Longhills PUD gets OK from council

By a vote of 10-0, the Benton City Council gave its final approval to a planned use development for Longhills Golf Course.

An ordinance to approve the project passed on all three readings after council members voted for an emergency clause in the ordinance.

Lindsey Management submitted a plan to the Benton Planning and Zoning Commission to build 793 housing units contained in 43 complexes in the front nine holes area of the course. A public hearing on the plan, held before a standing-room-only audience, took place Aug. 12 in council chambers at the Benton Municipal Complex.

Following a public comment portion of the meeting, the six commissioners present voted to approve the proposal and send it to the city council for a final vote.

A similar request by Lindsey Management to convert portions of the course into multifamily housing was rejected by the Benton council in 2012. In the meantime, negotiations with homeowners in the Longhills Village subdivision continued until an agreement satisfactory to all parties was reached in May of this year. 

During the public hearing about the PUD, Lindsey Management representatives noted that if the council approved the plan, construction would be set to begin in 2016 with the possibility that the project could move up on the schedule if other construction plans currently higher on the list of priorities should encounter delays.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, local residents spoke to the council in support of the proposed complex.

A Dark Forest subdivision resident told the aldermen that she is not opposed to the project, but asked that consideration be made regarding the entrance located on Longhills Road and the traffic it may create as a possible cut-through route from the Interstate 30 service road to the complex.

Bud Busken, one of the majority owners of Longhills, spoke to the council prior to the vote. He asked that the aldermen approve the plan before them, stating Lindsey Management has met every criteria and objection from the subdivision property owners. He encouraged the council to approve the plan and to bring the golf course back to the community.

Following the vote to approve the Longhills development, the capacity crowd applauded the action taken by the council.

In other business, council members approved Ordinance 49 to "provide safety and security for General Fund employees and guests including the Street Department, Animal Control, Parks Department and administrative services."

Ordinance 49 was supported with four separate exhibits.

The first exhibit pertained to the allocation of $154,200 to the operations and maintenance account of the general fund for "expense to provide safety and security to council chambers, fire departments, police departments, reception area and other areas inside City Hall."

The council approved $2,650 for electronic locks for the fire department, $104,000 for the police department, $9,550 for the reception area, $17,500 for computerized lockdown of city hall and $20,500 for the council chambers. 

In exhibit 2, a total of $3,750 was approved for the Street Department for furnishings and fixtures to enhance safety and security.

In exhibit 3, a total of $2,650 was approved for safety and security measures for the Animal Control Department.

In exhibit 4, a total of $2,650 was approved for the purchase of electronic locks and camera security in the Parks and Recreation Department.

Council members approved Ordinance 50 of 2014, which allocates $1.52 million for street projects to be undertaken in the Riverside Park Development area of Fairfield, Jackman, Airlane and Citizens Drive. The amount will be appropriated from the quarter-cent sales tax fund to the regular street fund.

Funds for a new police vehicle to replace one totaled in a recent accident on South Street were approved by the council. The city has received $26,259 in insurance reimbursement for the vehicle.

According to Ordinance 53, the cost of a fully outfitted replacement vehicle will be $34,588 at the state contract price. The remaining amount needed to purchase the replacement vehicle, $8,329, will come from drug seizure funds.

Additionally, the police department has six vehicles that are not being used due to age, condition and mileage "which may be traded in to reduce the cost of the replacement vehicle.

Mayor David Mattingly announced service anniversaries for Madeline Wilson, 10 years; Michelle Gibson, 15 years; Darren Hass, 25 years; and Robert Garner, 25 years.

Parks and Recreation Director John Eckart was named Employee of the Month for July.