THIS WEEK, JUNE 11, 2023:


WC QUORUM COURT REGULAR MONTHLY MEETING Thursday, June 15, 2023, 6:00 PM, Washington County Courthouse. The meeting will be livestreamed on YouTube: Meetings are live-streamed on the County’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/washcoar In person meeting only.



We will hear (1) Beaver Lake Tiny Homes Conditional Use Permit appeal. Applicant: Jonathan McJunkins (Developer: Dave Gallo) Location Address: 18664 Saddle Shop WC 383. Springdale, AR 72764 Coordinates: 36.17053217, -94.01552134 Proposed Use: Residential/Commercial JP District: District 5 – Kyle Lyons Approximately: +/- 4.82 acres


(2) Overbey’s Automotive CUP appeal. Applicant: Bron Overbey Location Address: 1852 S Tallgrass Rd. Fayetteville, AR 72701 Coordinates: 36.04309274, -94.08677668 Proposed Use: Commercial/Auto Repair Shop JP District: District 15 – Butch Pond Approximately: +/- 0.37 acres


(3) An ordinance ratifying a CUP for Cedar Bell Wedding.


Please be aware of the following agenda items that will have a profound impact on our community:


ONE: I have been trying since January to get an ordinance passed that will require online posting of all Washington County ordinances and resolutions. My ordinance is now on the full Quorum Court’s agenda for Thursday evening. If it does not pass (and several JPs have said they’re not going to vote for it), it will be one year before I’m allowed to bring it back.


When I first started with this in January, I went to County Clerk Becky Lewallen’s office and she and Election Commission Coordinator Jennifer Price worked diligently with me and they started posting all ordinances and resolutions online. Some JPs say now that since it’s already being done, we don’t need an ordinance. Whether or not we can access these public records online (actual laws and actions of the QC), should not be dependent on whether or not someone wants to do so, it should be a law that this is done. That’s exactly what my ordinance will do.


Ordinances and resolutions were not posted online until I started this effort in January.


CALL TO ACTION: Call your JP (and/or any or all JPs) and ask them to support this ordinance.


TWO: The agenda includes an ordinance proposed by JP Kyle Lyons that will completely do away with the quorum court’s ability to hear appeals from the WC Planning Commission. I am against this because I believe it will give an unfair advantage to developers and Conditional Use Permit applicants. They will come with lawyers, engineers, and money whereas it will create an undue and unnecessary burden on neighbors and adjacent landowners who won’t have those resources. Hearing appeals is our job and we knew it when we ran for office. Let’s just do our job and help the people we were elected to serve. I would appreciate very much any feedback on this from the community.


Washington County needs to improve our process with regard to development, because that is certainly a major issue, but this is not the way to do it. Here’s the ordinance for your review: https://drive.google.com/file/d/196MnWpXJ5_r5HzVJ_OgR5H6d3D-uLEt-/view?usp=sharing.


It’s good for the community to have the opportunity to appeal to the full quorum court from Planning Board decisions. It doesn’t cost them to do so. When this happens, we JPs have the chance to go out in the community and meet with people (that’s what we’re supposed to do), to actually view the property and the proposal. It makes a huge difference. On the other hand, filing an appeal in Washington County Circuit Court will almost certainly require hiring an attorney and that’s very expensive. A resident could file a pro se appeal, but it would be very hard to do so and very expensive. I talked to one group of neighbors who wanted to appeal a CUP that the quorum court had approved and they quoted attorney fees ranging from $15,000 to $25,000, with a $5,000 retainer. Most people just cannot come up with that kind of money.


CALLS TO ACTION: (1) Call your JP (and/or any or all JPs) and ask them to vote against this ordinance. (2) Let your friends and neighbors in rural areas of the county know this is on the agenda and ask if they would come to the meeting and speak against this ordinance.


THREE: The ordinance to appropriate ARPA funds for nonprofits.


I first asked for an ordinance to fund the nonprofit applications (NGOs) for ARPA grants on March 9th, to no avail. I was told it was too early and other JPs had not had sufficient time to review the applications.


Finally the ordinance was on last Tuesday’s F&B agenda to disburse $564,681 of ARPA funds to the eleven NGOs that were deemed eligible by the NWA Economic Development District - the third party vendor hired by the county at a cost of $35,000 to assess the applications.


When the ordinance came forward (beginning at 48:00 in the video), District 10 JP Robert Dennis surprisingly (at least to me), made a motion to add Magdalene Serenity House to the approved list to receive $33,436.00 of ARPA funds. After discussion, that was passed and we now have twelve nonprofits or NGOs who may receive funding totaling $598,117.00.


Remember that Washington County received $46.6 Million Dollars (plus earned interest totaling several hundred thousand dollars) from the American Rescue Plan Act. None has gone to direct community aid. See here how the county as prioritized ARPA spendinghttps://drive.google.com/file/d/1oDFgKL8Y98M5ARsa2TGf_JhOTKUX_Vvz/view?usp=sharing.


Up to this point I had assumed that funding the NGOs that had been declared “eligible” was a sure thing. After all, last year the court said it was setting aside $2.3 Million for direct community aid. When we voted on the ordinance, four JPs voted against funding the nonprofits. They were District 1 JP Coleman Taylor; District 5 JP Kyle Lyons; District 6 JP Lisa Ecke; and District 7 JP Charles Dean.


The ordinance passed out of committee by a vote of 8 to 4. District 2 JP David Wilson and District 13 JP Willie Leming were absent. District 4 is still vacant.


CALL TO ACTION: Call your JP (and/or any or all JPs) and ask them to support this ordinance.


In 2021 the county also received $4.5 Million in CARES Act money and none of that went to direct community aid. Approximately $3.5M went into the general county reserve fund.


Here’s a link with contact information for all Justices of the Peace and Judge Deakins: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1tx_nJbsWcStPPtVIzPjzZxd5CBLC06BOUaNuG09JF0c/edit?usp=sharing


If you’re able, please attend Thursday’s meeting in person and address the court with your concerns. There will be a fifteen minute public comment time at the beginning of the meeting for the public to speak and a twelve minute public comment period before a vote on any ordinance or resolution.


I welcome your questions and comments, also suggestions you have for any county related business. You can reach me at ejcoger@gmail.com or text or call 479-306-9994.


See you at the courthouse!


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Thank you so very much for keeping us updated and current on County Affairs. Your public service is exemplary and I deeply appreciate your efforts and tenacity. The spreadsheet of JP's and Deakins will make it easier to call and email and I will share this tool with others.

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